Before her career in the WNBA, Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne wanted to be a special needs teacher. And while her talents have taken her in a different direction, Delle Donne recently has found a way to benefit children's education — one book at a time.
With the release of her memoir and children's book series in March 2018, Delle Donne is hoping she can inspire those who face similar issues to those she faced as a child. She has partnered with a ghost writer to help tell her story. The books will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
"My biggest thing is children and trying to help them and tell different stories to them," Delle Donne said Tuesday after a Mystics' practice at Verizon Center. "I wanted to be a special needs teacher. I wanted to be in the school system and this is my way of getting there and still playing professional basketball."
In her memoir, "My Shot," Delle Donne will describe a journey to professional basketball that was filled with challenges, notably when she walked away from a scholarship at the University of Connecticut ahead of her freshman year and returned to her home state of Delaware to be close to her older sister, Lizzie, who has several disabilities. She later joined the University of Delaware basketball team as a redshirt freshman after playing a season of volleyball at the school. She went on to become the second overall selection in the 2013 WNBA draft and the 2013 WNBA rookie of the year with the Chicago Sky.
"I would say this year is when I really wanted to get my story out there and share it with the world," Delle Donne, 27, said. "I feel like I could really tell it and experience it and relive some things that are probably a little tough, but I'm at that point now that I'm able to do it.
"If the book can just help one person, that's huge for me. I think that was the biggest thing. Knowing where I'm at in life and being ready to kind of share some lessons."
In addition to her memoir, her first children's book will be called "Elle of the Ball," which will be about a tall middle-schooler and her basketball team. Two more books in the series will be released at a later date.
"It's going to be funny, because it's very much about a tall girl in grade school that experiences life in a very tall body and that's what I had to deal with," Delle Donne said. "That one, I'm super excited to see some of those illustrations. . . .
"Being so oversized and uncomfortable and in grade school . . . was a struggle, and I think that is going to be the biggest thing: showing that different size."
Delle Donne, an Olympic gold medalist, said she has always wanted to do a children's book and has fond memories of reading books in school as a child. She hopes that her books can have the same impact on children.
"I remember I would have reading corner or literature day and you are sitting back reading a book and I'm hoping that there will be kids leaning back in a bean bag reading my story," Delle Donne said.
She plans going to schools to read the book when it is released in the spring. In the meantime, Delle Donne said she has been editing the book while traveling to and from WNBA games this season.
"I'm still working on these books," Delle Donne said. "Just the fine tuning of it. The meat of it is pretty much finished, but all the fine tuning, rereading it, I feel like on every flight I'm reading it. I'm like 'Oh this needs to change,' or 'Oh, this doesn't sound right' I'm at that point where it's small edits."