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I love sports, which probably isn’t at all surprising. I’m a college athlete and choose to spend hours of each day practicing my sport (rowing), watching other teams’ games and following sports news. I chose to go to school in America as a Canadian to be able to pursue my sport at a higher level and be surrounded by a competitive, well-supported athletic environment. I never knew that flying halfway across the world and coaching a sport that isn’t even my own would ignite my love for sport in ways I never would have thought.

At the school in Vietnam, I coached basketball, a sport I haven’t played since 9th grade and in which my skill level could be described as “mediocre at best.” Needless to say, I am nothing spectacular.

We started out our first few days of camp focusing on basic skills, struggling to get every kid to participate and constantly adjusting lessons to make sure the kids had fun. Doing this at the beginning of camp definitely payed off, because by the end most kids loved the game and had a great time no matter what we were working on. Seeing the excitement on their faces each time they scored a basket filled me with pride. During free time, some of the kids on my color team would ask if we could go play basketball so they could fit in some extra practice. By the end of camp, kids who we had had to drag onto the court to play for a couple minutes were asking to stay in for multiple games in a row. Watching and helping them develop such competitive spirit and love of the game over a few weeks was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and definitely made me reflect on my own relationship with sport.

By the end of camp, kids who we had had to drag onto the court to play for a couple minutes were asking to stay in for multiple games in a row.

I can’t say my last couple years of rowing have been at all how I hoped my collegiate career would pan out. An injury midway through freshman year, resulting in surgery and months in a wheelchair and on crutches, took a hit on my performance. A lot of my self confidence comes from my athletic performance, I think a lot of athletes feel that way. Losing that reliable self esteem boost I previously gotten every time I performed well was a challenge. Although slowly working towards competing again was extremely rewarding and an experience that taught me a lot about myself, it also came with it’s fair share of challenges. Through these challenges and without realizing it, I stopped focusing on what I loved about rowing and why I had pursued it in the first place. I was so focused on beating the timeline of my recovery laid out for me and overwhelmed by how much I needed to catch up to my teammates after not being able to train for almost a year. While this stress was a huge motivator in my recovery, it also made me lose sight of the joy I had one found in my sport. Instead of enjoying the daily process of training and seeing results, I was anxious to improve as quickly as I possibly could and saw training as something I had to get through just to get to the next step.

“Thank you to my little basketball stars for reigniting a love of sport I may have never truly realized I had lost, or been able to find again. Rediscovering this passion is a gift more meaningful than I can put into words.”

Playing every day with those kids renewed my love of sport and reminded me how lucky we are as athletes to get the opportunity to do what we love every day. Although I didn’t speak their language or know much about them factually, when we played basketball together we were a team who supported each other, looked out for each other and worked hard for each other. Sport brought us together in a way language never could have. I didn’t even realize my view on my own sport had changed until I came home from Vietnam and was excited to train in a way I hadn’t been in years. I wasn’t excited because I felt panicked to catch up to my teammates or to prove how strong I was, I was excited to actually go through the daily training and enjoy each workout. I was reminded that I don’t just love the results of my sport but that I love actually doing it.

So, this final reflection more than anything is a thank you to my little basketball stars for reigniting a love of sport I may have never truly realized I had lost, or been able to find again. Rediscovering this passion is a gift more meaningful than I can put into words. Playing and taking on the title of your coach and teacher (when in all reality you were the ones teaching me) is an honor I will never forget and am so grateful for the time I had with you guys. Thank you.

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