21 December 2023
« That’s a two-pointer… that’s goaltending!! » I used to hear these foreign terms when my father watched the Lakers, and I did not know what they meant. Basketball was less common when I was growing up than it is now. We were told that basketball was not a girly sport; play volleyball, they said.
Basketball is not just a sport; it is a lifestyle. This is a quote I saw when I visited the Boston Celtics office, and I couldn’t agree more. Basketball is a unifying way of life. Teamwork makes the dream work. I had the opportunity to wine and dine with different individuals from all walks of life, which gave me an appreciation of the sport. Basketball has been an eye-opener. It has helped me understand individuals from different backgrounds and cultures and how the environment affects their daily lives. My major highlight was re-learning and unlearning ways in which basketball can magnify societal issues. It is an all-rounder.
Additionally, basketball has ensured I can actively follow my passion for empowering women and girls in my community. It has brought fresh air to advocacy. I have used the opportunity to elevate women within the sports industry. Who thought basketball could be used to empower and encourage girls in my community, from giving them opportunities to learn the sport to providing a spark to their flame. This was made possible through the B.A.L X S.U.A. mentorship program led by Marie Laurence and Maelle Ba. This was a new experience; I have learned a lot. I interacted with five ladies from across Africa with different basketball experiences, who I now call friends. I have learned how to embrace change from Doussou, to play basketball from Fatuma, to be fearless from Ghada, to take leadership from Lama, and to be as relentless as Fatou. The program has aided me with 21st-century skills that have opened up ways of viewing advocacy and the power of basketball. I have effectively articulated my thoughts and effectively ideated ways to empower women in Africa. The program structure and the speakers have been instrumental in my personal growth by employing ‘life hacks’ and equipping me with skills to help me fulfill my passions and goals.
I visited my wonderful mentor, Taylor Kielpinski, in Boston, which opened several doors for me. Taylor held my hand and has inspired me through my passion for advocating for women within the sports industry using communications. I interacted with successful women at the Boston Celtics, which helped me understand the power of unity and womanhood. I also picked up her leadership traits as she led her team through their daily activities. This trip was very crucial for our relationship. I built a stronger relationship with Taylor, and we communicated effectively. Other than that, I built an emotional connection, which helped us understand and learn from each other. Going into the mentorship, I had high expectations, but the experience exceeded my expectations. It was a rich experience. I have gained professional experience through skill development and networking, which has put me ahead on my career path. I have gained a deeper knowledge of basketball as a sport and lifestyle, and now I am part of the community that wants to make a dent in the world.
“Basketball has ensured I can actively follow my passion for empowering women and girls in my community. It has brought fresh air to advocacy. I have used the opportunity to elevate women within the sports industry.”Cindy Kolenyo