With the 2023 WNBA season now underway, one of the main topics of discussion has been expansion and the lack of roster spots in the league. With only 12 teams and each team allowed a maximum of 12 roster spots, the WNBA has become the hardest professional sports league to break into. With first round picks and top college stars being cut, holding on to a roster spot is no easy feat. That's why for someone like Las Vegas Aces guard Sydney Colson, her long career in the WNBA so far is not something to take lightly. Sydney Colson first joined the Aces last season and she re-signed as a free agent during the offseason.
Although there have been a couple of blips on her timeline when she was not on a WNBA roster, overall Colson has played nine seasons in the WNBA including this year. She's played for several different teams over the course of her career including the Aces, the Chicago Sky, the Minnesota Lynx, the then San Antonio Stars and the New York Liberty.
Many players struggle to make a WNBA roster, but Colson believes the key for her has been simply understanding what teams need from her.
“Just staying ready, just figuring out what your role is on teams and accepting it and being a star in your role. For me sometimes that doesn't involve playing on the court. I'm fortunate enough to know that this organization has been able to find my worth, knowing things that I do in practice basketball-wise and what I bring to the locker room,” Colson said. “And a lot of it is God's calling for me and being around the right people. Earlier in my career it was a college coach knowing a WNBA coach. You still have to be prepared but some people get a better luck of the draw, some people are also working out at home and they didn't get that call. It wasn't all me, a lot of it is just circumstance.”
Sydney Colson first broke into the WNBA as the No. 16 overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Connecticut Sun. She was traded to the New York Liberty and as a rookie she played in 16 games and she shot 42.9 percent from three-point range. Following that season, she was an example of how hard it is to make a WNBA roster as she went unsigned for three straight years.
She made it back to the WNBA in 2015 with the then San Antonio Stars who later became the Aces. She played three years for the Stars and had one of her best seasons in the league in 2016 when she averaged a career-best 5.1 points per game, 1.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 43.1 percent from the field in 34 games at a career-high 16.9 minutes.
Sydney Colson's first go-round with this Aces team came in 2019 the year after they drafted A'ja Wilson. She only spent one season there before moving on the Lynx but she's been back and was a part of last season's championship squad. Colson played sparingly last season and isn't a major part of the Aces rotation this season, yet she's still an integral part of the team. Not being able to accept what a team might need from a player is something Colson believes hinders them from consistently being on a WNBA roster.
“I don't say ‘accept' in a way that you don't keep improving your game or challenging people in practice or doing what you're supposed to do to try to work to play. Ultimately when a coach decides that's not what they need from you, then you kind of just keep moving, keep doing your thing individually to show that you're someone different from maybe what they see,” Colson said. “But if they decide things, either you can live with that and serve your role on that team, or you're probably going to see yourself out of the league soon.”
As someone who’s been cut several, and I mean SEVERAL😂, times…it’s tough & not a great feeling, but it doesn’t mean it has to be the end of your career. Grind, have a chip on your shoulder, and work to get back.
— Sydney Colson (@SydJColson) May 18, 2023
Although Sydney Colson might not be consistent fixture in the Aces rotation, there's no denying her importance to the team. It's not just her presence in practice keeping the regulars sharp or her presence on the bench during games keeping the mood light and providing another source of knowledge for younger players, Colson is also there to make sure the team has fun.
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 20, 2023
Colson has a regular presence on social media documenting an often humorous behind the scenes look at the team, many of which she is main culprit involved. She may not get into a game, but it's that locker room, off the court vibe she brings that makes her such a valuable part of the team.
“Keeping people light and having fun, and obviously competing, like we get after each other in practice,” Colson said. “I like to take tremendous pride in my defense and guard my players in practice and making things tough for them. For me it's just competing, making sure people are getting better, understanding better in the process and just being a good teammate.”
Just a couple of BFF's at work. pic.twitter.com/rUkauDe4av
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 14, 2023
After playing in the 2020 bubble with the Sky, Colson found herself once again unsigned when the 2021 season rolled around. When the offseason came, rather than go overseas like many WNBA players do, Colson was part of the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited. The purpose of Athletes Unlimited was to provide a domestic alternative for women's professional basketball players. Although may WNBA players suit up for AU, the league is filled with players who haven't been able to break into the WNBA.
Sydney Colson used AU to help her get back into the WNBA with the Aces ahead of the 2022 season. The league has given her an opportunity to showcase aspects of her game that she isn't always able to in the WNBA. She is no stranger to the shortage of WNBA roster spots and that's a big reason why she's grateful for the platform that AU can provide for players.
“I think it helps a great deal just giving opportunities to players out of college who weren't drafted to get training camp contracts and helping players from overseas who haven't been able to ever play in front of their families at home,” Colson said. “For me individually, it just helps to have more confidence in my offensive game, grow as a leader, play with different types of people and the structure of the league in general. . .a lot of good things are coming from the league. I hope we can continue to grow it and get more people wanting to play.”
While Colson has managed to have a longer WNBA career than a lot of players, she hasn't really thought much about when it might be time to call it quits. Playing is something she wants to continue to do for however long she's able to and she'll know when the time comes to think about hanging up her sneakers.
“I just leave it up to God. When I feel like God has me in a position where I'm supposed to be somewhere, or if he has me in a position where he doesn't feel like I need to be there anymore, I try to pray about it,” Colson said. “Hopefully have discernment to understand what God is telling me, then move accordingly.”
When she does decide to hang it up though, she's already got her next career waiting for her.
“I want to pursue acting for sure. I love comedy,” Colson said. “I guess I just enjoy life so much, I enjoy being on a team. I like to see people having fun and enjoying themselves. Just being loose even though we're serious and we're competitors and we want to win, you can still find joy in the midst of it all.”