November 11th, 2019

By Shanya Sam

STEM is rigorous. It forces me to use all parts of my brain, and I would eventually overload if it wasn’t for sports. I play basketball and soccer throughout the school year to de-stress. It’s an outlet for me that ensures my mental and physical health does not deteriorate. It provides me with a balanced mind and body because while STEM stimulates my mind, sports keep me active. The competitions and games have taught me to be more mindful by focusing on the immediate challenge rather than always stressing over the future and how to solve its problems.

The first ball I picked up was a basketball. I learned to play basketball in the third grade when my family and I moved to Tennessee. We were alone in a foreign place, so it was a way to connect with my older brother. Even today, it is something we bond over as we go to each other’s games and support one another. It slowly evolved into a necessity for me over the years.

Prior to moving, I was an antsy kid with an explosive temper. Basketball was my first outlet for all of the emotions coursing through me. It grounded me, helped me focus, and helped me learn discipline. These attributes I still carry throughout school life, and without them, I highly doubt I would be where I am today academically.

In my last year of junior high school, the girls basketball team was cut due to the lack of interested girls. I didn’t touch a basketball that entire year but instead signed up for every event and afterschool club to fill that void. I was buried under books, homework, and various commitments that I couldn’t juggle. There were days that I overbooked and had at least three events that I had to attend, some of which I did not even enjoy that much. I was lost and could not find my purpose, so I started from scratch and participated in everything to find it. In the process, I found STEM clubs that gave me reason to want to come to school again.

Freshman year, I rejoined the basketball team and learned to play soccer, and I grew to love it just as much as basketball. I play forward, so it’s me, a ball, and an open field. The large expanse of vibrant green turf constantly calls out to me, and there is no room to second guess or question once the ball is in front of me. The wind slaps against my face as I run wild, at full speed, until the ball reaches its final destination, at the back of the net. That feeling of exhilaration rushes through me, knowing points don’t come as easy in soccer as it does in basketball.

Although a fleeting victory, it reminds me that there are other aspects of life, so it would be unhealthy to solely stimulate just my mind or just my body. They are a unit that must work cohesively. As a perfectionist, I tend to throw myself into my commitments, and through experience I realized the danger in exclusively committing to one thing. It will have the ability to overpower me and make me hollow. I share myself between science and sports because STEM gives me purpose and long term goals to desire and achieve while basketball and soccer are sources of comfort from stress. To me, the mind is to the body as STEM is to sports, together they complete me.

-Shanya Sam, ARISE High School Student