by Frances Hernandez
Growing up, most children play sports for the aspirations of getting a scholarship, playing professionally or as some say “to make it.” It’s not just a passion, but something they want to do with their lives. When I came to Kuwait back in August to coach basketball, I never thought I’d see the game differently. That is, until I met a group of amazing women from the Al Fatat Women’s Sports Club located in Khaldiya.
The Al Fatat Women’s Basketball program consists of about 20 girls who play this sport in spite of all the odds. There isn’t really an established league for them like they have for the men’s team, and I wasn’t sure how acceptable it was for them to play such a competitive and physical sport. But I was pleasantly surprised when I went to my first practice at Al Fatat, and got to experience firsthand their passion and dedication to the game. They play competitively throughout the year all over the Middle East representing the club and their country. Their love for the game of basketball is shown in their style on and off the court. After meeting them (and in turn, making them my best friends), I could clearly see their love and passion for basketball and all it has to offer.
This was proven back in October and again last month in February, when the team traveled to the United Arab Emirates for two different basketball tournaments with competing clubs from all over the Middle East. It was so inspiring and motivating to watch these ladies prepare for both. This included intense practices at least five days out of the week, with two practices a day closer to each tournament, scrimmages against men teams, not to mention strength and conditioning workouts. It was serious training! And here is the catch… they all have full time day jobs and school. This is just for fun! Talk about a pure love for something; giving everything you have and expecting nothing in return. It reminded me of why I first started playing basketball – because I loved it, that’s all.
The hard work and dedication paid off in October when they won their first tournament in Abu Dhabi. The championship was a first for Kuwait in this tournament, who had previously been written off. Each of the team members took vacation time off work and school to attend. This was their vacation. And it came with a souvenir trophy.
Not long after coming back from Abu Dhabi, the girls were back in the gym working hard to prepare for their next tournament, the Arab Women’s Sports Tournament held last month in Sharjah. It was back to weeklong practices, scrimmages and conditioning. With seven teams in the tournament, the competition was tougher, and a target was on their back after winning in Abu Dhabi. It was a battle until the end, but unfortunately things didn’t favor Kuwait this time around. They finished first in the preliminary and fourth in the finals, but we were all very proud of their achievements.
So what’s next for them? Well, I’m assuming it’s back to work and then after that, the gym. Basketball isn’t what they do or who they are… But it is certainly it something they love. And in the end, isn’t that enough?