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Alex Sheedy: How working hard never stops
Every little girl and boy has big dreams, but not everyone's dreams come true. I'm one of the lucky ones.
My name is Alex Sheedy and I'm a professional basketball player.
Alex Sheedy - Courtesy Fresno State Athletics
At 23 years old, I often feel like I'm too young to share my experiences, that I'm just a kid in this big wide world. But I'm always reminded that I am part of a small group of people who have enjoyed success, achieved, failed, worked hard and arrived to a place where I have the experience and knowledge to speak about what it takes.
What it takes is something that you've heard a thousand times before: hard work.
Hard work comes in a lot of different forms. There's the obvious working hard on the court to improve your skills, and working hard off the court to improve your fitness.
But there is always working hard with the coach to improve your knowledge of the game, working hard to balance your school, sport and social lives. Working hard with the knowledge that it won't always work out, and that there will be sacrifices you will have to make. Everything on and off the court takes work, and if that is something you can't handle, I suggest not pursuing an athletic career.
I was top age in the under-16s before my first break into the basketball world happened: I was selected to my first state team to represent Country Victoria. I had a really good tournament, and from there a lot of things happened. Selection to the Australian Development Camp held at the AIS followed, as did representing the Victoria Country under-18 state team for the next two years, becoming a member of the Australian Gems squad in 2009-10, and receiving a scholarship to the AIS. With all that success, I also found my way into the Victorian under-20 state team for the next two years, and finally went over to America to attend college.
During those five or six years, I suffered multiple injuries at times that hindered my ability to represent my state, and then finally my country. I had to pull myself out of my first opportunity to play for Australia on an international tour because I was injured and needed surgery on my knee. My entire year at the AIS was plagued by injury. It was the hardest year of my life, both physically and emotionally.
But I didn't give up. I would go on to have an amazing and very successful college career at Fresno State University, California.
Setbacks and success
Much like my junior basketball in Australia, my college career was not all smooth sailing. I battled shoulder, knee and shin injuries during my four years at Fresno State. I received two black eyes, broke my foot, had surgery on my shoulder, suffered shin splints for two years, battled through constant patella tendinitis and three coaching changes.
Yet despite all the challenges, I started almost every game in my four years, was a three-time conference champion, went to three NCAA Tournaments, was selected to the All-Tournament team in my sophomore and senior years, the Third-Team All-Conference as a sophomore, First Team All-Conference and Co-Player of the Year in my final year. I am a member of the 1,000 point club, a two-time team captain, and overall had a fantastic experience.
Everything that happened, did so because I had a great support system in my parents, friends, coaches and trainers. I had amazing teammates who had faith in me. However, all of that would never have happened if I had not believed in myself and never stopped working hard.
My belief wavered at times. I didn't want to keep working and sometimes I just wanted to sleep. But the question I always asked myself is: 'Are you going to regret doing this or not doing this?'
At first, I didn't want to play basketball after graduating from college. I'd been playing for 18 years, and felt I could retire without feeling bad about it. But then I asked myself that question. Would I regret it? I didn't know the answer a year ago, but I certainly know it now.
Alex Sheedy and her Ippokratis team in the Greek A1 League | Credit: A M Photography
I played my first season of professional basketball in Greece during the 2015/16 season, and I'm glad that I did. I'm grateful for all those times I wanted to quit and actually didn't. I'm grateful for all the times I ran that little bit harder, trained with that little bit more focus, and didn't stop because I was scared.
I don't know what the future is going to bring, yet I do know that I'm doing something that I love. Meeting new people and experiencing the world in more ways than I ever thought I'd be able is something that I value. I've been given an amazing opportunity and I don't plan on wasting it.
The hard work is going to keep getting harder, as professional sport is an unforgiving industry. If you don't do your job, you'll be fired and replaced quickly - it's a business after all.
So there is a new kind of challenge now, and it all comes down to whether or not I have enough belief in myself to keep my head above the water and continue to love what I'm doing.
To love the sweat, the tears, the inability to breathe, that horrible emptiness that failing feels like, and the elation that comes with success. All of it comes in one package, and I know my journey is going to continue being rocky, with highs and lows. However I will continue to learn what it means to be a professional athlete, and I don't plan on giving up any time soon.
To read more about Alex Sheedy, her journey as an athlete and for tips and advice about becoming a successful basketball player, visit her website: www.alexsheedy.com
You can also follow her on Twitter: @aksheeds