When I played basketball in high school I was best known for steals and scoring on the fast break.
To win the ball back I would hassle the opposing team’s ball carrier. This meant I would get as close to the ball as I could without touching (fouling) the player. When the opponent passed to a team-mate I would sprint to follow the ball, even when this was not the coach’s instructions or in the best interest of my team’s formation. I would also dive on the hard court in an attempt to reclaim the ball or intercept a pass. At times I would be reminded by players and coaches of my role to defend only one player.
This never deterred me from prioritising running, as I was an effective scorer when my team had the ball and I would sprint the length of the court to receive a long pass close to the basket. This was only possible because of my fast speed and sharp reactions.
Basketball taught me the importance of sprint endurance. Basketball relies on repeated short bursts of high intensity running. There were times that I would exhaust myself within minutes of playing but as I often played half the game time this skill allowed me to be a more influential bench player.
Although I enjoyed the thrill (and to a lesser extent the pressure) of handling, passing and scoring the basketball, my attributes as a player stemmed from running. I played so I could sprint all over the court for as long as my fitness would allow. It became a personal challenge.
However, I admit that I am not best suited for basketball and a future in that sport was unlikely. I tried out for the basketball team in my first year at university. I am five feet, six inches tall and, despite the hours of practice before, during and after school in the sports hall and in my back garden, I was never a confident ball carrier or convincing long-range shooter. My best attribute was never giving up on retrieving the ball from the opposition. That was never going to be enough to get me into an ambitious senior team.
I first played basketball when I was twelve years old and represented my high school for the five years I studied there. I amassed a total of 40 games, over 220 points and won three borough championships.
Although not often a starter, I look back at the sport as an unexpected achievement. This proves that energy and commitment can take a sportsman surprisingly far.