Being a mother is the greatest blessing I could’ve ever been blessed with.
Growing up I never created a timeline of the things I wanted at certain points in my life. As far as marriage, kids, owning a house, buying my first car, none of those things had a set date for me. The only thing I knew growing up, is that I wanted to be in a stable relationship, which would one day led to marriage.
Oh and one other thing, something I would always ha in my mind.
BALL IS LIFE!
I knew that by my senior year in college I had the ability to play professionally and that’s exactly what I always wanted to do.
However, all of that changed in 2015. During that year, on Mother’s Day, my best friend asked me to marry him!
I was ecstatic to be getting married to the man I was deeply in love with. What you guys don’t know is that he plays professional basketball too. I was ready for us, one day, to play in the same country. Thankfully, different agencies and people we knew stepped in and made that dream happen.
I finally got a call to potentially play for one of the top teams in Turkey. The team was looking for a swing guard, that was me! Although I was so ready to sign, my husband wouldn’t be playing in Turkey with me.
I didn’t want us to be apart anymore, however, we knew that we needed to build financially for our future together. After many months of indecision, we settled on what was best for our family.
Through it all, I had a feeling as though I needed a break from basketball, just to clear my head.
Then the phone rings in July right before Julian, my husband, had to leave for Belgium where he had just signed to play that year. We found out that there was a women’s team close to Brussels which gave me hope that us playing close to one another was very possible! So I was ready to make that happen.
I planned on joining Julian in Brussels in August after his training camp was over. A week before I was supposed to leave something felt off.
And then I found out.
I was pregnant!
We were both excited, nervous, anxious, and surprised. So many different emotions between us two, but ultimately we were happy!
When it came to basketball, the thought of taking a break was granted in a way of a blessing. Now I had to ask myself,
What would I do without basketball?
That was probably one of the scariest thoughts ever had because hooping was all I knew my entire life.
Luckily for me, I was given the opportunity to be the head coach of the Brussels University Women’s basketball team. A great opportunity to continue to be around women’s basketball. Although it was an amazing experience, it just didn’t match actually playing the game I love.
I knew what I had asked for, a break, yet, the more I coached and ran practices for the girls, the more I wanted to play. My heart spoke to me, louder than it ever has.
I missed PLAYING basketball!
Fast forward to 2016, we welcomed our first born Jaycian L Gamble into this world. My beautiful baby boy! When I had Jay, Julian was in season. Therefore, he was only home for 10 days, but then had to leave just 4 days after the birth. Julian’s team needed him to return too Belgium to finish his season.
I thought being without basketball was scary, until Julian had to leave after Jaycian was born. Then the thought of raising a little baby alone without Julian with me the whole time was scarier than that. Luckily, I had the help of my parents until Julian’s season was complete.
A little over a month later, his season was complete. Julian was home and it was time to say “I do” as loud as I wanted too!
Seven weeks after the birth, we were married, all together, and oh yeah..
I WAS BACK ON THE COURT!!
I played in a semi-professional league. And let me tell you, competing at a high, professional level, just seven weeks after having a baby was tough...it was tough! But I did it. And through all the aches, pains, and being exhausted it felt damn good.
As August rolled by, it was time to go back overseas. Next Stop, Germany!
As soon as we got to Germany, Julian had to leave for training camp. He went to a completely different country for a week and a half. And here I was, with a four month old baby, in a completely different country, by myself for real this time!
No family, no friends, no one! Just me and my baby....oh and our dog.
I won’t lie to you, I was so nervous and scared. But I kept it together with the help from some staff from his team. I couldn’t thank them enough. While spending time with the staff, one of the staff members told me that the organization had a women’s team.
“Jesus is that you knocking at my door and answering my prayers like you always do?”
Prayer is powerful and the Lord knew my heart.
So I joined the women’s team and it was a treat to say the least. We weren’t very good, but I held us down as best I could for two years! I enjoyed every minute of it, but with every reward, comes with a price.
