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Home > Letter To My Younger Self: Desiree Kelley

Letter To My Younger Self: Desiree Kelley

Dear 15 year old Desi,

You are about to try out for your first WA state team as a bottom ager for U16’s. You get to trails and complete 2 sessions before unfortunately pulling yourself from selections because you didn’t think that you would be good enough to be selected.

You had troubles dealing with and processing the prospect of failure, you never liked not being good enough for something and were always your harshest critic.

If only I could go back and tell 15-year-old you that failure is not something to fear and that in so many ways, it is the key to success.

You made it a goal of yours to be selected as a top ager and you were. You were selected for U16 and U18’s and you also were named as Captain of the team. I hope that you are proud of yourself. You balanced school, early morning and late night trainings, national trips and your family and friends.

You are now 17 and about to graduate from high school and you’re going to be in a whole new world. This is normal. You feel nervous and apprehensive. You will go to university for 6 months and figure out that this is not for you and I want you to know that that’s okay.

As you get older you will find that you will do what makes you happy at your core and for that you should be proud of yourself. You begin working full time and start playing SBL.  You get selected in the squad of 15 for Willetton Tigers and you couldn’t be more excited.

What I will tell you is that this is going to be a hard transition for you mentally as you will be going from starting 5 & captain of that State team, to starting from scratch and essentially earning your spot in a team all over again.

Earning your spot in a team no longer scares you though, and your outlook towards this challenge and transition will actually occur more than once for you during your time playing basketball; from state to SBL and NBL1 to WNBL – this hurdle doesn’t deter you from the desire you have to make yourself a core part of any team and to compete at a high level.

Through training extra hours, and relying on your support network to help you get better, you persevered and earned your spot. You will sacrifice friends birthdays, milestone events, school functions & family occasions to get to where you want to be.

Before we get to the good I want to be honest with you and let you know some of the battles mentally and physically that you will have to overcome throughout your basketball journey.

You won’t be in the starting 5, You won’t get court time. You will race from work to training and back to work and from work to games feeling under prepared and sometimes overwhelmed. You will suffer from anxiety, you will get put on only in the 4th quarter, and you will get subbed out for making mistakes and not being focused.

You will feel frustration, and you will feel disappointment. You will break your foot twice, dislocate your shoulders 3 times, dislocate your fingers, and partially tear your ACL.

You will question if you have the strength to bounce back and go again. You will sometimes not feel like training, you will sometimes lose sight of why you fell in love with the sport in the first place.

You will think that scoring is everything and determine if you have a good or bad game by how many points you score. You will be way too hard on yourself, you will tell yourself negative things. You won’t realise the value in every moment, every game, every training session,  you won’t realise how grateful you should be to be able to play sport every day.

In doing this you are unfortunately self-sabotaging your own experiences, which I wish I could stop you from doing. As you grow older all of this will eventually make you appreciate the good, which I want to talk to you about now.

What you will do is, you will get court time, you will learn how to prepare for games and training coming straight from work and learn how to mentally decompress before you enter the stadium to switch your focus onto the game or onto practise. You will get put on in the 1st quarter,  you will make the starting 5, you will travel with a WNBL team, you will be a part of a WNBL organisation, you will be named Captain of the Willetton Tigers, you will be a part of 2 Championships, and you will be named in an All Star team.

You will experience an irreplaceable feeling of adrenaline and endorphins each time you play that you can’t explain with words. You will get goosebumps when your team wins important games, and you will feel an immense amount of gratification when you see your teammates succeed.

You will build relationships with incredible people and lifelong friends, you will find mentors that help you grow as a person and as a player. You will build resilience, you will learn to know the importance of being a multidimensional player, you will learn to play the game based on effort, grit and heart.

You will be kinder to yourself and allow yourself to accept that at the end of the day playing this game year in and year out is a choice and something you choose to do because it is something you love, you will learn that sport is something you cant play forever so to savour every moment.

One of the most importance lessons you will learn about the game is that there is and you ARE so much more then how many points are next to your name, and once you realise that you will learn to love the game even more.

This game truly allows you to see that there are many pockets of opportunity for you to be impactful – if you want to take them. Whether you are on the court or on the sideline, that is a powerful train of thought.

The reason I make mention of this to my 15 year old self is because you are about to embark on your new chapter of life, and  I want you to understand that this concept and mindset will be so transferrable as you grow older.

There is so much more to the game of life outside of how many Instagram followers you have, how many people view your stories or tik toks and how many likes or number of comments on photos you receive.

Similar to basketball, your value is not weighted on the numbers that are next to your name, and realising that makes you invaluable.

I write this to you as a 28-year-old woman who is so proud of all that you have overcome and achieved. The pain and the lows you experience will be temporary and you will be far more than just a basketball player.

You will be a loyal friend, loving daughter & big sister, supportive teammate, a mentor & a Team Manager at a mining company, so please keep smiling through the ups and the downs, be kind to yourself and know that after every storm there is a rainbow.

Love Desi x


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