"That's the thing: You don't understand burnout unless you've been burned out. And it's something you can't even explain. It's just doing something you have absolutely no passion for."
This is the quote that is highlighted on the homepage of Elena Delle Donne's personal website. That quote exemplifies everything there is to idolize about Elena Delle Donne. She is a hard worker, a dreamer and a leader. She is willing to put in the necessary work that it takes to become successful.
If you don't already know her name by now, you should. Delle Donne was named the 2015 WNBA MVP, but that only begins to tell her story. Sure she is an extremely talented basketball player, but Delle Donne should be a source of inspiration for many people.
She gets her inspiration from her younger sister, Lizzie. Lizzie was born blind and deaf and she also has cerebral palsy and autism. Her full story can be found here.
"The only real interaction I, or anyone, has with her is in person, with hand over hand sign language. She hugs. She smiles. She kisses," wrote Elena Delle Donne.
Lizzie is the reason Delle Donne elected to turn down a scholarship offer from NCAA women's powerhouse UCONN in favor of staying close to her hometown of Wilmington, Delaware and attending the University of Delaware. The same reason she does not play overseas during the WNBA offseason. Family is important to Delle Donne and that's very clear. Her relationship with Lizzie and her brother Gene is a connection that everyone should strive for. Family is important and we shouldn't take things like family for granted in this life.
Family means so much to her that she started the Elena Delle Donne Charitable Foundation. A foundation that encapsulates many things that hit home in her house: the challenges that Lizzie faces, the Special Olympics, and Lyme Disease as well.
Just another reason that Delle Donne should be a role model for people across the world: she cares. She has a real desire to help others and she doesn't think she is too good for anyone; although she has bragging rights over just about anyone on the basketball court. Delle Donne is an ambassador and a mentor. She is a national ambassador for the Lyme Research Alliance and also the global ambassador for the Special Olympics. Not only does she help with these charitable organizations, but she also hosts the Delle Donne Academy basketball camp where she touches the lives of many young girls aspiring to be like her.
Delle Donne suffers from Lyme disease herself. One of the main symptoms of Lyme Disease is fatigue, not something that is particularly ideal when playing basketball at an incredibly high level as she does. But she takes it in stride and refuses to use it as an excuse.
"I’m often exhausted from the Lyme, and frustrated with my body. It’s hard. But when I think about my position — when I think about how tired I am or how much it hurts — I think about Lizzie," Elena wrote. "I’m so lucky to have the health that I do, and so lucky to have a body and mind which allow me to do what I do. She inspires me. None of my hardships are even close to the same plane as what she has endured. And look at what makes her happy… Wind. That’s perspective."
Delle Donne exemplifies leadership, perseverance, hard-work, love for others and lastly she has proven that if you put in the work, dreams and goals are attainable.
"I could do whatever I wanted as a girl, whatever my brother did. I could play against the boys and achieve what they did."
Delle Donne combined hard work and self-confidence and that was the recipe that led her to becoming the 2015 WNBA MVP. Practice, Preparation, Passion. Those three words are Delle Donne's keys to success in her career. It's not surprising what she has achieved though considering her motto: Demand Excellence.
Her play certainly caught the attention of people around the world including some of basketball's biggest stars:
However, it's about time that Elena Delle Donne starts receiving attention for all of the good things she does off the court. Positive role models are hard to come by these days in sports, but Delle Donne leaves hope for a bright future. It's time to stop making jokes about the WNBA and time to start appreciating the talent and heart of Elena Delle Donne.