Many things in life shape you, some build your character, and few touch your heart. When you find something that does all three you grasp it and never let go. You treasure it like a forsaken friend and you thank the world for that blessing. Basketball is one of those rare things for me, it came into my life at just the right time, when I needed it the most. Basketball fit into my life like a puzzle piece and replaced what had been missing. I was like a thirsty plant, and basketball watered me, and I blossomed. It has grown me stronger physically and mentally, it has lifted me up time and time again, it has taught me how to grasp the opportunity and to never let it pass you.
Lots of things in life don’t come easy, actually, things rarely come easy and sadly, we all learn that. I realized the things I was taking for granted about three years ago when I couldn’t take them for granted anymore. Things as simple as standing up out of bed in the morning, and things as complicated as doing backflips on a four-inch beam. In the blink of an eye, my life went black, all of these beautiful things were snatched from me. My health had failed me and as I struggled to be diagnosed, with what I now know as POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), I questioned whether I could ever live the way I had been. I was scared. Gymnastics too had been one of those rare things in life that do much more than shape you, gymnastics was my identity, and then suddenly it wasn’t. As I grew better and probably could have attempted to go back to gymnastics I realized the reality of it and decided I had to do something to stay in shape for the meantime. I didn’t really care what it was, to be honest, I just couldn’t sit around anymore, although the doctors told me that’s all I could do.
I went to a basketball clinic with some girls from my school and began working with a man, who I called Coach Jay. Little did I know this man would grow to be so important in my life. He actually became such a main figure in my life that he exposed me to what I call my second home today, Andrews Osborne Academy. The more I practiced with him, the less basketball became something to “keep in shape” and the more it became a part of my life. I never thought anything could replace gymnastics, and nothing ever did. No smell could quite match the smell of chalk, blood, sweat and whatever nasty thing was shoved in those mats. No moment can replace the moments you salute your judge and you feel like you just swallow your whole heart. Nothing could ever replace the memories of repeatedly falling on your head, kicking your teammates, crying together during conditioning practices, and so much more. Gymnastics was my first love, but like most first loves it broke my heart, and I’ll always love it but I had my eye on something new, basketball. New sounds, people, smells, and places filled my dreams. The ball against the hard floor was my new favorite sound. The way Coach Jay said my name when he said, “push Deenah”, made me run faster and the beauty of a empty silent gym was the most serene environment I had ever witnessed. I was in love with the sport, still am, and I have a good feeling I always will be.
Basketball was like a tow truck for me, life had me really stuck, and it pulled me out of a rather large ditch. My skills improved, my mindset was refreshed. The doctors who said I’d never walk again, the doctors who said sports were out of the question, the suddenly motivated me. Everything in me wanted to prove each and every little voice that said “Deenah you just can’t do it” wrong. I couldn’t be happier with where this sport has placed me now in life and I’m sure that pattern will continue in my future. As I played two school seasons in middle school, and three AAU seasons, the coach began to beg me to look at his high school. I’m pretty open-minded, how could I not have been with the way the past few years had gone for me. Of course, I looked at the school and that feeling that so many people will never get to experience hit me, this is where I belonged. I read the sign on my shadow day when I first walked in, it said something like “welcome to AOA Deenah” and trust me, I was welcomed. Basketball had officially opened another door for me, and a big one. Basketball quickly became more than a sport, it became a mentor, a friend, the court became a place to go on my worst and best days, a place where I had family, a safe place, and place where my mind was cleared, a home. Basketball stops being about the team and the coach at some point though, it becomes a lifestyle despite who or what's around you.
Basketball for me lifted me out of bed, found me my favorite place and favorite people and now helps me grow so it can deliver me to my next opportunity, and I can’t wait for that. Basketball was my best friend and in a way my superhero. Superheroes rescue you from the bad things in your life and basketball never fails to save the day. Well, at least in my case, who’s your superhero?