Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Shooting hoops for the health of it

  • 15 October 2014

At 6:30 am twice a week, I pull on my compression tights, lace up my black and bubble gum blue boots, throw on a crumpled, old t-shirt, and join the early risers to play basketball at a local sports and aquatic centre.

There is no crowd to cheer us on. The cold bites like a hungry, undead white walker from Game of Thrones, too. But for $4.20, it is my cheap-as-chips way to re-set my mind.

My love of basketball has waxed and waned over the years. As a junior, I represented local clubs, and at 5’8” I was a short point guard. But I played with relish. 

The highlight of my ‘career’ was sinking a tricky, no-look basket against former Collingwood ruckman Damian Monkhorst in a losing grand final for my team in an outer suburban men’s competition.

I was only eighteen, but after that loss I’d had enough of getting myself pumped up for the aggressive competition that came with weekly games. I quit the team without fully understanding the way basketball made me or others feel beyond winning.

Sport, when it’s accessible and inclusive, sustains us. 

VicHealth research found that the social opportunities created through sport can be at least as important as its sense of competition. Philosopher Damon Young wrote in his book How to Think about Exercise that sport can encourage ‘flow’ states of mind that can make us feel free and timeless.

These things make sense to me now when I step onto the wooden floors of the basketball courts.

Today is like many others. To my right, a bunch of blokes in wheel chairs roll and bump across the painted lines of the key. Their well-muscled arms cannon the ball to the ring. On the court next to them, two young women practice shooting from the free throw line. They snap their wrists with precision and rarely miss.

I join a group of older guys to play four-on-four. It’s a laid back game, but highly skilled. The ball flicks between flailing arms and legs as their wrinkled hands fire off deft passes. Our runners squeak and we grunt and guffaw when we miss shots.

The grass roots grit of all these players is heartening. It is an enjoyable contrast to watching the high rolling basketball superstars on our screens.

Of course, thinking too much is my nemesis on the court. I shoot, jittery, and the ball misses and makes an ugly thud against the