WNBL players working just as hard off court to make ends meet

From Bendigo, across to Perth and up to Townsville, WNBL players are juggling jobs as engineers, small business owners, disability support workers and radio hosts.

Athletes are pursuing careers beyond the baseline and trying to make ends meet with pay checks that don't match their full-time commitment.

Bendigo Spirit's Cassidy McLean is currently working three jobs and studying physiotherapy.

She plays WNBL, works as a receptionist and runs Sporting Chance Collective which provides social management for small business.

"We simply don't get paid enough to survive off basketball. Athletes play and train full-time but are paid a part-time wage. Because our basketball commitment is full-time, we aren't able to go and get jobs in offices or as a physio," McLean tells ESPN.

"I train in the morning for four hours then jump in the shower and go to work, then go home and work on the business.

"People don't realise how taxing that is. You could work until 9pm at night and then the next morning have 7am gym."

McLean, 23, worked as a social media manager before the female founders gifted her the business earlier this year.

She's recently employed teammates Abbey Wehrung and Alicia Froling and has plans to introduce scholarships to emerging female athletes.

"Our clients get so much satisfaction knowing they're getting their social media done but they're also helping female athletes who are so underpaid get a wage and actually live a life.

"I'm about to go and build my dream home because I was given this opportunity."

Former WNBA player Karlie Samuelson travels the world playing professionally while working full time for American start-up Parity which provides inclusive and equitable brand partnerships for female athletes.

In Australia playing for Townsville, the 27-year-old says it's a perfect fit working for a company which puts its money where its mouth is.

She's been with Parity since it launched three years ago and has been full time for 18 months adding that another source of income is 'really helpful'.

"We've got a wide range of companies from little start-ups with random products through to Microsoft, they come to us and we do campaigns with large groups of athletes in our community for paid posts on Instagram," Samuelson says.

"I work with the athlete community internally and then on top of that we have a ton of resources with panels, a financial literacy series and a career coaching and mentorship program."

With the time difference between the U.S. and Australia, Samuelson is up early getting a few hours of work in before practice each day.

"I worked the past season full time in Europe and that was really tiring but the time change to most of my colleagues on the east coast was only six hours so I'd work around midday then after practice at night," she explains.

"Here it's definitely harder, it's 17 hours difference. I take a lot of meetings at 5.30/6am when I can."

Samuelson's teammate Steph Reid is making waves on air with a Sunday morning radio show on Hit 103.1 Townsville while Mikaela Ruef is putting her degree into action as an engineer at civil construction firm Mendi Group.

Ruef works a day a week, on the Fire's day off, at the company which is also a sponsor of the WNBL club.

Perth Lynx's Alex Sharp works 15-20 hours a week in clinical trial recruitment.

It's a job she did remotely for six weeks earlier this year when the Lynx were relocated to Ballarat during a COVID-interrupted #WNBL22 season.

"It gets mentally exhausting being a full-time female athlete and also having to work because it's what we have to do," Sharp says.

"It's lucky we have employers who support us and are proud to employ WNBL players."

In Adelaide, Sammy Simmons works three afternoons a week as a disability support worker.

She has seven clients and does everything from taking them to appointments, helping around the home or a simple outing to the beach for a coffee.

"It's so rewarding. I go to a lady in her 70's who has Parkinson's disease, when I visit her it's the best part of her week. We interact together and I can help her with things she can't do on her own," Simmons says.

Two WNBL players are employed by AFL clubs working in their membership departments.

Adelaide Lightning point guard Abby Cubillo works in the Crows' membership department 12 hours a week.

"Mel from the Australian Basketball Players Association sent me through the job description, I had the interview in preseason, got the job and started the next week and that was six weeks ago," she says.

"I could have lived off my basketball money but it's really not enough, at all. I don't want to live where I'm worrying about buying three coffees a week and I have long-term savings goals which I wouldn't be able to meet with just my basketball money."

Southside Flyers development player Lana Hollingsworth, 22, is working at Hawthorn and in September sat her GAMSAT exam with the goal of starting medical school in 2024.

"After returning from college in the U.S., this is the first time I've not had school while playing basketball so it's weird not to be studying," she said.

"As much as I love basketball, I've always done other things, really dove into school so it's nice having work as an outlet."

Canberra's Britt Smart runs her own basketball coaching business, featuring an online component, B Smart Basketball, while teammate Emilee Whittle-Harmon is looking for work in the nation's capital.

"I had to leave my job as a strength and conditioning coach in Melbourne when I came to play in Canberra," she explains.

"I do it (WNBL) because I love it but my wife has to carry the financial burden because I do it. It's not fair on her and I'm lucky she supports me.

"I've been looking for extra sources of income since being here but every time I give my schedule over to see when I could work it's not doable.

"I lose money every season but I'm grateful to be here."