One year ago today, I was sitting in a janitor’s closet contemplating walking away from the game of basketball. I know wow, talk about an opening sentence. Let me rewind a little bit.
The summer of 2021 I had dedicated my everything to training and preparing for my next basketball season. I told my trainer this was a summer of separation and I promised myself I would let nothing get in the way of this. I wanted to take a huge stride in my game and have my best season of my career. I held my promises and spent countless hours in the gym. I worked on my shot and refined my skills. When summer ended I felt good, I felt prepared but here’s the kicker, I still didn’t have a team. I had prepared for the moment but the moment didn’t come.
Typically, overseas basketball players would leave at the end of August. So now it was September and still I didn’t have a team. I had many teams overlook me throughout the summer and I used that as motivation but when summer turned into fall my “motivation” was fading. I had been so focused on the summer training and the goals I had created and when I realized that I didn’t have a team it became really difficult.
I started to think that all my hard work was for nothing. It slowly felt like I had just wasted my time and energy. But I held onto hope, I worked too hard to give up now. So I made some adjustments to my summer routine and kept moving forward.
To bring in a little income during this waiting period, I became a substitute teacher. This allowed for plenty of flexibility during the week so I could continue my training regimen. I also found myself a month to month lease in Green Bay which helped with my daily commute from Oconto to Green Bay. My new roommate was a 70+ year old woman. Yvonne. What a saint. I found her listing on Craigslist. True story. She had a bedroom in her home for rent and now I would have a place to stay in Green Bay between my workouts and be much closer to the Elementary school I was now working at. Win, win, win.
On paper, I had created a perfectly balanced schedule between training sessions, work and personal life. However, there were days when I still contemplated throwing in the towel. There was one day that I remember specifically.
I was, what you would call, a floating substitute teacher, so every Tuesday and Thursday I would go to the same Elementary School and depending on which teacher was missing would dictate my responsibilities for the day. Some days I could be teaching in a kindergarten classroom, some days in a 3rd grade classroom and other days I would be on what they called “recess duty” where I would then supervise/play with all the grades when they would come out for recess. These were my favorite days because if I’m being honest these young kids had some spunk to them and they were difficult to manage in the classroom setting and who doesn’t love recess?
One day before recess duty began, I was assigned the task of sharpening, what felt like, an endless container of pencils. It was one after another and no matter how many I did, it seemed like the pile never got smaller. It was such a tedious task, especially, because the sharpener would overheat every third pencil so I had to just sit and patiently wait for it to cool down before continuing. Anyways, I remember looking around and asking myself what am I doing all this for? Why am I living with a random (sweet) old lady? Why am I dying in training sessions every afternoon? Why am I sharpening pencils in a janitor’s closet right now? I didn't even have a team, there was no timeline. I was just waiting and hoping something would just come along.
I continued to sit there in my thoughts as the pencil sharpener cooled down, I picked up a broken pencil, looked at it and just sarcastically smiled. I thought to myself again, “Why am I doing all this?” but this time answering out loud...
“Because my story doesn’t end here.”
I’ve always been someone who believes that we are the authors of our own stories and I knew with every ounce of my being that this was not how my basketball journey would end. In this moment, I realized that everything I was doing was so I could continue chasing my dreams because I sure as hell couldn’t quit now. I realized that this was all a part of my story. Sure, some of my current situation was far from what I had envisioned when I was training all summer long but I knew deep down that my opportunity would come and when it finally did I wanted to be ready.
I finished sharpening all 3,875 pencils (might be an exaggeration, might not) and knew moving forward I was going to approach my every day different. There was still the unknown of if/when I would get a team but there was no longer the unknown of "why" I was continue to train. I knew my why and it was because quitting just simply wasn't an option.
Come to find out, all the teams and opportunities that passed me by the summer before, passed by for a reason because my next chapter was better than anything I could have ever written. I landed in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I played for the Caledonia Pride. It was the perfect situation for me to thrive on and off the court. This season was one to remember, as our team won the most games in the club history and also made it to the playoff semi finals. Personally, I performed at a high level and earned First-Team All League. So as Garth Brooks said it best, some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
Today, I am back playing the Top Division Germany and have recently been accepting into a PhD Program at the University of Edinburgh, both of which I don't believe would be possible without playing with Caledonia last season. Life's journeys aren't always straight forward. Sometimes there are twist and turns we have to navigate. And it's almost inevitable that we will face challenges but it's how we handle those challenges that really matter. In the moments you feel like quitting or giving up just do me a favor and ask yourself, is this how my story ends? You are the author of your story and you deserve the ending that you envision for yourself.
So keep going. Keep pushing toward that dream, even when it feels like you might never get there, keep working. Believe in yourself and stay prepared because when that opportunity finally comes your way, you want to be ready.
And most importantly, continue to trust the process because who knows where that could bring you a year from now.
- Laken :)