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If there’s one thing that saved my life — it was basketball.

Natalie Owens basketballLike many young girls, growing up was confusing for me. Girls tend to stress about all things related to ‘self.’ While we know that every girl should develop a healthy self-esteem, a sense of wholeness and the ‘I-can-do’ attitude that our parents preach about: that’s not always the case. I grew up watching my two older brothers play one-on-one in the front yard, until I was big enough to dribble a ball myself. From then on I found the sport so all encompassing, I wouldn't dare betray it. The basketball court brought me calmness, vigor, discipline and eventually became my ‘happy place.’ Sports can uproot a confidence you never knew you had. Those butterfly nerves stepping on to the court for a championship game gave me such a high in my adolescence years that I was incapable of not having that same feeling in other areas of my life like my relationships and career. It’s served me well. I think when you experience passion so fiercely and understand the amount of work and tenacity that allowed you to get to that place — you never settle. Not in life, not in work, not with yourself. I became a coach when my competitive playing days were over. I felt the same high watching my players achieve and work for things they didn’t think they were ever capable of attaining. Thunder Selects allows girls to develop all of the basics needed for greatness later on. It’s the first phase of learning a complicated game that often gets missed because for most people, human nature tricks you into sticking to what you’re good at. The coaching mantra at Thunder is: ‘We don’t care if you do it right, but you must try it.’ Thunder makes it possible for girls to find the vulnerability within, to work on the things they’re not yet good at. This is when the magic happens. To push a child outside their comfort zone in amongst their peers who are also doing the same, gives greater confidence than any amount of parental praise, A+’s or ‘everyone gets a medal-‘ medals. It allows for failure, which breeds determination and in turn, gives a young girl more tools for life than anything else I’ve come across in my 27 years of being. — Natalie

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