How Pickup Basketball Helped Me Turn Adversity Into Versatility

By Adwait Ramakrishnan | Student of Network Capital School
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Adversity. Defined as “a difficult or unpleasant situation” is not a new concept to any of us. Growing up, just like many others, I was no stranger to it either. Growing up with severe asthma, I had to constantly face situations that seemed to alienate me from the rest of my community. I would go out to play soccer in P.E and then have to sit out because I would immediately be out of breath. And these were not isolated events or even uncommon events, they seemed to occur every other day. It came to a point where it appeared more like a character trait than a health issue. Along with this, I look back and realize that it directly cultivated an effect on my mentality past just my health. I found it easier to find reasons for my failures that would always turn into me blaming them on external factors. The adversity I faced became my reason to not try and succeed at anything. Constant setbacks led to constant excuses.

Then, came my move to a suburb in the US. Here, I was introduced to basketball, and I fell in love with it instantly. From the moment I stepped on the court, I knew I could spend hours on end there. While the love was there, clearly with anything new there's a learning curve associated with the sport. For the first year, I dodged my inability to compete in games by just helping others practice on me. I was a human training cone at times. This, in time, drove me to challenge myself to get better. I knew that the easier route would be to just quit the sport or to just say that I “play for fun”. I knew it was not what I wanted to do. By the fall of 2016, I was practicing and playing pickup basketball every day. 

Pickup basketball is more than just a bunch of friends coming together to put up shots. Anyone who has played a walk-on game knows that these games are some of the most competitive, physical, and trash-talk-filled games. This was the second catalyst in my understanding of the need to be versatile. Every day, I would face a new player, a new combination, a new team. I never had a constant form of a hierarchy of roles or skill level. I remember the key moment where a few players from my middle school team showed up and made light work of me. And when you lose, you lose not just the game but also your pride and confidence in the way you play. It would've been easy to make excuses or let their trash talk stop me from playing again, but I chose not to. I understood staying rigid in my skillset or approach was not an option. I realized that what the game demanded was constant evolution and constant need to fill a role that contributes to winning. I needed to be able to play at a level that I can contribute in every scenario. I needed to be as versatile as possible. This was my first incident of using my failures to better myself.

Now every time I practice, the taste of the previous failure on the court fuels me to get better. I imagine that varsity team that used us as practice and called us an ‘easy game’ and I remember my goal to be as good as them and even better. I take notes from my misses and losses, and I constantly adjust to get closer to the best version of myself at that moment. Furthermore, I use the methods that in the past were the reasons for my losses, to become the strategy to ‘win’ at my current task. 

Adversity is a challenge. It's a hurdle, it's the rock on the bike path that makes you lose balance. It is not an unclimbable wall. Every moment of adversity allows for two paths. One can either choose to get over the bump in the road, or turn back and go home. Those ‘meaningless’ losses at the public court each left a bitter taste and a feeling of inadequacy. However, I chose to work on myself and work to get better rather than let myself stagnate and fall into the trap of complacency. When interpreted correctly, adversity gives you a new goal, a new height to pursue. Just like basketball, the reasons for my failures turn into my strengths as adaptability. That same definition of Adversity provides an example that relays its value "resilience in the face of adversity". Just like basketball, the reasons for my failures turn into my strengths as adaptability.

The way to versatility is through deconstructing the moment of adversity into something constructive and beneficial. It's important to self-reflect and takes accountability. Through my experiences with a fear of failure, and developing better methods to cope and deal with the failures I came to something that I value most: Adversity is constant, and so versatility should be infinite. 

Adwait was a part of the Network Capital Summer School.

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