Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of basketball. I fell in love with the game when I was 7 and continue to fall in love with the game a little more each time I step out onto the court. Basketball has been there to push me to some of my highs, and pull me out of some of my lows. At the end of the day, it’s just a game.
I’ve been able to experience the game on two feet and two wheels. I grew up playing able bodied basketball until I was 17. It was my life. If I wasn’t at school, I spent countless hours in the gym trying to perfect every little detail. In 2013 due to a nerve disorder, I woke up one morning without the ability to walk like I once did, let alone run up and down the court. It was absolutely devastating. Who was I supposed to be if I couldn’t be the athlete I was once before? Before everyone knew me as the athlete, but now what are people going to think of me as I sit limp in a wheelchair? I had an empty void that I wanted so bad to fill, but had no way of knowing how to fill it. I struggled with an addiction to pain prescription pills as a way to cope, and battled severe depression. I realized I had let the game of basketball become my identity, and who I was as a person. I thought I had lost everything that I had ever worked for, I felt like I was nothing but a damaged body.
Only a few weeks later, I had found game clips of wheelchair basketball on YouTube of the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Long story short, I eventually traded in my laces for spokes. I’ve been able to play with an amazing group of women at the University of Texas at Arlington. I’ve also been fortunate enough to represent the United States of America alongside an incredible group of athletes at the highest level of sport.
I continue to spend endless hours on the hardwood trying to develop the best version of myself as an athlete I can. The game has brought extraordinary opportunities that I would’ve never imagined in my lifetime. I am forever thankful for the doors it has opened, and the people that I have met along the way.
The sport has given me so much, but basketball is not who I am. It’s a merely a game. A game that continues to teach me the importance of hard work, sacrifice, and teamwork. The list goes on and on, but the lessons taught in this game go beyond the hardwood floors. At some point in my life, I’m going to stumble upon the moment when I realize it’s time to hang up my jersey for the final time. When that time comes, I want to be able to close that chapter when it comes to that point, and be content with myself. I may not be able to play the game that I fell in love with as a kid forever, but I can take what it has taught me and apply it to my everyday life.
The game of basketball only lasts 40 minutes, and even after the final horn is blown, life continues. Life is longer than 40 minutes. Life is further than 94 feet of hardwood flooring. Life is higher than a 10-foot-tall basket. The game is not who I am, but it has shown me that I am a person that works hard to achieve my goals. It has taught me more about myself than I could ever fathom.
I am forever grateful for the 7-year-old me that fell in love with this sport, but it will never define who I am. At the end of the day, it’s just a game.