My forever love.
When I started playing basketball in 1993 I never dreamt it would take me the places it did.
I was an athletic young girl growing up, I ran track in primary school and played hockey and badminton…and from age 12 it was apparent where my skills set lay. I was smart but not overly, confident but not cocky, friendly but quite wary, trusting but not naive… I was a happy kid. I remember having a fantastic childhood but always feeling like I wanted more. When I moved to high school, whilst I don’t remember too much about the transition, I do remember feeling like the world was my oyster… and basketball became my ocean.
Most young athletes with potential know early on what and where they want to take their sport. Some do it for pleasure, but most, as in my case, do it because it’s their escape. We all know the story of the Williams Sisters, Lebron James, most British football players in the Scottish and English Premierships… the stories are endless of the athlete who strived to succeed against all odds, players who use their sport as a vehicle to drive them to their freedom, and whilst I know my success wasn’t half (or even close to 1/10th) as newsworthy as these mega sports stars, I feel like in my world, it was just as significant. It was MY life.
Basketball gave me so much more than just my love of exercise, in fact, truth be told, until about 3 years ago I hated running, it was punishment…I mean, what’s the point if you don’t have a ball to dribble??
I traveled with basketball, met so many wonderful people who opened their arms and hearts to me, got an education, worked in sport, coached young people, learned how to live on ramen noodles, tacos, and oatmeal, spoke publicly, made speeches, represented my country, did I say traveled? I knew deep down from a young age that if I put in the work I could open this door to a new life… like I saw on my favourite basketball movie “The Pistol” about the great Pistol Pete Maravich. My journey wasn’t easy, like I’ve said before, but I did it…and of course I had some help.
So, from age 14-18 I trained every day, relentlessly… 6am-8.30am before class, lunchtime, then after school, often playing and coaching until 9pm, sometimes 10pm, when my coach, Jimmy Lay, would come to the gym and tell us (I say us because I played with a team of committed girls!) he was locking up. (In the UK we don’t have sports seasons like in the USA, if you’re a basketball/football/volleyball player, that’s what you train for, year round!) I often think back on those times and think “what the f* were we all doing?”, then laugh because those were, as you can imagine, some of the best years of my life. I can still remember the smell of the empty gym with the low lighting, first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It’s one of the best places in the world if you’re a basketball player. You know the scene, right?
My sisterhood goes deep because of those days and nights spent in that gym with those girls.
The sports sisterhood is one that most women in sport know well. The bonds made whilst crying, laughing, sweating and hurting together are ones that are incomparable to any other bond or friendship I’ve made in any other area of life since. Still today, age 30 ahem… something, I’ve made friendships with women this year, who I now love and respect; who saved my family at a time we needed to feel accepted and loved. This past year was a real challenge for our family and it was the basketball family who pushed us through, just like when I was a young player going through whatever shit life was throwing at me, being pushed through by my mentor and coach, Jimmy Lay. He, being my “person” back then, (as well as my parents of course) taught me resilience, acceptance, trust, love, truth, compassion, grit and most importantly, honesty.
Of course there are some people in life you just don’t click with, but when you’re all moving towards a common goal, there’s not a whole lot of time for thinking about trivial matters off the court. We were all in it together, for however long the game lasts.
I owe a lot to the game of basketball, it might sound ridiculous to some, but this game has saved me, time and again, and even today I find myself seeking it’s comfort at times when I don’t even know I need it.
It’s my forever love. It knows when to show up.
What’s your sport? What have you learned from your sport beyond the physical aspects? Do you find yourself trying a new sport as you get older, or do you stay faithful to your first love? 😉
Let me know.