INDIANAPOLIS — Briann January grew up, as she likes to put it, in a house full of ninjas.
Her father teaches karate and owns his own martial arts studio out in Spokane, Wash. Her mother is a second-degree black belt. Her younger sister has a black belt — and got hers before January did, which spurred January to finally earn hers in Taekwondo at the end of her freshman year of high school.
Martial arts were just one of a handful of hobbies that dotted January’s childhood; she played soccer and softball, ran track and played the trumpet in the marching band. Of course, she also played basketball, and played it well.
January, 30, now realizes that what her father told her about martial arts and basketball — it will help you when you fall, for example — has been true. And perhaps it’s helped her, over the course of her exceptional collegiate career at Arizona State, her now nine-year WNBA career and her foray into coaching, more than she ever could have imagined.
“There are so many things that you learn within martial arts that carries over into not only just basketball, but life,” January says. “One of the major things for me is just to be able to recenter myself. There’s so much going on — when you’re on the court and you have a few bad possessions. Or somebody’s not shooting well. You’ve got to get somebody locked in. There are a lot of moving parts and you just sometimes just got to take a second and be able to regroup, center yourself real quick, and then focus, really lock in at the task at hand, which probably is the next possession. That is the biggest thing for me, as well as just being able to move my body. To avoid body contact and just roll off of people. Whether it’s a post player trying to post you up and pulling the chair, swimming over. Keeping your balance. Those type of things.
“And then, when you fall on the floor, knowing how to fall properly without getting a huge impact. If you fall wrong, you’re getting a ton of impact on your body. If you fall correctly, you can roll out of it. You can brace yourself.”
It’s easy to extrapolate; these lessons translate into, essentially, every area of life. They’ve worked well on the basketball court for January as a player. Now, we’ll see how well they work as she begins her coaching career in earnest, too — at the same time.
January isn’t the first WNBA player to…