There were times when Julian was gone for games, I still had practice with the team and would have to bring our baby Jay with me. He would sleep in his stroller or be with one of Julian’s teammates wife (who luckily, came before the season officially started).
This set up I had, allowed me to continue to live out my dream to play basketball, while still being a mother.
But as happy as I was, the struggles were real. It put things into perspective of how I was truly grinding it out for basketball and the love I have for the game.
Let me walk you through my typical practice/ game day routine while Julian was away...
First I would wake up. Then wake Jay up. From there I would cook breakfast for us while I got him and myself ready for the day. After breakfast, I would take our mini-poodle Ore for a walk with Jay in the baby carrier. After that, I would take a shower, and pray. I would get a nap in after playing with Jay around the house. Then I would walk Ore one more time before heading to the gym...again with Jay in the baby carrier.
NOW IT'S TIME TO HEAD TO THE GYM
I would grab everything I needed for Jay and myself. First, my practice bag which had my shoes, water, and anything I needed for practice. Then I would grab Jay’s diaper bag which I made sure was filled with all his essentials. From diapers, wipes, water, snacks, and of course a few toys if he decided not to sleep during the practice.
Oh and did I mention, we lived on the 4th floor in our apartment building that had no elevator.
I REPEAT NO ELEVATOR!!
I was tired each and everyday before I even got to the gym, but I was self-motivated and determined more than I have ever been.
After practice I would shower at the gym while my teammates entertained Jay in the locker room. This just eliminated one step for me once we got home because settling down was just as busy as getting the day going. Once we were home, Jay and I had to walk Ore once more, eat dinner, then I would bathe Jay. Once all that was done it was bedtime.
The only difference between practice days and game days was that I nursed Jay at halftime.
For all the moms out there, imagine playing a physical game of basketball without releasing built up milk. I only have one word to describe it.
I was thankful for my coach because he understood my situation and let me take care of my son no matter what. I was extremely appreciative of that. It made me want to continue to play because if the understanding wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have stayed involved!
Fast forward again. After Germany, we moved to Paris and if you didn’t guess it yet, let me tell you.
I’m pregnant with our second son Laithan!
So now no basketball again.
I have a busy energetic two year old and I'm pregnant with another baby boy. During this time, Julian is gone a lot playing basketball.
Whew it was tough, but doable because moms are superheroes!
While we were in Paris, Laithan was born. Jaycian had also just turned 3. We soon retuned to America while Julian stayed behind and finished out the season in France. As his season closed out in France, Julian was presented the opportunity to play in China. And if you don’t know, China has big money so we decide, together, that he should go!
Another hurdle that made me pull out my superhero cape to cover up the tears.
The tears came because this time I realized that hooping was no longer my dream or my job, but it was my husband's. I was a mom now. Not of one precious life, but of two!
I could easily move around with just having our first born Jay. I say that because children are busy and it was easy for me to keep up with one child while I tried to continue to play professionally. However, now that I have two babies, I needed to be there for them every chance I had.
Julian is a big family man, an amazing father, and hubby. What makes him even better is that he loves his kids so muc. But he has to go to practice, he has to play in games, and he has to travel to play those games.
SO mommy will hold it down.
I will still play basketball when I can though.
This past season, Julian played in Italy. I was blessed with the opportunity to practice with the women’s team there which was great for me. It cured that itch for basketball I get every now and then. But of course, I had to prepare dinner ahead of time while also making sure the boys were bathed and ready for bed. I wanted the household to be in order before Julian came home from practice because i knew he’d be tired.
I know some people say “why don’t you get a nanny?” Yea I could, but I don’t want to miss precious little moments with my kids because I’m practicing or away on the road for games, especially when basketball is not my obligation anymore.
I love the basketball life we live, my family, and all of the unexpected things we face. As well as all of the special moments together. Playing ball will always have a place in my heart.
I've been blessed to be able to play basketball five years professionally as well as nine years semi-professionally. Those moments are unforgettable. I will continue to play for fun, but mommy life is a forever thing and I’m extremely grateful my boys picked me!!
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