As many don’t know, I had a very late start in picking up a basketball, much less pursuing any type of career. Entering high school, my goal was to attend Princeton University on a full academic scholarship. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that I’d be playing Division 1 basketball in the heart of North Philadelphia at Temple University. 

For so long I was on the team just because I was tall and my mother was so adamant about physical activity. Until one day when an amazing lady by the name of Darlene Norris (Founder of GA Pearls AAU basketball) sat me down and had a very heartfelt and serious conversation with me about my future. In a brief synopsis, she expressed me to that if I actually committed myself to the sport and focused on getting better every day then I could one day play collegiate basketball. 

Initially it seemed like a great sales pitch to play AAU, as some coaches unfortunately don’t have the best interest for their players, but it was the complete opposite. For roughly 2 years, Coach “D” and Coach Calvin Goss invested hundreds of hours in the gym, helping me develop as a basketball player. Essentially, I was playing catch up prior to meeting them, having never truly been taught simple fundamentals of the game. Needless to say, my first year of AAU I was absolutely terrible and this was in the 10th grade! I must also give a special shout-out to my teammates, as they were an amazing organization prior to me joining and probably had no clue as to why I made the team. They provided me with endless encouragement; the epitome of “tough love” and multiple new sisters. 

Now AAU basketball played an instrumental role on where I would attend college, but I can’t continue without giving credit to my high school coach, Cedric King. I swear it was like a sign to start taking basketball serious, as he arrived the following school year after my first summer of AAU basketball. Honestly, looking back, it was truly a blessing to have a good dynamic between my AAU and HS coaches, as they worked year round to make me better. Of course, we continued to work on fundamentals, but Coach King really taught me the definition of a leader and how to win as a team. Prior to playing basketball, I was a full-time nerd and the only thing I ever won was a debate in Mock Trial. He taught me how to be my biggest supporter, while still spreading love and positivity throughout the team. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy into his methods originally and had to go through much “trial and error” prior to trusting him 100%. For all my young readers out there, “The sooner you buy into your coach’s program and learn to trust their judgement and experience, the easier your life will be”.

Long story short, I ended up at Temple University, a place where I will forever call home. The culture of basketball at Temple is extremely family-oriented and once you walk across the stage it’s branded in your soul. No, college was not perfect as nothing in life is, but it definitely molded me into the woman I am today. I had an amazing coaching staff, who believed in me starting from recruiting days at Peach State Tournaments. I formed lifetime friendships that I will forever treasure in my heart.  Most importantly, I found myself.

Entering college Fall 2013, I was a biology major in hopes to possibly pursue medicine one day. After just one semester of such rigorous courses and long days in the gym, I flat out gave up on my dream and switched my major to something I thought “would be easier.” Unfortunately, it took until the beginning of my senior year to realize “easy” isn’t worth my happiness, as I didn’t see a fruitful career with what I was currently doing. With the guidance of my phenomenal support staff and many long conversations, I realized that I belong in the field of health care and immediately began to create a plan. I held myself accountable, completed my due diligence of work and here I am heading into my final semester of Post-Baccalaureate. Yes, I’ve committed to being a student for the next 10+ years, but if you love what you’re doing time flies!

Everything I’ve mentioned, along with countless other life lessons, would not have been learned without basketball. Of course I miss playing, but the sport itself isn’t going anywhere. After all, I could possibly specialize in Sports Medicine one day, which would provide an abundance of opportunities.

Always remember that nothing is more important than your own dreams!

 

Written by: Safiya Martin, Temple University Class of 2017, Drexel University Post-Baccularate Pre-Medical program & PYB’s 2018 Collegiate Summer Camp Series Coach