“What’s In A Number” is the latest addition to SpiderVoices. In this feature, we’ll dive into the meaning behind some of the numbers that Spiders wear on their backs. This week, women’s basketball player Jaide Hinds-Clarke explains the meaning behind her #1.
I started playing basketball very late compared to many of my friends, and teammates. During elementary school, I was always told that I could be athletic – my coaches told me that if I wanted to play in college, I could. Being the chubby, spastic, out-of-control player I was – I never put any faith into their words; they seemed empty at that time. I excelled in eighth grade, solely on the fact that I was a foot taller than all of my opponents. One coach told me that I had to lose weight if I wanted to be any good and if I “wanted anyone to take me seriously.” I became very self-conscious after hearing that but still continued to try and prove him wrong. This essentially taught me that basketball is a game that requires not only skill, but an unbreakable mental toughness and promise of hard work with endless dedication. I realized that if I was serious about being a college basketball player, that I was going to have to work.
The end of my eighth grade year, I signed up for AAU tryouts – luckily, I made the team. The next practice after tryouts we were prompted to pick our numbers. I had no idea. I was visibly struggling to pick a number and got really frustrated, until my Assistant Coach and mentor, Coach Hodge came over to help. I expressed my uncertainty and he said: “How about number 1? I mean, you grow straight up, like number 1, but let’s think about this. On a serious note, despite what anyone tells you, you have the potential to be the best. Number 1. Don’t not shoot for anything but first place and you will succeed, Jaide. Pick number 1 – I promise you, you will understand why in the future”.
Freshman year came along, I trimmed down and gradually become less spastic and more controlling of my body. Remarks that I was a naturally talented athlete always came my way: fast, strong, and I could jump as high as King James. Slightly blushing at their words, I pondered each one, yet natural talent just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted the applause for how hard I worked, not how naturally talented I was; for I had no control over what naturally occurred.
From that moment I picked my number, every time I lace up, put on my jersey, my headband, or wipe the sweat from my face I vow to never give up, no matter how much it seems to be the only option. Basketball: my passion, has taught me to approach every challenge with a smile, confidence and heart, whether it be on the court, in the classroom or in a work environment. I came to the realization that our ability to recognize challenges and adversity and to make a deliberate choice to keep going in spite of the difficulty ahead will always be rewarding, which is far more rewarding than meeting anyone’s expectations.
I have had that number ever since. It is important to remember and thank the people who have supported and encouraged you along your journey. Thank you Coach Hodge, for believing in me, when I didn’t believe in myself. Now, that is why I am number 1.