real life

'I don't know how long I can sustain it.' I'm a pro basketball player. I also have a full-time job.

I am proud and very grateful to say I’ve made my dream of being a professional athlete come true. However, it has come with many challenges and sacrifices that some may be unaware of or may not completely understand. 

Basketball has offered more than I could have ever hoped for. The experiences, opportunities, and relationships I’ve built are priceless. I’ve travelled the world playing the sport I love. I’ve learned what it means to be dedicated, hardworking and resilient.

In 2015, I accepted a full scholarship to play basketball and earn a degree in the United States. This was something I decided I wanted to do when I was 13 years old. There were many reasons why college in the U.S. was enticing. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and I wanted to be independent - but the most influential factor was a free education. 

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From a young age I was taught to accept that pursuing a professional sport would mean having to work, it meant I had to have a supplementary income. It meant; education is number one. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I’m extremely lucky to have had that opportunity. It just highlights that a major decision in my life was made because I wanted to play basketball professionally, and I would have to find another way to support myself. 

My first two seasons with the Women’s National Basketball League were as a development player with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers, a position that is unpaid. I had all the same commitments and responsibilities as my teammates, in addition to working and studying in order to support myself and start my career away from basketball. A typical day would consist of training in the morning, then straight to my job for the remainder of the afternoon/evening. When the team travelled on weekends, I picked up extra shifts. 

It was a lonely time; I missed out on a lot. 

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I missed out on individual workouts, extra recovery sessions, social events with my teammates, and travelling with friends and family. However, the most difficult was I felt I couldn’t put 100 per cent of my time and effort into my development and becoming the best athlete I could be. Those two years were necessary, I learned a lot about myself and what it takes to play at this level. I am extremely with grateful for that opportunity, though it was far from easy.

Away from the court, my bachelor’s degree is in exercise science and psychology. I plan to go back to university and earn a Master’s degree. 

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I currently work as a strength and conditioning coach for Core Advantage, a company that specialises in athletic development, injury prevention and rehabilitation. This is a career path that’s very important to me, I’m determined to set a foundation in the industry while I’m still playing and build on it once I retire. In addition, I’m a CSO and sales consultant at Peninsula Leisure. 

Now that I’m a contracted player, receiving a nominal fee, I have some more flexibility. That also comes with more responsibility, there’s more pressure to perform, and higher expectations. My days still look the same. We train, lift and recover from 8am until 2pm. I then work from 3pm until 8pm. 

This is just my experience, many of my peers work and/or study full time, with far more taxing professions than my own. How we manage to juggle both lives is a regular discussion among the athletes and those around us. I feel a sense of pride and respect when I think about the level of dedication it takes to pursue sport professionally as a woman or as someone who is involved in women’s sport. 

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A woman’s passion and dedication toward her sport can rarely be questioned. 

I often feel disappointed and envious of the disparities between the female and male athlete experience. We both dedicate our lives to achieving our goals, it takes the same hard work and sacrifice however.

Yet in the pursuit of their passion men are often set up for their future with the luxury of supporting themselves as they put all their effort into their craft. Men can leverage their public profile and capitalise from not only their playing income, but brand deals and sponsorships, often landing business, leadership, and investment opportunities post career. 

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As a woman, I wonder how long I can sustain this lifestyle. I’ve given up my independence, made financial sacrifices and delayed career opportunities outside of basketball. Although I’ve only just begun my professional playing career, I’ve already spent countless days and had many conversations wondering what my future will look like. I’m currently playing in one of the top leagues in the world, every decision I’ve made to this point was to get where I am right now. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get when I catch myself thinking “is it worth it?”. 

Although there are difficult moments along this journey, it really highlights those around me that support me. My family and friends who understand if they don’t hear from me for a few days. My employers who are extremely flexible and encouraging of my athletic career. My coaches and the staff at Deakin Melbourne Boomers who wear many hats and know firsthand what it is like to juggle multiple responsibilities. Their support means more than I can express. 

There has been great progress in the realm of women’s sport, but we still have a long way to go. The league continues to suffer from lack of promotion and support. I love what I do, I hope to enjoy my journey for many years to come. I also hope that in the future women can sprint toward the opportunity to play sport professionally, without hesitation. Without having to question whether their passion may be jeopardising their future. 

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia.