Though Sylvia Fowles’ Career Has No End in Sight, the Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Has a Surprising Post-Basketball Plan
The multi-time USA gold medalist currently is pursuing a mortuary science degree with an eye on becoming a funeral director.
Having appeared in four NCAA Final Fours, won three Olympic gold medals, one FIBA World Cup gold medal and claimed two WNBA championships, Sylvia Fowles has enough connections and relationships to have a wide range of career options once her days as a professional basketball player come to an end.
And while she isn’t ready to put a timeframe on when that day will come, she has been preparing for that eventuality. So, what will the 6-foot-6 Floridian and current Minnesota Lynx star do?
Become a funeral director.
On the surface, it seems like a strange choice, but to Fowles — a prominent member of the USA Basketball National Team — it will be a personal dream fulfilled.
“I was always interested in that as a kid, but what really got my spark going was when my grandmother passed away when I was younger,” said Fowles, who was about 5 at the time.
Her experience made her want to have others make sure their loved ones were properly taken care of and prepared for their final resting place.
“When I originally wanted to do it, it was more of the cosmetic side — hair, makeup and dress,” Fowles said. “But then once I started taking classes, seeing what all goes into it — embalming, restoration and all that stuff — it just piqued my interest even more.”
Fowles just finished her most recent semester taking online classes at the American Academy McAllister Institute, known as the Harvard of mortuary schools. She has a break until September and then plans on completing her degree in the spring. As part of her schooling, she has worked at a funeral home two hours from Minneapolis.
“The older you get, the wiser you get, and you realize basketball isn’t forever,” said Fowles, who turns 34 in October. “I just wanted to have something to fall back on, something that was going to keep me as busy or keep my interest just as basketball did, and mortuary science was that.”
Until then, basketball is her primary focus. Fowles is one of eight players who have committed to participating in all five segments of a new training program that will take place over the next year as the USA National Team gears up for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. The U.S. will be going after an Olympic-record seventh straight gold and ninth overall.
Fowles has been on the last three Olympic championship teams, in addition to winning golds with USA Basketball at the 2010 World Cup and the 2005 World University Games.
She is excited about the commitment being shown by players and organizers in preparation for Tokyo.
“It’s important, because we have those players who are up there, and this could possibly be their last Olympics,” she said. “You want to make sure to go out there represent them well for everything they have done for USA Basketball.”
As she approaches the final chapters of her career, Fowles knows how special it has been to win three Olympic golds.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think about it,” Fowles said. “While you are putting in that work, you really don’t think about it, because you have your mind set on that one goal and that’s to go out there and win. But when you take time away from doing that job and go back and look at all the things you have done over the past years, those gold medals definitely sit up there on that list. It’s humbling to know that you have played with some of the greats in the world. To be able to compete with them on that same level actually means a lot.”
This version of the national team figures to earn a great deal of hype as the core of the roster — led by four-time gold medalists Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi as well as Fowles — is likely making its last run at the Olympics. Regardless, playing on a team that features many of the best players in the world is an exhilarating experience.
“It’s no pressure for one and it’s very fun,” Fowles said. “Everybody has one goal and that’s to go out there and win. Of course, you have to put in the work. I think that’s where it all starts, in the gym. Everybody is a fighter, and everybody is a go-getter, and everybody is determined to be the best. When we put that all together, we are pretty much daggone good.”
For a player such as Fowles, it also provides an opportunity to become somewhat of a role player with as much talent as the U.S. can roll out on any given night.
“It’s just learning on a different level,” Fowles said. “On my WNBA team, I am kind of the go-to person. On the USA Basketball team, if it happens for you that night, it happens for you that night. It gives you that sense of being humble, but at the same time it makes you want to go out there and work hard for your teammates.”