Skylar Diggins-Smith Talks Basketball Career, Family and Maintaining Balance

Ten years into professional athletics, the WNBA star still has much more to offer in basketball, fashion and motherhood.
Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Skylar Diggins-Smith.

As a kid growing up in South Bend, Ind., Skylar Diggins-Smith would have been hard-pressed not to fall in love with the game of basketball. After attending just one Notre Dame women’s game—and without understanding all the implications of a collegiate athletic career—she understood that playing college hoops, particularly in a Fighting Irish uniform, would be “cool.” It was that game that really “sparked my interest into the sport,” Diggins-Smith says.

She picked up a ball herself soon after, and her technique and play garnered attention from scouts. But in the end, Diggins-Smith says it was “proximity” to Notre Dame that led to a collegiate career. Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw, “came to my high school [during] my freshman year to watch me play,” a point at which she realized things were getting more serious, she says.

Diggins-Smith received offers from various college basketball programs. “But I was always a scholar and I’ve always been very inquisitive, and so I wanted to go to a prestigious academic university,” she explains. “I always wanted to go to Notre Dame, that was not a secret.” She didn’t consider it a given, though. By putting in the work each and every day, Diggins-Smith improved and ended up in a Fighting Irish uniform.

Key moments that have shaped her journey

It was her sophomore year that first brought the media attention that Diggins-Smith has now grown accustomed to. That year, the Fighting Irish made it to the championship game of the NCAA tournament, forcing her to learn “how to balance [the attention], and remain myself,” she says. “That journey was a learning experience for me.” With greater media attention, she became well-versed in interviewing and how to handle herself both in media situations and off the floor, all of which prepared Diggins-Smith for entering the WNBA.

Skylar Diggins-Smith shoots a free throw during a Notre Dame game.

Skylar Diggins-Smith shoots a free throw during one of her Notre Dame games.


Now in the tenth year of her professional career, her passion for basketball—born in South Bend and developed on Notre Dame’s campus—is unwavering. She remains motivated, in part, by the pursuit of a championship ring. The past few years, however, have added two more—and two greater—motivations: her son and daughter.

For Diggins-Smith, there is no greater reason to continue her professional pursuit than a desire to be an inspiration for her children. Her son, who was born in 2019, was “immersed right into [the WNBA] as soon as he was born,” witnessing the greatness of his mom and her peers.

“Now to have my daughter in it [is] special,” she says. “It really makes you go even harder to do your part to sustain the league and to make sure that she has something—if she wants to be a part of it—that’s bigger than all of us.” And it gives her an added impetus to work for the changes that she believes are necessary within the WNBA. She believes that it’s important to do “anything that we can do [to help] the next generation.”

Because Diggins-Smith continued to play basketball while pregnant with both of her children, “they both played a season with me,” she says. Having her children has put a lot of her career into perspective. Now, she really feels that her career is “bigger than” her.

Phoenix Mercury player Skylar Diggins-Smith holds a basketball and prepares to shoot during a WNBA game.

Skylar Diggins-Smith shoots a free throw during a Phoenix Mercury game.

Pursuits off the court

It was, in part, these reflections that motivated Diggins-Smith in the design and release of her second

PUMA collection

, aptly named “Reflections.” The line, which she was in the process of designing when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, is all about “reflecting on my career, my life up to this point and recent events,” she explains. Her pregnancy only reinforced the original messaging behind the campaign: “you can be in the moment, but looking towards the future,” she says.

“I have a quote with my collection [that] says ‘don’t play yourself,’” she says. For Diggins-Smith, it means “you can push yourself. It’s O.K. to take breaks, but just try not to fall into that complacency mindset. Don’t play yourself. You know what your goals are.”

Attempting to find balance

When it comes to managing her many responsibilities—including professional athletics, motherhood, TV broadcasting, PUMA collaborations and more—Diggins-Smith wouldn’t quite say she’s achieved balance. “It’s something that I’m continuing to learn,” she says. But that hasn’t kept her from trying, either. She tries to take time for herself each day, either early in the morning before her kids wake up or in a moment of calm. Spending time outdoors or practicing yoga and pilates is her best attempt at achieving balance.

She doesn’t just do it for her own wellness, though. Like her athletic motivations, her attempt for balance is rooted in a desire to help others. “Taking time for yourself” is important “because you pour into everybody else’s cup whether you have kids or not,” she says, a fitting mindset for someone who wants to be remembered for her ability “to inspire [the next generation] not to settle, to follow their dreams and to believe in themselves.”

But for now, she’s “building,” and her goals are evolving. “I still feel like I have so much to offer,” she says. There are “a lot of things I want to continue to do in fashion and in basketball … [and] as a mom.”

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Martha Zaytoun


Martha Zaytoun is a Lifestyle & Trending News writer for SI Swimsuit. Before joining the team, Martha worked on the editorial board of the University of Notre Dame’s student magazine and on the editorial team at Chapel Hill, Durham and Chatham Magazines in North Carolina. When not working, Martha loves to watercolor and oil paint, run or water ski. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a huge Fighting Irish fan.