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I noticed that my defender was watching my teammate, who was the other wing in this possession. He drove to the right, sliced through the zone and drew a second and third defender. I could see that he wanted to go for a contested layup, but the help closed in on him early. He picked up the dribble. I quickly decided to cut behind my defender’s back, sprinted towards the hoop and signalled to Pawel that I was open. He dished off to me and I went for the easy left-handed bucket. Just like that, I scored my first point in a competitive basketball game in over a decade at an away game in Gravesend.

Little did my defender know at the time, that he was to be my motivation to return to the court, seeing him run circles around the team during a cup final prior. After scoring those points, I felt a sense of joy that I had not felt in a long time. I knew at that moment that this was only the beginning of my journey.

My name is Pras and I play for the Men’s team and coach the U16 boys. Here is my story of how I returned to the game I love.

After the birth of my first son, I decided that I wanted to play basketball again. However, I realised I was in no shape to return to the game that I left almost 5 years before that point. At the age of 30, I was heavier than before. My lower back and joints were giving me trouble. More worryingly, I simply had lost that exercise mentality that I had all my life. However, I still felt that my time on the court wasn’t over.

I was living in London at the time and signed up to one of the many scrimmages that you could join on the weekends. Without any preparation or even warming up on the day, I went straight into it, thinking that I have still got it. My lower back simply said ‘No, thanks’ after only the second time sprinting down the court. I was out of action again before I had even really started. Lying on the floor to rest my lower back became a regular way of decompressing for me.

This was a true wakeup call and I began investing in my physical health. It started off with seeing a good chiropractor, who adjusted my back from time to time and educated me on the importance of a healthy spine. An incredible physio then helped alleviate some of the more acute, hampering issues that many office workers my age would experience. But this wasn’t enough. I started working out with a personal trainer who would school me on the benefits of lifting weights and tracking food intake. I began obsessing about basketball fitness and how strong legs and core were the starting point to being able to play for a long time. The issues I was having seemed to subside and I was able to be more active and enjoy playing basketball occasionally.

I struck up friendships with people who would invite me to privately run scrimmages and then also be able to hire the court for myself to work on my game. It often meant that I would train at 7am on a Sunday morning, getting shots up and working on my form. All along, I dedicated myself to learning and improving my understanding of fitness and health. Setbacks became less mentally taxing and I learned how to overcome the obstacles that would present itself.

Moving to Sevenoaks was a game changer, not only for us as a family, but also for me to return to the game of basketball. I looked up the Suns well before I even set foot into Knole Academy. The professional women’s program, as well as the youth work, were incredibly impressive. The club reminded me a lot of my home team in Herne (Germany), which also had a professional women’s team and a great youth program. I contacted one of the guys who ran the Men’s team and he invited me to watch the game that night. Once I sat on the side-line and watched the team run up and down the court, I knew I wanted to return for real this time.

My quest to get in shape continued and I began training with a PT at Better Body Group in Sevenoaks. I made my debut later that year after a summer of getting to know the team and testing my abilities against my new teammates. Again, I experienced setbacks after a few games with recurring injuries and other issues basketball players are familiar with, such as sprained ankles, knee pain etc. However, this time it was different. I felt more prepared to deal with it and anticipate how long it would take me to recover. I still continue to train with strength and movement goals in mind. I used the downtime during lockdown to focus on some of the things that would help me prolong my playing days well into old age.

Health and Fitness is not a hobby or a fad, it’s a lifestyle. Being a Sun is like being part of a big family. The coaches are constantly talking and working together on ways to keep children and adults in Sevenoaks fit and healthy. My son is now old enough to play for the Suns and he has 2 brothers waiting in the wings to join him at the club.

Why am I telling you all this? I believe there are many adults in our community who once played basketball or are interested in picking up a new challenge. Maybe you feel too old to get back into it or simply have not got the motivation to join. Basketball is an incredible way to get fit and relieve stress, and I am proof that it is never too late to give it a go. Treat it like a bucket list item, a fitness goal or simply a promise to enjoy life more. Get back on the court and the rewards of being part of something bigger than basketball will present themselves naturally. I look forward to seeing you post lockdown.

Coach Pras

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