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More than Sports
Written by Sewon Han | Published. 2019.12.31 15:38 | Count : 620

I belong to a basketball team, which, as much as I wish it were, it is not a professional basketball team. We started out as a soccer team that was formed by the first grade parents when I was in elementary school. There were six classes in the first grade that year and, by the first week of school, six soccer teams were quickly formed. It was my favorite extracurricular activity, and I am sure the rest of my friends thought the same. We even had too-large un¬iforms that covered our elbows and knees in the “over-fit (baggy)” style so popular today that we were extremely proud to wear. 

[Writer’s uniform at age nine / Photo Credit: Sewon Han]

Our coaches tell us that, at that time, we were mostly just chasing the ball “like ducklings,” because, as small children, having fun took precedence over actually learning soccer. I remember the first friendly neighborhood match in second grade, when we came in second among several teams. During the game, we spent most of the time jumping and running after the ball as per usual. I remember our parents cheering for us: a father of one of our team members even got a “warning” to stay off the soccer field and “keep it down” because he kept stepping in and shouting instructions at us. There were a few more competitions that we played in but the one I remember most fondly is that first one.

As we progressed one grade at a time, the six soccer teams broke up one by one. The time slot for soccer gradually gave way to more “important” things, like private academy (hagwon) classes for English and math. In short, soccer was no longer a priority to some parents. Our team had its own obstacles. We had to change our schedule a few times in order to keep the team going, and it was never by choice. Some boys had to leave the team because they moved to a new neighborhood or a different country. We also had to "recruit" several new members to maintain the team.

In sixth grade, we switched from soccer to basketball and began a new chapter as a basketball team. No uniforms were made this time, because we preferred to wear our own sportswear. Although we are now older and busier, and some attend different middle schools, we still meet once a week to sweat buckets. To maintain our team, we had to change our schedules yet again, ending up having to play at 10pm on Friday nights. It must have been a big tradeoff for our coaches and I am very grateful that they agreed and continue to coach us so late on a Friday.

[The nine-year-old team (writer: second from left) / Photo Credit: Sewon Han]

The love of sports and friendship bring us together every Friday. Our coaches who once had absolute power over us now feel like older brothers. It is nice to go through adolescence with my friends and our coaches. Our coaches teach us more than just sports. We talk about just about anything from school life to mobile games. I have, obviously, outgrown my first soccer uniform and our runner-up trophy is collecting dust, but they are still prized possessions to me. I am already looking forward to this Friday!

Sewon Han
Shepherd International Education

Sewon Han  student_reporter@dherald.com

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