“I needed a change”: Sara Blicavs on her new team, and new business

August 9, 2023 | WNBL news

By Daniel Herborn | The Pick and Roll

For more than a decade, Sara Blicavs has been a fixture of Australian basketball. The daughter of the very first WNBL MVP (Karen Blicavs nee Ogden) and an Olympic basketballer (Andris Blicavs), Blicavs had seemed destined for a career in elite basketball from a young age.

But this winter, she took some time out. She opted not to play in Australia’s FIBA Asia Cup campaign and didn’t link up with her NBL1 team, Geelong Supercats. Instead, she explored interests outside the sport. She says the break has done her a world of good.

“It’s the most amazing thing I’ve done in my career so far,” she tells The Pick and Roll. “You definitely get in ruts being an elite athlete. Everything seems the same. I found I was at a point where I wasn’t improving, nor was I trying to improve. I needed to take some time away to get my passion and love for basketball back. That definitely happened. I had three months completely off, and I was so excited to come back.”

Now, she’s returned to training and is feeling re-energised. She has signed with a new WNBL team, the Melbourne Boomers, after spending the previous eight seasons with the Southside Flyers and their previous incarnation, the Dandenong Rangers.

“Personally, I just felt like I needed a change,” Blicavs reflects. “I was a little bit stuck, a little bit stagnant. It was time to hear a new voice. I think that happens in any workplace. I thought it was time to hear from Chris Lucas; he’s always wanted to coach me. He’s been at me for literally the last 10 years of my life, so I thought I’d give him a chance and see how he goes. I really like his track record and basketball brain, so I’m super excited to get working with him and (assistant coach) Kristi Harrower.”

Blicavs has used her basketball downtime to start a new business, the clothing line Sara Kirsti, which offers a range of women’s underwear. So far, the line has three colourways on offer with planning for further products already underway. She says the decision to start the business came at a crossroads in her professional career.

“I got cut from the WNBA and the Olympic team three years ago, all within a week of each other,” she says. “I felt completely worthless because my whole identity had been basketball.”

Having received an unwanted reminder that careers in professional sport can end abruptly, Blicavs sat down with her manager and candidly discussed life after basketball. She decided to push ahead with a long-held ambition of starting her own clothing line.

“I’ve always been interested in underwear. Everyone wears it all the time, so there’s a market there for it. I thought: ‘screw it, let’s put it to fruition and throw myself completely out of my comfort zone and just see what happens’.

Blicavs has now launched her new clothing line, titled Sara Kirsti, and has bralettes and briefs available in three different colourways. Fellow WNBL players, including Nyadiew Puoch, Monique Conti, Bec Cole and Maddi Rocci have helped out with modelling the apparel.

She says launching a new small business has been a rewarding but challenging process, with commercialising the clothes the most challenging element.

“It’s difficult; obviously I’ve never been to university and I’ve never studied or done anything related to business. As a business owner, you wear several different hats; you’re the social media girl, the accountant, you do marketing, public relations, all that stuff.

“I just try to learn it all and give it a good crack. I just got off the phone with my brother, Kris, and I was saying that sometimes I look at myself and think: ‘What am I doing?’. But it’s so much fun. I’m absolutely loving it. Being in control of my own thing is exactly what I’m supposed to do post basketball. I couldn’t think of anything worse than working for someone else, working nine to five behind a desk. I love being in charge of my own thing and it’s on me whether it succeeds or fails.”

One of the crucial decisions she faced was landing on a material for the clothing line. She ultimately decided to use a 93% bamboo cotton blend. It’s a sustainable material that is easy to wear and offers quality at an affordable price point. “Bamboo cotton is so healthy for the body, and it’s a way better fabric for you to be wearing,” she says. “The briefs are perfect for training

and playing in, I play in them all the time. So that’s what I wanted, (a material) that’s really healthy and breathable for you.”

With her business now up and running and the 2023/24 WNBL pre-season only a few weeks away, the revitalised Blicavs says she would be happy to part of a leadership group rather than necessarily being the new face of the franchise. “I think naturally I lead by example and that I’m a very positive, upbeat person and I want the best for everyone. But as for actually taking a leadership role, right now I want to focus on the season ahead, having fun and bringing the group together. That will pretty much be my role unless Chris (Lucas) has anything different in mind for me.”

Blicavs has also been dreaming about the Paris Olympics and the potential chance to make the Opals squad again. Recently, she got to try on the uniform she would wear if she made the team, and that taste of the green and gold fired her competitive spirit.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot – I’m trying not to, but I just get excited by these things…You know, the (Tokyo) COVID Olympics wasn’t a real Olympics, so it would be nice to experience what a non-COVID one would be like.”

Most of all, she’s relishing the fresh perspective on the sport that her winter away from the game has provided: “Having something else to do outside of basketball, knowing there’s more to life and that you can focus on something else will make me a better player.”