How Sports Bridge Philadelphia's Impoverished And Privileged
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How Sports Built A Bridge Between Philadelphia's Impoverished And Priveledged

"Sports do not build character. They reveal it." — Heywood Broun

How Sports Built A Bridge Between Philadelphia's Impoverished And Priveledged

The Philadelphia Main Line and North Philadelphia. Two places that feel like different worlds but are less than 15 minutes apart. The Philadelphia Main Line is home to expensive real estate, fancy cars, and the highest ranked school districts in Pennsylvania. North Philadelphia is defined by poverty, drugs, and high crime rates. Those two worlds would collide on the basketball court during my freshman year of high school.

There has been a basketball in my hand for as long as I can remember. Sports — specifically basketball — have changed my life. Throughout my basketball career, I have dealt with many different personalities, whether it has been opponents, teammates, or coaches. However, as I walked into the gym my freshman year, I did not know what I was getting myself into.

I walked into the gym and discovered that my new coach, Messiah Reames, was a thirty-year-old black man. He radiated energy, heart, and determination. I admired his passion immediately. Despite living only 15 minutes from one another, we had entirely different backgrounds. I live in one of the safest communities in the suburbs of Philadelphia, while Messiah was a victim of a drive-by shooting during his early teenage years that left his brother dead. There are only a few things that could bring us together, but basketball is certainly one of them.

Messiah's high school was nothing like mine. While my high school has air conditioning, whiteboards, and Apple laptops, his had metal detectors and armed security guards. That didn't matter. We both had a common love: basketball. The energy he brought into the gym was undeniable. His intensity was infectious, pushing everyone beyond their limits. Before each practice, we had to run a mile around our gym in seven minutes or less. Any day that I trailed one of my teammates, Messiah would begin to hound me.

"Push it, Meg! I'm not kidding! You will run this mile again if you don't start pushing yourself harder!" My entire body wanted to crumple to the ground. But, as I turned the corner for my last lap, I heard him. "You don't think you're faster than her?! You don't think you have more in you?! Push yourself, Meg Willcox!" I knew I had to finish first. A few more strides and I would surge past her and across the finish line. I looked up, completely spent. But nothing could beat the look of pride on his face. I had done it.

It was because of him I was able to run a 5:50 mile every day. During this time, I wasn't thinking about how different we were. I was thinking about how we had the same goal: to become a better team. Two worlds colliding because of basketball. This is why I love sports. Regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity, or background, you are able to just play. You are able to create lasting relationships with people you thought you would never meet.

Some people on my team were unable to grasp this concept. They were constantly focused on how different we were from our coach and didn't push themselves to become better because they found it was too hard. Not me. Messiah had something to teach me. I developed the strong work ethic that I have today because of him. He constantly preached having heart. I realized that is the most important quality to have in life: heart.

My freshman year of high school I met someone who I never imagined I would meet. Because of sports, I met someone who changed my way of thinking and my way of life. And to think, we only lived 15 minutes away from each other.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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