STUDENT BLOG: "Making Friends Through Basketball" - by Shakari Stroud
Shakari Stroud is a participant of the CIEE Legon Spring Semester 2017. She is a senior at University of Illinois, Urban-Champaign studying Anthropology.
Study abroad weighs differently on every individual. It can be a scary thing to do- leave home and all that is familiar for a country you know little about at the sun’s horizon. You are living in a foreign country, and all you ever here before you leave home and during orientation is not to trust anyone. Who are you supposed to trust? Initially, I like to think that people are good.
I knew my willingness to meet people and make personal connections with them would be my greatest strength while abroad. When I heard that international students could participate in the sports at the University, my eyes lit up. I was bursting with so much excitement to finally get back on the court. At my home University I did not have much time to play any sports, because before getting into college I told myself I would solely focus on my academics. I had been playing volleyball and basketball since middle school and it was during high school that my appreciation and passion for these two sports blossomed, as I had the opportunity to play at the varsity level. Playing these games granted me so much comfortableness and excitement. I could not see myself not playing- that is until college.
I met with the head coach of the girls’ basketball team who appeared just as excited as I was to join the team. I did have some reservations, but they quickly went away when the coach showed me how serious she was.
“Do you have shoes to practice in?” She asked.
I immediately began kicking off my sandals and replacing them with socks and my running shoes. I had planned to go to the gym later that day to work out, but I learned I would be occupied with doing something better. She had instructed me to stretch and run around the court a few times to warm up and join the others girl when I was done.
They were all so welcoming and nice. We did some drills together and it was when we did “figure 8” that I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I was in my element and I never felt so much at home until then. It took me back to high school and playing basketball with such a diverse group of girls who all had a common passion. I saw each of my former teammates in the girls I was standing on the court with, and it made me smile. It made my heart smile even bigger because that was home. After practice that day, Coach took me to the Sport Directory to get registered and have my picture taken.
Practices were not always easy. It was hard practicing in the sun. I would end practice feeling like I went swimming and the sachet water never stayed cool because the ground was blazing hot. They sat on the ground waiting for us to viciously rip them open to squeeze in our mouth during water breaks. Practice was also frustrating when people were on Ghana time. I would like to think of myself as a prompt individual and being late did not sit well with me. Of course when it was game time most of our flaws came together. I traveled with them to Tudu. That was where our first and second games were. It was great experiencing another part of Accra all because I was a part of this team.
We lost our first game due to several reasons. One of them was communication and the other was utilization of the court. It was nothing that we could not fix in practice the following day. We practiced hard up until our next game which was the following week and brought home a victory.
It was great feeling, and an even better feeling of jamming out to Medikal’s “Too Risky” on the ride back to campus. It’s a Ghana thing!