Silver Stars’ Tully Bevilaqua looks to her post-basketball future as a gym owner and a mom.
by Josh Flynn
The whistle is sharp and piercing, and its screech brings relief to the people who rise from their exercise mats inside Gym41. Concentration fades to smiles—smiles that they made it through another boot camp, that their friends or family members made it, too.
Some of the boot campers gather around Tully and Lindsay Bevilaqua, the gym’s owners. Some huddle together and make post-workout plans. A group watches the Bevilaquas’ one-year-old son, Parker, as he scurries across the gym floor. He stops crawling and a look of intense determination crosses his little face. His tiny arms and legs push upwards, and when he’s standing, he raises his small fists into the air. Victory. The boot campers laugh and applaud his effort.
There’s a camaraderie here, an extended family forged through sweat and possibly a few tears.
Tully shares handshakes and hugs with the campers as they depart. Her exuberance works well in this setting. Gym41 is the perfect transition, as her basketball career creeps closer to that final game.
“As you get towards the end of your career you need to start thinking of life after basketball,” she says. “I love fitness so it was a no-brainer that this was an area we would like to get into.”
The idea for Gym41 began developing during last year’s WNBA season while the Bevilaquas were in San Antonio. By the time Tully returned to Indianapolis after the Silver Stars’ season ended, they already had a location and two weeks later they’d constructed a gym. They built an inventory of exercise equipment by looking for used materials on Craigslist, and even built a few themselves. “We’ve been smart not to spend a lot of money initially on new equipment because it’s a boot camp. It’s not the kind of place where we need spanking new materials and we didn’t want to spend a lot of dollars before we’ve even grown into a viable business.”
Gym41 opened for a six-month test run in mid-November 2011. The response in the first five months was so positive, Tully decided they had too good of a situation to close down for a few months to accommodate her WNBA career. “Lindsay will continue to run the gym while I’m away and I’ll come back down the track,” she says.
Tully estimates about 200 people have visited the camp, with a high percentage of them coming back for more. Amongst the regular visitors to the gym is Indianapolis’ Pike Township fire department. One woman has already reached 85 camps. Her husband just reached 50 and their son is quickly approaching that milestone. One camper in her sixties couldn’t budge a tractor tire on her visit. Forty sessions later she can flip it over twice. “It’s great seeing success,” Tully says. “That’s the inspiration for us when we see them come in every couple of weeks and we see them drop weight. Someone today said they were down to a pair of jeans they haven’t worn in 15 years. It makes us realize we chose the right career path.”
Tully has also seen the benefits of owning a gym play into her preparation for the upcoming WNBA season. She feeds off the energy the boot campers exert and uses it for motivation to maintain her strength and conditioning.
Despite no longer being a member of the Indiana Fever, Tully still feels like a part of the Indianapolis community. It’s her home (“I have my green card and I’m a permanent resident now,” she says) and is active in the city through basketball camps, work with the humane society and charity events.
Bevilaqua was disappointed when she found out she was no longer a member of the Fever, but jumped at the opportunity to join the Silver Stars. “I was very lucky and grateful that [Silver Stars head coach] Dan Hughes was interested in bringing me to San Antonio. I still felt like I had a lot to give and it’s been a great experience.”
San Antonio features a blend of youth and veterans, and Bevilaqua is eager to see how players like Danielle Robinson and Danielle Adams contribute to the 2012 team. She feels last season was unique for the rookies as they got to play extended minutes. This now makes them seasoned players in her eyes. However, she knows the Western Conference will be difficult this year, especially when a reloaded Los Angeles team is thrown into the mix alongside defending champions Minnesota and the always-dangerous Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm. But with the Olympics set to interrupt this year’s WNBA season, there is always a chance for a team to sneak in and stun the powerhouses.
“I think it will be interesting to see how teams will come out after the break—will the chemistry be maintained or will you have players coming back in and they need to learn to adjust to the new players,” she wonders, expecting the team who can solve those problems the quickest will have the best chance at capturing this year’s WNBA championship.
But as the season begins and Gym41 takes off, Bevilaqua is wondering if this will be her final year in the WNBA. “It’s getting very close to being the end. It’s kind of year-to-year—though I have been saying that for the last five years. But this could be my last season. Everything is in place for that scenario.”
The most important factor in that decision is not an aging body—which is still as feisty as ever on the basketball court—but the little child she and her Lindsay adore so much. If you’ve followed Tully on Facebook or Twitter you’ve seen the countless pictures and videos she’s posted of Parker—his first Indianapolis Indians baseball game, decked out for a Silver Stars game, or just rolling around on the floor with a basketball. “It’s going to be the toughest thing, not knowing what you will miss out on,” she says of not seeing Parker for extended periods of time during the season. “You see new things everyday that he can do. He’ll be coming back and forth but he won’t be around for the training camp. Thankfully we come back to Indiana for a preseason game. And he’ll spend two-week periods with me throughout the season when I have more home games. It will be tough. Lots of Skype sessions.”
“In just a couple of weeks he’ll be taller than Tully,” Lindsay says, as they watch Parker explore the gym waiting room, weaving around exercise bikes, pulling himself up using chairs and the exterior of his playpen.
“It gives you a whole new perspective on life and what’s important,” Tully says. “Family is way more important at the end of the day. You can’t replace lost minutes. It’s hard being away.”