The Aquinian

Commentary: What playing a sport has taught me

(Shannon Cornelius/AQ)

Have you ever experienced a situation so tough you wondered how you were ever going to come out of it? Or maybe what you will ever learn from it? These questions are something I, as an athlete, ask myself daily.

Why do I even ask myself these questions? And why haven’t I walked away yet?  Because I also tell myself something else on a daily basis: “Look how far you’ve come Lainy, look at what you’ve accomplished,” and I’m not just talking about the sports side of things, I’m talking about my life.

I started playing basketball in the third grade. You know, that age when you play or “try” everything? Yeah, that was me. But this sport was different. I couldn’t get tired of it. I played day in and day out, never wondering when it was time to go home. All I wanted to do was learn and get better.

I was always learning new concepts, and it wasn’t just new plays and rules of the game. I was learning concepts that were going to benefit me off the court.

First and foremost, perseverance.

This is a big one for me because throughout my time playing basketball, it hasn’t been easy. What I mean by that is it hasn’t been fair.

Finally getting an opportunity to play just to have an unlucky injury was a reoccurring problem. Still, I’ve learned to persevere. It’s something I will always carry with me no matter what life throws at me.

Life has never, nor will it ever be fair, but sports teach you how to overcome challenges and make it through.

Most people underestimate the next lesson – asking for help.

Many athletes are talented. That being said, the reason they are where they are is thanks to help and guidance. They have coaches, teammates and trainers that help push them to where they need to be. And in most cases, athletes need to be able to accept that help to get to the next level. Life isn’t meant to be experienced alone.

Holding yourself accountable has been something I‘ve struggled with as an athlete, but it has single-handedly taught me the most since I started playing basketball. You need to take responsibility in order to move forward and overcome whatever obstacles you are facing.

In life, you are bound to make mistakes. This is the same with sports.

Athletes know this is how the game works. There is room for messing up. A loss is the whole team’s fault. If I played, I had something to do with that loss and have to take responsibility for my actions.

Hard work does pay off.

When I decided to fully commit to basketball, I knew I could always count on hard-work to help me make it through. Sometimes I would forget this mindset when things weren’t working in my favour.

Sometimes, even when I was working my ass off, I wasn’t getting the results I wanted right away. But the key words there are “right away.” One thing I have always counted on in basketball is my ability to keep working hard when the going gets tough. That being said, hard work has taught me there will come a time when everything an athlete has worked for will pay off.

Last but certainly not least, trusting others.

Taking instructions requires trust, but when it comes to sports, the idea of putting faith in others, especially in teammates is extremely important to learn. Teaching athletes to have trust in one another doesn’t just benefit them in the game, but in their work, friendships and relationships outside of basketball.

Along with trusting others, trusting yourself has also taught me a lot about myself in life outside of basketball. I have learned to trust myself, to trust my abilities, my hard work and the process. I understand that my hard work has helped me get here, and there is a reason I’m still playing the sport I love. When things get tough, I know I am strong enough to make it through.

My life as an athlete, as a basketball player, hasn’t been easy, but when you think about it, that’s kind of been my career from the start. It’s never been the dream come true, or what I have hoped for or even what I’ve expected, it’s just been me.

But that’s all that life is. Without hardship, we would never learn half the things we learn.

That’s the beauty of sports: tough times don’t last, tough people do.

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