Animal Friends Provide a Break from Basketball for Seimone Augustus
Two horses, a donkey named Shrek and a dog help keep the three-time Olympic gold medalist busy.
Every athlete has a way of relaxing away from the field of play. Some listen to or create music, some read, and others might like to travel.
For Seimone Augustus, she has her animals. And we aren’t talking about a typical collection of dogs or cats.
Augustus, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a member of the 2019-20 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, does have a dog — a Lab mix named Tiger Bear — but she also has a donkey named Shrek and a pair of horses, Doc and Jessie.
While she says she loves all four the same, for pure entertainment value, Shrek comes out on top.
“Shrek gives me a run for my money,” said Augustus, who saved the soccer-playing donkey from being taken to the slaughterhouse by a neighbor. “He learned how to open the gate at the house ... and walk out, and then we’ll have the sheriff calling us, ‘Do you have a donkey? Your donkey is walking up and down the street.’ We have our moments.”
But Augustus spends a lot of time away from her animals, who live on 20 acres of land in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and often watched over by her parents.
Augustus, a former Louisiana State University star who now plays for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, just completed a three-game trip to Argentina with USA Basketball to compete in the FIBA Americas Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament. The U.S., which has won the last six Olympic gold medals, already has qualified for next year’s Games in Tokyo but will participate in a few FIBA events before then.
For Augustus, it was a chance to further test her right knee, which required arthroscopic surgery and allowed her to play in just 12 of 34 regular-season WNBA games this past season. After starting in all four exhibitions against college teams, she saw action in Argentina for games against Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, and the 6-foot guard said the knee feels good as she continues to build up strength in preparation for the ultimate goal of the 2020 Olympic Games.
Much like how her animals provide a respite from basketball-related stress, basketball itself also has helped Augustus cope during stressful times.
A little over three years ago, in August 2016, Augustus was with the national team at the Olympic Games in Rio when Baton Rouge was hit with a three-day storm that dumped up to 30 inches of rain on the region and caused massive flooding, killing 13 people. Her parents didn’t go to Rio and instead stayed in Baton Rouge with the animals.
“My parents were actually in the house until the last possible moment. They didn't think that the water was going to come up (that high),” Augustus said. “Then about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, they called me and said that the water had reached the doorstep of the house, and they were about to leave. “
What happened after that was neighbors helping neighbors. Her parents were rescued by boat and taken to safety. The horses and Shrek, in a pasture separated from the house by a pond, were evacuated as neighbors used tractors and boats.
“It was hard being in Rio and having to worry about my parents,” said Augustus, who didn’t know if she would have a home to return to following the flooding.
That is where basketball played a big role. While very concerned about her family and the animals, she also had a job to do with the national team. Augustus averaged 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 20 minutes per game as the U.S. defended its gold medal.
“It was kind of good and bad, because I had something to take my mind off of what was going on at home,” Augustus said. “But then once the games were over, it was like, 'OK, what's going on? Where we at? Is everyone OK?'”
At age 35, Augustus knows this is going to be her last shot at another Olympic gold medal and is relishing the experience with longtime teammates while also grooming the next generation of American stars.
“Even the younger players, it's like the changing of the guard,” Augustus said. “We're going to pass along a very rich tradition of winning to them. So, it's definitely a legacy to the situation. With the college tour, it was awesome to see, because we rarely get that transfer over. Like, we don't get those collegiate fans following over the WNBA, so being able to bridge that gap is awesome.”
Away from home, Augustus does keep an eye on her animals. When she calls home, her parents often will give her a little facetime with her brood, so she can check in on them. And as she gets closer to having more time to spend at home, she has thought about expanding her animal kingdom with some chickens. Also, she is interested in pursuing a future in clothing design.
“(After my career is over, I’m going to) take some time off,” she said. “Enjoy, you know, my family and stuff.”