How a Sport I No Longer Play Changed My Life

For the first 15 years of my life I grew up playing two sports that I loved more than most other things. In my opinion, I was equally good at these two things too but there came a point where I had to choose to stick with one if I wanted to live past my teenage years. The demands of playing both while also trying to do well in school, have a decent social life, and be a good person, became too heavy. I spent many nights awake pondering this decision that would make my life different from anything I’d ever known. I know that sounds pretty dramatic because at the end of the day we are just talking about two games that I played. But, if I’m being completely honest, I really didn’t know how my life would work with such an important piece getting left behind.

After months of wrestling with the decision of either continuing to play soccer or continuing to play basketball, I came to the conclusion that although I couldn’t picture my life without either, it was harder for me to picture it without soccer. So my mind was made up, and as just a freshman in high school, it was time for me to hang up my metaphorical basketball shoes that I’d been wearing since I was 5 years old.

So now, I guess it’s time for me to get to the actual point of this, and explain how a sport that I quit playing 16 months ago changed my life today. This past Winter I was lucky enough to receive a text, from my coach growing up, asking for some help coaching a team of 2nd graders. In order to keep basketball in my life, I took him up on his offer. However, I had no idea what this would do for me.

First of all, I love kids, so even if I turned out to be the worst coach on the face of this planet, I thought working with a bunch of cute 8 year-olds would still be so worth it. And I was right. I worked with the same group of girls for about 3 months. Sometimes it was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but it was funny, because from time to time, I would see a little bit of my 2nd grade self in some of these girls. Or, I would hear my old coach give the same coaching point to this team that he gave me only a short 8 years ago. And then, I learned quickly that after every practice I was reminded why I loved this sport so much.

So here we are today, where I am helping my coach again with a basketball camp for 2nd and 3rd grade girls. Fortunately, many of the girls I got to work with this Winter are apart of this camp so I already know them and have a connection. It occurred to me today, while watching my girls do a drill that I set up for them, that this is something I could truly love in the future. And on top of that, I got lots of hugs, smiles and “thank you’s”, which of course I know is pretty typical for little girls, but they still felt genuine and special.

Although, everything I said above is pretty awesome, the best thing I received today was a drawing one of my girls made that read, “Thank you for being one of the best coaches ever!” in her adorable 3rd grade handwriting. And I know, she may give something like this to all of her coaches but even so, it gave me this type of confidence and joy that I could not have gotten anywhere else.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, while it’s hard to let go of something you love, something greater and more significant could be coming to you later. In my case, I happened to let go of playing basketball, but coming back to it to coach has brought me even more joy than I think playing it ever did, and that’s a lot to say considering I won a national championship (we may have been 8 but it still counts) while playing. All in all, I am just so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to attempt to impact these girls’ lives, because in the process, they have definitely impacted mine.