Expectations & Changing Teams
By: Sadie Newell | Engaged to Michael Winger, Front Office for Los Angeles Clippers
When I met Michael, he was working in Oklahoma City. For the next four years, we continued our relationship (and his contract) with the Thunder. I was welcomed in with open arms, and quickly became friends with the women in the organization. We saw each other in the arena a couple times a week – holidays, birthdays or regular Wednesdays…it didn’t matter. The women in Oklahoma have a really special culture – united by community service, family workload and a unique town with only one professional sports team! When I first became a “Thunder Significant Other” I was incredibly intimidated. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have anything in common with the other women or that I would be the odd one of the bunch (newsflash: I am the odd one, but totally embrace it). Once I ventured down into the family room and got to know a few ladies, I realized that there was great potential for lasting friendships. I went from being a loner in the arena with no one to sit with to spending the whole first half in the family room catching up with the ladies – and I loved it.
When we moved to LA, I truly thought the same thing would happen. I’d have an awkward year, but I’d meet people and then it would be just like OKC. Same camaraderie, same sort of community service platform, same amount of young wives and mothers for me to bond with. Cue my surprise when I happened to be one of the youngest wives and walked into an organization that I was not prepared for.
First of all…the arena is so far away from everything. It is pretty impossible to get from a beach city to the heart of downtown by 7:30 tipoff if you leave work at 6. If you have school age kids, that’s a trek for 48 game minutes! What I found was that while I was massively pregnant and going to two games a month was that the wives all had their own thing going – whether it be with kids, friends or just their own interests. What I failed to realize is that when we joined the Clippers, a lot of the wives already had been in the league for years! The best part? I had so much to learn (still do) and I had a bunch of women willing to take me under their wing and teach me. Although Oklahoma was a really great place to understand the culture of being a wife in the NBA, LA has been the site for growth – it has been fun getting to know the women here and having a hand in the events we get to participate in throughout the season.
The big takeaway I have heard across the board is the age-old tale we tell everyone around us – keep an open mind and an open heart. Going back to a team you were with years prior? It’s likely not the same team. Going to a city where you know zero people? You have a built-in network, no matter what it looks like, or the rumors you have heard. Have kids and their lives are impacted by the move? ASK ASK ASK the people at your current team, your future team, the people around the league you know that have been through this. Ask for tips, ask for advice, ask for strength or even just positive vibes. No one will leave you out to dry, and if it is happening to you, it is absolutely not the first time (and if it is, take notes for the next person)! Remember that things truly won’t be the same as they were at the previous team, but that doesn’t make it anything other than different.
Also, on another note- there will always be someone that is new after you. Whether it is a player or a front office or a coach and their family, you will not be the new person forever. Although it is sometimes hard to get everyone together or meet every individual wife/family, extend the effort that was (or was not) shown to you. We all have those moments of staying in a hotel while trying to find a place to live, being home alone while our SO’s travel, or dealing with ultra-crabby kids who just want to be up to see their mom or dad. In those times, we remember the support and the kindness we were showed and it truly does shape the outlook of the league, team and the seasons to follow.