October 28, 2010

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles…

This morning I woke up at 6am and got on a train at 6:50am. By 8:30am I was boarded a plane heading back to The States. My plane touched down at 1:10pm, U.S. time. This evening I will be driving my car to the hospital to visit my Dad.

Sunday night I received news from my sister that my Dad was in the hospital. I found out Tuesday night that he needs two heart surgeries. After talking to my family, my agent, my friends, and my coach I got the green light from all parties to take a trip back to The States to be with my family while my Dad has surgery. I am going to get five days at home. Home. I’ve missed home so much and have been anxiously awaiting Christmas vacation where I will get two weeks and two days to spend with my family and friends and enjoy all of the things that Europe just can’t offer me. And while I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends and getting those hugs that I miss so much, the reasoning behind this visit makes me incredibly nervous.

My Dad and me at a basketball banquet
While I sat in my apartment piecing together all the information I had in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to return home I realized that I wouldn’t be sitting in my Swiss apartment if it weren’t for my Dad and Mom. For those of you who don’t know how I got to where I am, let me try to explain the level of commitment it took by all parties involved in order for me to get here. I started playing recreation basketball in 4th grade. My Mom signed me up and took me once or twice a week to the local middle school to play. By 5th grade I had joined a Church Youth Organization (CYO) team with a friend where basketball became slightly more competitive, organized, and time consuming. We started practicing twice a week and having games on the weekends, usually on Saturdays. By 6th grade I made the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team composed of a core group of girls from the CYO team, called the Jersey Hot Shots. After I joined the Jersey Hot Shots basketball really picked up. Those Saturday games turned into weekend tournaments all over the country. We drove to Washington D.C., Florida, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and flew to Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Kansas, and Ohio. After I was offered a full scholarship to a school two hours away we practiced/played six days a week and had games twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays (I think). Once I transferred to The College of New Jersey the games were more localized and practices were shorter, but we still played games twice a week. I did not go to a single one of these games alone. In fact, before attending college I can’t remember a time where at least one of my parents wasn’t at a game. If I complained about losing summers at the beach, not being able to have a Sweet Sixteen, or having to leave my high school’s annual band trip in the middle of the night because I had a basketball tournament, I can’t imagine what my parents sacrificed to make my dreams come true.

My Mom and me on the way to the Final Four
I have a lot of really fond memories from growing up playing basketball and going on those trips. I remember when I first started really wanting to play my Dad took me out to the driveway and taught me how to make a hook shot. I remember that same year playing one-on-one against my Mom (or as I wrote in my diary “today I will versus Mommy”). I remember cutting our vacation in Sunset Beach, NC short and sharing my first plane ride with my Dad on the way to Ogden, Utah (of all places) for the 12&U AAU national tournament. I remember incredibly tiring weekends at tournaments five hours away where we’d actively search for the different gym sites and play eight games; I would get to the car completely exhausted but ready to co-pilot only to have my Dad take a look at me, see my exhaustion, and tell me to go lay down in the back and rest. Once I turned 16, I remember getting my permit and begging my Mom to let me drive us to a game, which she occasionally let me do ☺. I remember my really difficult freshman year where I thought I might actually walk away from the game of basketball and in a state of panic felt relief when my Mom finally told me it was okay to ‘just come home.’ I remember making it to the Final Four in Holland, MI and looking up in the stands at what I thought would be the last game of my basketball career to see my parents cheering for me far after the final buzzer had sounded.

As I’m writing this I’m starting to get emotional thinking about how incredibly grateful I am to be able to live out my dreams, and my real dreams. The other day a friend asked me, “Hill, what is your dream job.” At first I answered with “probably an actress or singer,” because I am and like to be incredibly expressive. After walking to practice that day and thinking more about it I came back and told that friend, “Actually, I already have my dream job, I’m playing basketball professionally.” Just to be clear, it’s not super glamorous, so I hope nobody is picturing me as LeBron walking down the streets in Nyon. It’s hard work both mentally and physically, but it has been my dream since I first picked up a basketball. I know I’ve been able to live out my dream because of my parents, and I really hope they both know that I know that.

One other memory really sticks out to me. After one particular AAU game I thought I had played horrible. I was so angry with myself I couldn’t/wouldn’t talk to anyone. I also had a HUGE attitude back in the day so I’m sure my Dad was getting frustrated with my demeanor after bad games. On the way to our next game that day he turned me to and said, “Hillary, basketball is a game, enjoy it, and remember to smile as they go in.” That motto has stuck with me throughout college and even now as I pursue my professional career in basketball. As my coach was talking to me yesterday, as soon as she said, “Basketball is a game, family is family” I immediately pictured my Dad and knew I had to sit the next game out and go home to be with my family. After all, I wouldn’t be playing basketball now if it weren’t for my Dad and my Mom and all the commitment they had to make my dreams come true.

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