During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gym where I normally exercise closed completely for an extended period. I knew I needed to continue engaging in physical activity because this is such an important way for me to maintain my physical health and my mental and emotional well-being. I also wanted to make sure that the physical activity was done outside to ensure I did my part to keep others and myself safe from COVID-19. For several months, I walked a few miles per day at a nearby park. I put on my headphones, listened to music, and enjoyed the sunshine and beautiful weather. Then I took off my headphones and started to meet other people who came to the park due to gym closures and other life interruptions resulting from COVID-19 (we stayed six feet apart, of course). It was nice connecting with some neighbors I had never met before.

After some time, I got bored with my daily walks, and the exercise I got from the walks did not seem to be enough for me. Near the park in my neighborhood was a community basketball court. I played a few sports growing up, but never basketball. I bought a basketball online and started practicing my shooting and dribbling. Then I started researching how to physically condition for basketball (mostly via YouTube). I tried some conditioning drills and found that I was quite out of shape! Regardless, the practicing and drills kept me amused and were excellent exercises. I found myself playing at least a little bit almost daily. I continued this for a few months.

As COVID-19 restrictions eased and cases started to go down, I started to think that it would be nice to play basketball with other people! That is kind of the point, right? I had heard about this rec center in my neighborhood that had regular pick-up games. I started going there and practicing at the designated times, but after watching a few of the games, I was apprehensive about joining because the people playing looked way better than me! Luckily, I met a nice man at the rec center who started talking with me and encouraged me to join in. “You’ll never get better if you don’t play,” he said. This simple logic made sense. I jumped in some games and had a blast. What an amazing workout! I’ve been going to the rec center for pick-up games about three times per week for about six months now. My endurance and skills have improved. I have lost a few pounds. I have met some new people in my community from a variety of backgrounds. It has been a great experience.

At PRA, we frame wellness in eight dimensions. Clearly, playing basketball contributes to my physical wellness. I am in much better shape since I started playing, and I am sleeping much better. It touches several other dimensions of wellness too. As I stated before, physical activity, for me, is so important for my mental and emotional well-being. This was especially true during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when isolation increased, and my world got quite a bit smaller. Staying active helped counteract the feelings of anxiety and loneliness that isolation brings me.

Basketball also helped improve my social wellness. I got to meet and interact with other people in my community. Some of them helped orient me to the game and others I just chatted with and got to know. I was most surprised about basketball’s effect on my intellectual wellness. The game includes a great deal of strategy and quick thinking. It is a very fast-moving game. I find myself thinking quite a bit about where I am standing on the court in relation to the person I’m guarding or who is guarding me, how I can best use my height and size to my team’s advantage, and how I can best function as a part of whatever team I am on. It is a very mindful game, and I find myself very much in a present moment awareness when I am playing. Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new like basketball has profoundly affected my overall well-being.