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How basketball changed my life

Denise White

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I was only 9 the first time I played basketball. I was a shy kid and my parents encouraged me to try something new. Back then, I wasn’t that good but I knew for sure that I wanted to get better.

After my first season of playing in a recreational league, my dad got me a basketball hoop for the driveway. He got a legit hoop that was cemented in the ground. Everyday I practiced. Dribbling, free throws, layups. You name it, I was out there practicing with my dad as often as I could.

I may not have known it back then, but I was learning to be persistent.

My dream at 13 was to play on the varsity basketball team at Westview High School in my neighborhood of Rancho Peñasquitos. Once I hit high school, my dream came true.

I tried out my freshman year and made it on the Junior Varsity team. To make it onto the varsity team the head coach told us that we had to be able to make 3-pointers.

Having a tough coach taught me that nothing comes easy and I would have to work hard for something if I really wanted it.

I practiced shooting those shots all the time that I became one of the 3-point shooting guards. I played on varsity my junior and senior years and enjoyed every minute of it.

I went to Mesa College and played for two years, from 2010 to 2012, when I was one of the captains of the team. Coach Michael Hootner loved me, saying that I was one of the most coachable players he’d ever had.

By being a captain, I believe it has helped me at my current job as an assistant manager at Jersey Mike’s Subs and also be a coach. I know how to interact with others while being in charge and making sure things get done.

The following year, I transferred to Paine College in Augusta, GA on a basketball scholarship. It was an NCAA Division II school so I was excited. This was the dream right here! Everything that I worked hard for was happening.

Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out how I expected it to. I left after a year because there was rumors the college could lose it accreditation.

I came back to San Diego, completely lost not knowing what my next step would be.

I had already used up three years of eligibility for basketball and I had one year left but I couldn’t do much with that year seeing that schools don’t usually pick up players for only one year.

That’s when I found a new passion. A friend had asked me to coach the Mira Mesa freshman high school girls team and I took that opportunity.

I taught these girls how to play a sport I loved and watched them grow. We may have not won too many games but I was so proud of their development.

After that experience I knew I wanted to coach and show these girls that through commitment and hard work, you can achieve your goals.

Most recently, I am an assistant coach for a local high school’s Del Norte High School club team that works with middle schoolers. I jumped at the opportunity because I know at that age, I was excited to learn and move on to high school.

Despite the fact that I didn’t complete my four years of college basketball and I don’t formally play the sport, I still love it. It has made me who I am today and taught me some valuable lessons.

I never really thought about coaching in the past but I’m super grateful that I have this opportunity to be an influential leader to young kids. I hope that one day my experience with coaching will lead me to a career.

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How basketball changed my life