Anna Wilson, a sophomore at Collegiate (Richmond, Va.), is one of the best high school basketball players in the nation. The 5-foot-7 point guard, who has given a verbal commitment to Stanford, is also the sister of NFL star quarterback Russell Wilson. She blogs for espnW.
Last year I was invited to participate in the USA U16 national team trials. Unfortunately, I was not selected to be a part of the team and missed out on the FIBA Americas U16 championship in Cancun, Mexico. This year I was invited back to Colorado Springs, Colo., to try out for the USA U17 world championship team, and this time I had more experience and more confidence. And I made the team.
I can honestly say the difference between my first year and this year was my growth in confidence. On the second day of trials this year, we had a session with a sports psychologist who said “adversity can sometimes be the best thing for the right person.” Not making the team the first go-round was tough, but I did not let it beat me down. I did not let that one “failure” trump all my other successes, and I would not let it get the best of me. As the psychologist said, that one defeat was the best thing that could have happened to me because I did not want to have that feeling again.
My experience with USA Basketball has been absolutely amazing thus far, and I am excited to see what is in store for the future (I am aspiring to win the gold medal in the world championship game in the Czech Republic on July 6). I have met some wonderful people as well as athletes from all over the country. Sue Phillips, the U17 head coach, is outstanding, and I love the way she coaches. She has so much passion and love for the game that it is contagious. I remember at the beginning of the week we were about to start a session, and she stopped to tell us what our overall goal was. “We want to win gold,” she said. “And I want someone who is going to fight for that gold medal.” Now, when your dream is to wear those three letters on your chest and a coach says that to you, how do you not get goose bumps and chills?
During trials, I did not have enough time to journal everything I wanted to, but reflecting back, I had the most fun competing and I was motivated by the talent that surrounded me. There is nothing like being challenged. I think I can speak for every single player when I say that everyone was challenged. Whether it was the altitude, competing against a better player or fighting through fatigue.
Some people, when challenged, crawl back inside to their comfortable state, but I like to stare it down and face it. I was challenged, but by the words of my family and court coaches. My brother Russell came on Saturday to watch me compete. He said, “Anna you are playing really well, but you need to be over the top with energy.” I understood what he meant, and the next session and the next day I tried my best to be the loudest, to tap up my teammates and to just have fun. I believe when you’re playing for a spot on a team, people will try to show how good they are, but I wanted to show how good I was at making my teammates look great. For a point guard, no stat is more important than the assist.
My challenge from Mary Coyle Klinger, the U17 assistant coach, was to “fight for my dream.” The challenge was issued on the last day, probably the hardest day because of fatigue. The advice she gave me connected to what my brother had said about bringing more energy. I saw a door of opportunity on this last day where I could take advantage. Any time I had the chance to push the ball in transition, to get a steal or to dive after the ball, I did. I did not want a missed opportunity to be the reason why I was No. 13 instead of 12 on the roster.
Overall my experience was amazing. I love competing against the best and being coached by the best. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to work with USA Basketball to take full advantage. Also I want to encourage athletes of any age or just people in general reading this to chase after their dreams. Never hold back and do not let anything stand in your way. Work toward your goals, seize opportunities and fight for dreams, because I did. And I will be playing for the red, white and blue.