The Definition of Class
Swin Cash embodies excellence and resilience.
by Ben York
There is an unmistakable feeling one acquires while in the presence of Seattle Storm All-Star Swin Cash that immediately results in instant respect and admiration. Unlike other high-profile athlete’s who demand and seek out this type of recognition, it’s not even a conscious thought in Swin’s mind; it’s just the way she is – classy, elegant, and graceful.
But more than anything, it’s the way she handles herself with humility through adversity that earns her such high veneration.
Imagine playing basketball at the highest possible level for several years with a vicious herniated disk in your lower back. Think of the pain you’d feel when trying to make a quick drive to the basket, shooting a jumper the same way you used to, or even just maintaining a positive outlook and attitude. Swin did it, and never complained. Finally in late 2008, the pain was just too much to bear and was beginning to noticeably affect her play. Cash would then head into surgery to repair the disk, which would mean a long and difficult recuperating process.
Not one to simply lay-down and or give up, Cash trained strenuously to come back an even better player. There was an internal battle she waged with herself to prove that she could bounce back and still be an incredible player in the league. Silencing all critics, both internal and external, Swin proved to be a key factor and leader in the Storm’s 2009 campaign. Just a few months after extensive back surgery she was playing 34 minutes a game for Seattle tallying her best numbers since her MVP-worthy 2004 season, and would earn a spot on the 2009 All-Star team.
It seems obvious, but is the word ‘resilient’ a fitting term to describe Cash’s mentality? “I think that’s a fair assessment,” Swin said. “I learned a lot of life lessons the past few years through all the injuries and personal stuff. I just had to figure a lot of things out and get back on my feet. I had something to prove to myself.”
Getting the MVP of the All-Star game in Connecticut while scoring a WNBA All-Star record of 22 points on 10-16 shooting proved to many that Swin was, indeed, back. Though, to Swin, it meant exponentially more to play that well in front so many of many of her UConn college friends and family. “It felt amazing,” Swin said. “My family was there, the people closest to me were there. To do it in Connecticut where so many people watched me grow up from a girl to a woman was just amazing. I realized that the catalyst to getting that MVP trophy was going back to my roots in college. During the offseason when I was in rehab from my surgery, I went to Kansas University to stay with Lew Perkins and his wife. Lew was my Athletic Director at UConn and he’s now the AD at Kansas University. I trained more in the college regimen and that’s really how I got back so fast. Lew and the KU staff was amazing and I really can’t thank them enough.”
The hard work paid off and Swin felt the best physically she had in years. But the injury bug unfortunately couldn’t be avoided by the entire Storm team. Current WNBA legend and Storm All-Star, Lauren Jackson, missed almost a third of the season due to (ironically enough) a stress fracture in her back. In her absence, Swin and fellow UConn teammate Sue Bird had to rally the team and ensure that the optimism for the 2009 season continued. “We had a lot of high expectations,” Cash said. “I had my own personal mission to get back from injury and really felt I had a lot to prove to myself. But along with that, the team had really high expectations. I’ve always been a vocal leader but with Lauren gone Sue [Bird], Tanisha [Wright], and I had to really step up on the court and motivate our teammates.”
In spite of missing a vital key to their collective team’s success, the Storm finished 2nd in the Western Conference with a 20-14 record. In the first round of the Playoffs, they took the heavily favored Los Angeles Sparks to the final game of a three-game series. In the end, the Storm gave it their absolute all but fell just a few possessions short. Watching the series, it was clear that Swin wouldn’t let her team go down without a fight to the end. “It’s one of those things where it’s just…frustrating,” Swin said. “You and the team know that you all did everything that was humanly possible to get that win, and weren’t able to. I was proud of our team for fighting so hard.”
Although the 2009 season didn’t quite go the Storm’s way, it was an important personal victory to Swin after battling so fiercely after her surgery and a testament to her work ethic. “I had to prove something to myself,” Swin said. “It started with myself first. Playing so many years with injuries, basketball almost loses a bit of that fun you feel while playing. I knew that with hard work and time I could get back there one day. This past season I really got back to having fun and playing loose. Once that came back I knew I was able to re-establish myself and get that competitive edge back.”
For Swin, the 2009 season not only was one of the more memorable ones in her personal career, but for the entire league as well. Swin feels it could be an important turning point towards finally reaching mainstream respect. “This season was special,” Swin said. “It was a special treat for us and fans to be a part of some of the games that were played, the miraculous shots, and the Finals between Indiana and Phoenix. We had lots of different people talking about the league and kind of put us back on the map that the WNBA isn’t going anywhere. We have the best talent in the world. We weren’t immune to the recession and have experienced some growing pains but we turned a lot of people’s heads this past year.”
Cash’s work ethic on the court was evident with her phenomenal come back in 2009, but there is an equal passion for her off the court work. Swin has an indelible affection for improving the lives of children wherever she goes. Her foundation, Cash for Kids, provides financial support to the arts while focusing on culture, literacy, athletics, and youth development initiatives. “It really started with the way I was raised,” Swin said. “My mom and family lived that and they were the pillars. They taught me about being humble and giving back. I realize that if it wasn’t for the people that extended a hand and helped me along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am. It’s important for us in positions like these to give back. I also think it’s important for the African-American community as well. There are a lot of single-parent homes out there and children not getting the proper nutrition and values. I just hope that this small amount that I can do will help change a few lives for the better.”
Swin Cash is an incredible and invaluable asset to the WNBA. Sure, her WNBA Championship, Olympic gold medal, and multiple selections to the All-Star game enhance her profile in the sports world, but it’s also the example she sets for youth to never give up no matter how hard things get.
Humble, graceful, and persevering – Swin Cash.