Over the last six weeks or so, I have been lucky enough to travel the world playing the sport I love.
This trip began when I left for Auckland on the last weekend of the term. After being asked by North Harbour Basketball Association, I spent the next three weeks with an U19 team heading to Las Vegas. This trip provided the opportunity to play in front of college coaches and against some high-level competition, with the intention of helping us gain scholarships in the coming years. After leaving Las Vegas a couple of us flew straight to Thailand to join the Junior Tall Blacks (JTB’s) in Bangkok ahead of the FIBA U18 Asian Championship. The team was lucky enough to reach the final, falling short by 9 points to Aussie, meaning we gained qualification for next year’s U19 World Championships which will be held in either Spain or Germany. This was an incredible opportunity that I am very grateful for. I would like to take the chance to thank this school and my coaches for their support along the way and the part they have played in getting me on that court, listening to the National Anthem, hand on heart.
Over these weeks, living and breathing a high performance, almost ‘professional’ life, there are three things that I have learnt and would like to share:
1) Support and Attitude Towards Achieving Goals
The first being the attitude and culture required to achieve at a high level. Before this experience a lot of things have come easily sporting wise. Being in a part of the country with not a lot of secondary school competition, it is very easy for teams to become relaxed and easy going in the way they conduct themselves on and off the court. With the JTB’s this was not the case. I came to realise that being in an almost constant state of focus around achieving our goals really helps a lot. This collective constant attitude made it easier for us to progress as a team without fear of being criticised by our peers for making mistakes, which was something that felt surprisingly foreign to me. For those of you who are involved in sports teams, I’d encourage you to take this attitude back to your teams and restrain from insulting or unnecessarily criticising your team mates when they muck up. For those more culturally or academically involved in the school this can still apply to you.
2) Don’t Be a Dick
The second thing I learnt is the importance of not being a dick. The first thing I was told by the national coaches about the squad was that they selected the best team, not necessarily the best 12 players. You guys will know that nobody wants to be in a team with a dick or someone who isn’t a team player. This doesn’t change at a national level. If you’re not somebody who gets along with, and is liked by your team mates, coaches will have a hard time selecting you at the higher levels. This is not only important for a team but is also noticed by spectators and on lookers. I was lucky enough to have my parents in Bangkok to watch me play. The first thing my old man said to me after our first game was how impressed he was with our two starting guards, a guy called Kruz and another called Flynn. This came as no surprise, but he never once mentioned how well they played or how good at basketball they were. He said that they were great young men and a pleasure to talk to, that they had come up to him, introduced themselves and thanked him for supporting the team. Not themselves. This was a surprise to me and really opened my eyes to the effect being a good dude can have.
3) Keep Working
I’ll keep this last one short. I was hopeless at basketball as a junior. Even going into senior school. Feel free to ask any of the basketball boys, I’m sure they will agree. If someone had come up to me when I was in Year 11 and told me I would be representing my country in two years I wouldn’t have believed it. But two years later I can say that due to a combination of growing another 2 or 3 inches, and constant hard work and dedication year-round, I’ve had the privilege to do just that. Hard work really does pay off. Keep working and who knows what will happen.