Last February, Layshia Clarendon was preparing to move from Oakland, Calif., to Brooklyn to play basketball for the W.N.B.A.’s New York Liberty.
“The fact that we were going to live in Brooklyn, and play in Brooklyn, I was like, ‘This is so dope,’” said the star guard, who identifies as nonbinary and who planned to live in Clinton Hill. “I was really excited to get out there and get involved with the food scene and the culture.”
But days before the scheduled move, the pandemic changed everything, including the league’s entire season, which shifted to a restricted campuslike “bubble” (or what W.N.B.A. players call the “Wubble”) in Bradenton, Fla.
Since July, Clarendon, 29, has been living alone in a hotel room, training, competing and doing activism work through it all as a leading member of the Social Justice Council, an initiative between the league and the players’ union that addresses voting, equality and other social issues.
Last month, when much of the U.S. professional sports world halted competition in response to events in Kenosha, Wis., Clarendon told reporters that W.N.B.A. players, who had dedicated their season to Breonna Taylor and other Black women lost to police violence, always support one another. “We know when to fight on the court and we know when it’s time to unify, and we could use a lot of unity in our country right now.”
When the season ends, Clarendon, who is under contract to play with the Liberty for another season, will return to Oakland to reunite with Jessica Clarendon, 34, the chief operating officer of Rapinoe Ventures. The two are married and expecting their first baby in December.
COFFEE SNOB I love to sleep, so unless it’s a day off with no practice, I always set an alarm. I might set it for 11:30 or noon. That way I have a few hours before going to work. I like to have a slow morning. I will drink coffee; I like a dark, bold roast. I brought an AeroPress with me to the Wubble. There was a Keurig in the room when I arrived and I was immediately like, “You can come pick this up.” I also spend time reading. I packed 10 books to hold me over. Right now I’m reading “Deathless Divide,” by Justina Ireland. I also write in my journal. I’ve been keeping one since college. I use all different colored pens, and sometimes I just draw or doodle in it.
THE COMMUTE Before heading out, I get my yoga mat out and do some stretching or Pilates. I make a protein shake with banana, peanut butter, protein powder and ice that I can have after practice. To get around, we could have either a bicycle or a golf cart. I got a bike. It’s only about a five- to seven-minute ride — 10 max, depending on how fast you go — so it’s the perfect trip. I listen to music while I go, like Chance the Rapper. I’ll see other teams, too, like the Washington Mystics, who seem to be on the same schedule as we are. It’s funny, all of us headed out to work on our bikes or in golf carts, passing one another on our daily commute.
ON THE COURT I had surgery last season and missed half the year, so I was definitely excited to get back on the court. Because we’re on an intense schedule and playing games every other day, practices are only about two hours. I love when we do the shooting competitions, because we all talk smack. The team is divided up at either end of the court, and each side goes on about who’s going to win. People don’t expect me to be a good trash talker, but I am surprisingly good at it. There’s one transition drill that we do that I don’t like because it just leaves me feeling exhausted. When practice is over, I put ice on my ankles and my knees and get all wrapped up like a mummy.
THE OTHER PASSION Being an organizer, you lose sleep! You’re setting up Zoom calls and texting everyone back and forth. Throughout the season, we’ve held sessions on voting education with Stacey Abrams and former first lady Michelle Obama, and a screening of the Sandra Bland documentary and a call with her sister afterward. I’ll spend some time talking to or texting the different players and teams about the various initiatives we want to lead. In the end, I want to be able to say I did all I could on and off the court.
FREE TIME I might go to the pool or watch some Netflix. I’m making my way through “Workin’ Moms” and “Sweet Magnolias,” which is cheesy, but I’m obsessed. Sometimes I play video games. The team got us a PlayStation 4, and I’ve been playing a lot of “Crash Bandicoot.” I haven’t played that since I was a kid. I eat dinner at the hotel. I am obsessed with ice cream, but I like high-quality ice cream. I tend to keep dark chocolate in my room and just have that when I’m back.
PARENTING PREP After dinner, I FaceTime with my wife. We text all day, but we try to be intentional and have a FaceTime date so we have each other’s undivided attention. We’re having our first child. It’s tough that I can’t be there right now, especially when she’s pregnant. I miss her, and I miss the physical touch. We’re so isolated here. When I was home, I was reading all the books, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “Bringing Up Bébé” and everything about nutrition during pregnancy. I made juices for her all the time and would say things like, “You’ve got to eat avocado every day!”
WIND DOWN I try to get to bed by 10. I always check my Whoop, which is a fitness tracker that connects to an app on my phone. I like to see how hard I went that day, and how much sleep I need. I have an oil diffuser and add a couple of drops of lavender and eucalyptus to help me relax. I make myself some tea and dig back into my book. I like to read as I wind down. I try to stretch a little bit, too, but lately I’ve been so exhausted, I’m just like, “Nope. Going to bed.”
Sunday Routine readers can follow Layshia Clarendon on Twitter or Instagram @Layshiac.