The next time Chelsea Petrik steps onto a basketball court she will be celebrating two very important, but very different, milestones in her life – her 300th WA state league game as a player but her first as a mother.
Petrik and her husband, Flames men’s coach Ryan, are expecting to welcome their first child on the eve of the new season in April, but that happy and life-changing news hasn’t dented her competitiveness or hunger to continue her basketball career, and the championship-winning captain has re-signed with the club for the inaugural NBL1 West season.
While the timing of the new addition to the Petrik family will mean missing the start of the competition, Chelsea is confident she can come return to the court and tread a path countless other sportswomen have navigated before her in juggling motherhood and her sporting career.
“I feel like if others can do it, I can do it. Look at Kayla Steindl, she had her son then came back and had an amazing WNBL season, so it can be done,” she said.
“A lot will depend on how I look after my body before and after the birth. While you’re pregnant it’s important to do as much as you can to stay healthy and in shape so you can bounce back quickly. It can be done and that’s all I’m thinking.”
Even before receiving her pregnancy news, Petrik, who will be 31 by the time the new season begins, always planned to play on in 2021, especially after missing most of last year’s West Coast Classic through injury.
Although through that forced absence came a different opportunity – coaching. And sitting beside former coach Keegan Crawford on the bench allowed the guard to see the game from a different perspective and learn to be a leader in other ways off the court.
“The plan was always to play on. I’m not nearly ready to quit and I never thought about sitting the year out and coming back in 2022; I want to get back into it, especially with the group of girls we have,” Petrik said.
“I’m looking forward to playing under Tom (Knowles), I have a high appreciation of him as a coach and a person. I’ve known him for a while so I’m looking forward to playing for him and I don’t want to wait another year for that chance.
“Another reason I still want to be involved, even in pre-season while heavily pregnant, is we’re going to be missing some of the girls – Cibba (Alex Ciabattoni) won’t be here possibly until right before the season starts – so there’s a need for a senior player like myself to be there, at least until we have our full squad back.
“The West Coast Classic was a great teaching season, not just for the younger girls showing they can play at this level but also for me from a coaching perspective.
“It was amazing to see the younger players could handle playing against a stacked team like Joondalup. Players like Chloe (Napolitano) stepped up majorly and cemented their roles for future seasons, so it was great to see players like her show what they could do against some top players in the league. Tayah (Burrows) was incredible and this Lynx season she did really well too.
“For me coaching, I learned so much. It’s good to see how a coach thinks and their processes. I’ve found in the past I can’t help much from a coaching perspective while I’m a player, so the injury was a blessing in disguise because I could take the time to step aside and properly help some of the younger girls.
“The experience will help me a little bit as a player, but having a new coach coming in I wont be familiar with his processes, whereas with Keegan I knew what he was thinking and wanting to do by the end (of the season). It was good that I could see and read the game better and at a different level. You pick up more watching sometimes rather than playing.”
Petrik hopes to put those new skills to good use when she eventually returns, but her main goal for 2021 – other having than a healthy baby – whatever role she comes back to, is to continue performing at the level she knows she is capable of.
“I still want to be a leader on and off the court. Whether I play much of the season or not, I still want to be a leader,” she said.
“I want to come back and play how I normally play. I don’t want to step off and regress… I want to still be really tough on defence and still shoot the three. That’s it. If I can still do that I’ll be happy, but I don’t have any specific personal goals other than that and for the team to compete for another championship.
“A baby and a championship in 2021 would be pretty perfect. I’m sure Ryan is hoping for the same.”
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