Seekamp shocks by swapping basketball for goat farming
Nicole Seekamp is about as far from a basketball court as you could get: on a 30,000 acre station in remote New South Wales some 800km north east of Adelaide.
The Adelaide Lightning captain and Opals basketballer should be preparing for the Toyko Olympics, originally scheduled for August, but the coronavirus pandemic stopped all of that.
So, alongside her goat farming partner Ross Gates, Seekamp has instead spent the past three months swapping her athletic shoes for working boots; her daily training sessions for mustering goats; and lifting weights for learning how to drive a grader.
And this new way of life has been such a welcome change that the 28-year-old has decided to step away from the game she's played for more than two decades.
Seekamp has tasted the sweetest of successes - captaining the Lightning and winning Commonwealth Games gold with the Opals - but she's realised that her day-to-day enjoyment of the game has waned.
Physically she can go on, but mentally she cannot.
"It came on during the season that I noticed I wasn't as motivated for basketball as I had been in the past, it's not that I didn't love it … but I could just feel myself not enjoying it as much as I had been," she said.
"So, I gave myself a deadline that I would commit to the sport until after the Tokyo Olympics, but when the Olympics didn't happen because of COVID, it forced me to take the break that I needed."
Seekamp has penned a letter to Lightning supporters and sponsors explaining her decision to step away from the team for the upcoming season, scheduled to start in November.
"Writing the letter was really hard," she said from the station, about a two-hour drive east of Broken Hill.
"I've always done what other people have wanted of me and expected of me and I've played basketball for a long, long time and it's scary to take a step back from something I've done for so long - especially when I'm not sure what's going to happen later on.
"I've always known that there's basketball: that next season I'm going to be playing basketball, or next year, I'm going to be playing basketball, or next month, I'm going to be playing basketball.
"Whereas now, I'm not."
The point guard, who this season broke a WNBL record by having 20 assists in a game, doesn't know how long her break from basketball will be.
And while the Opals have left the door open for her to return to the national squad should she wish to, Seekamp is well aware that her decision to not play WNBL this season could put into jeopardy her Olympic dreams - perhaps the one thing yet ticked off her basketball bucket list.
"I talked to (Opals coach) Sandy (Brondello) about it before I made the decision and said I would re-evaluate in December, which would give me enough time if I was to try out for the Opals again … but, it just depends how I'm feeling about basketball down the track.
"Obviously, it would be awesome to go to an Olympics, and even though I have always dreamt about going, if I'm not driven in basketball I'm not going to do it.
"Because I think that's disrespectful to the Australian brand and there are other people who would want it more than me and I wouldn't want to go into it not giving 100 per cent."
Seekamp, who grew up in the Riverland, played five years of college basketball with South Dakota in the US, followed by one season with Polish team Gorzow Wielkopolski in 2017 before joining the Lightning.
Last year she tried out with the Dallas Wings in the WNBA.
She said she would miss seeing her teammates and playing in front of the Lightning fans.
Coach Chris Lucas, who has been kept busy this weekend because the WNBL's free agency period started on June 4, praised Seekamp's decision.
"We're going to miss her leadership … but I've always said, what you do in life, you've got to make sure you're happy and you're enjoying it and she clearly needed a break," he said.
"From a coaching point of view, she's a fierce competitor and the way that she committed to the team and herself and her body she really inspired me and I'm really hoping that if that burning desire comes back in, that I get the opportunity to coach her again."
But for now, for Seekamp it's all about the wide open spaces and the long days working on the farm.
"It's been a complete change of pace and scenery and I'm doing things that I probably never thought I would do, but I am absolutely loving it out here and I get to learn new things," she said.
Originally published as Seekamp shocks by swapping basketball for goat farming