I wanted to take the opportunity today to join the National Women's Law Center’s cause in writing about the importance of girls in sports and the benefits of athletics participation.
First and foremost, I don’t think you can talk about what you get from athletics, before you talk about what you put into athletics. The following list will walk you through both what I’ve put into basketball and what I’ve gotten from basketball…I think by the end you’ll realize the importance that athletics, and specifically basketball, has had on my life and why I think sports are so important for women today. I’ve already talked a lot in a previous blog entry about the sacrifices I’ve made and the way I’ve had to commit myself to basketball, but here are a few funny (and serious) anecdotes that I didn’t share yet:
- I know you must be curious…no, my prom date’s name was not Wilson (although it might as well have been). I can’t remember many weekends in high school that didn’t involve me in some sort of gym doing some sort of work out, or in a random state playing against a number of AAU teams from around the country. Basketball helped me learn the geography of the United States and successfully pass the 6th grade.
- I have been squeezing tennis balls and hacky sacs for more than ten years. Why, you may ask! My first basketball coach told me doing this would strengthen my fingers so that I would be able to catching any pass thrown my way, get a touch on defense, or get a block and be able to keep the ball inbounds and secure it to start a transition fast break. I will admit that I now have THE STRONGEST PINKIES OF ALL MY FRIENDS (yes, it’s been tested!).
|Me & My Pinkies :)|
- I spent a lot of my summers practicing on outside basketball courts. After all, you have to be outside during the summer! Nope, no beach for me (at least very rarely). But I will say that playing basketball outside in the summer gave me conversation-starting tan lines, enabling me to make friends :).
- Basketball has taught me punctuality. If you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late, and if you’re late, don’t even bother showing up. I know the importance of getting places early thanks to basketball…60 second drills, 6-4-6s, suicides (now called ‘victory sprints’), or whatever particular running 'treat' my coach had in store for tardiness taught me to always be early!
- I am probably one of the most stubborn/determined people you will ever meet. I guess this can best be summed up in a quote one of my college teammates sent me to Switzerland with, “I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked. You may be more talented than me. You might be smarter than me. And you may be better looking than me. But if we get on a treadmill together you are going to get off first or I’m going to die.” –Will Smith.
- Continuing that thought, the funny thing about that quote is that same teammate (who shall remain nameless ;)) fell off a treadmill two times in a row during a workout. Basketball has taught me how to laugh with my teammates even during rough times.
|Breathing on the free throw line|
- Basketball has taught me composure. If you don’t breathe on a free throw line, chances are the ball isn’t going in the basket. If you let your frustrations and emotions take control of you, chances are you will be shaking too much to concentrate on the task at hand. I learned this when I was in college, and I learned it all over again here. Breathing is key. Basketball constantly reminds me to breathe.
- Basketball has taught me how to give something my all. The proof is in the bruises I regularly wear. I exert and deplete my body on a daily basis, putting 100% of myself into my practices and games. Knowing I gave my all to something lets me know I can rest easy later (with a luxurious bubble bath of course).
- Basketball has taught me how to count. Yes, I’m serious (partly). Math is not my strong suit; I’ve mentioned this before. Make something competitive though, or even just tell me to make baskets and tell me how much each basket is worth and I automatically keep track of the score. The first thing I learned in French was numbers…my teammates know why :).
- Basketball has given me confidence. In all reality, I’m a clumsy, 6’3” girl, but put a basketball in my hands, and I may move differently than the average athlete, but I certainly know I’m making more than 50% of my shots, and altering a lot of yours.
- Basketball has taught me how to juggle…literally AND figuratively. At basketball camp we learned how to actually juggle basketballs. In life however, I learned how to juggle being a teammate, a coach, a captain, a student, an employee, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a girlfriend (and even a trombone player!). Needless to say, I’ve learned time management.
|My Sister & Me|
- Basketball has helped me realize where my priorities lie. This is a little difficult to explain, but I’ll try. In a summer-league game two summers ago (right after my senior year of college), my best friend (and teammate) slipped on the court and ended up tearing her ACL. There was game left to play, but I knew nothing was more important to me than helping my friend. At that moment, thinking my career was over and knowing she had one collegiate season left, I wanted to take away her pain so badly, I didn’t care if it meant taking her place. Basketball has helped me make closer connections with people than I ever thought was imaginable. I’ve learned that friends, family, and teammates are more important than a single summer league game.
I feel honored and privileged that I am still able to put a jersey on, slap a teammate’s hand high five in lay-up lines, converse with a coach (even if I don’t exactly speak French), and train my body to do new things. As I continue my first year playing professional basketball in Switzerland, I look back at all my hard work and know that as I continue to push myself past my limits, I will continue to grow as a person and as an athlete. Basketball is my job now and I LOVE going to work.
*Special thanks to Jess Imhof for helping me write this blog.