Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
I had heard it all before: life comes with no guarantees, no time outs, and rarely any second chances. Yet in spite of the currents against me, I sought to make for myself a second chance. When my junior year of basketball ended, my heart sunk when I learned that there would be no space for me on the varsity team. Many players might have seen the end of their career on the court then and there, but I wasn’t ready to retire without a fight. After three years of pouring body and soul into my game, I found it difficult – even unbearable – to stay away from the sport. In the days that followed, I would make my way each day to the school’s gym, just to watch the varsity basketball girls do their daily drills. Just because there was no room for me on the team, I reasoned, did not mean that there was no room for me to improve. So I would take a ball and work quietly on my three-point shots, or practice my lay-ups at the side baskets. And one day, in the middle of shooting free throws, the varsity coach stopped for a moment near me. “Hey,” Coach Kwon whispered, “come practice with us tomorrow. And bring your jersey.” My head grew dizzy with excitement at the thought of a second chance, and as I walked out of the gym, I remembered something that Coach Kwon had also said, not too long ago: “There’s no such thing as a wasted effort.” He was right. The next day, I came to practice a half an hour early, waiting eagerly outside the gym. After an exhausting practice, I stayed another hour and a half, practicing with the junior varsity players for some extra, much-needed conditioning. Even after my second chance, I was determined to prove that my coach’s decision had been the right one. It wasn’t until several months had passed that my curiosity got the better of me, and I apprehensively asked the coach why he had changed his mind. He considered for a moment, and then responded. “I admired how you cared enough to stick around.” I smiled, but the lesson was far more meaningful than I was willing to let on. Good things, I realized, do not necessarily come to those who wait, but rather to those who work hard and put in the extra effort during that time of waiting. With that lesson in mind, I gear up each day ready to put in my greatest effort at practice. The muscle pains and injuries that testify to my grit and fortitude are made worthwhile by the intimate bonds of friendship among my teammates, and the silent, perfect communication that we share on the court. Every time I feel my heart race and my adrenaline pump as I dart down the court, I recognize the thrill and satisfaction that comes from giving my best – and remember the gratitude that I feel for this hard-earned second chance.