Starting young

Describing community members’ experiences with starting sports as children


Photo by Chris Rivera | Used with permission

Freshman Gillie Ross kneels on the ice at a hockey game.

Crystal Cheng

Freshman Gillie Ross recalls her first interaction with hockey at the skating rink she frequented since she was 3 years old. When she officially started playing hockey at 5, she remembers “it was [more] struggling to stay on your feet instead of actually playing.” Now, at 14 and playing on the San Jose Sharks, even though she says hockey has become more intense and requires more effort, she believes it is much easier for her than her peers due to the foundation she built at a young age. 

“I feel like [starting at a young age] helped me a lot,” Ross said. “I love putting in the work to get better, and it feels good when I accomplish my goals and play well.” 

Similarly, 12-year-old Harry Gao, who started playing basketball at the age of 10 after his parents signed him up, also says he benefited from starting his sport at a young age. He finds playing the sport to be fun and satisfying and currently plays on a basketball team of the organization Hoopright

12-year-old Harry Gao stands in the Gunderson High School Gym on a game day. (Photo by Feng Gao | Used with permission)

“[It’s a] good way to spend your free time because you get exercise,” Gao said. “You [also] get better at the sport so you can play with more people.”

However, despite his enjoyment, Gao recognizes the potential dangers such as injuries that come along with playing a sport at a young age. He recalls a heated moment during a basketball game when the opposing team accidentally threw a ball at his friend’s head while trying to save the ball from going out of bounds, resulting in his friend getting a nosebleed on the court. 

“He was fine [after], but there was blood on the court,” Gao said. “[Injuries like that] happen half the time.”

Gao and Ross both recognize the benefits of playing a sport from a young age, a mindset echoed by 7-year-old Reyansh Bansal, who swims and plays badminton and cricket. He started all three sports around the age of 4 and currently enjoys them all, saying that they are simple and easy. Out of the three, Bansal finds cricket to be his favorite, which stems from his exceptional abilities at playing the sport. 

“I’m good at [cricket],” Bansal said. “Everything is easy [about it].”

Ultimately, Ross finds that the largest benefit from starting a sport at a young age is adopting a mindset that prioritizes determination and tenacity.

“I think it kind of teaches you to have the right mindset for life in general, because in sports you can’t give up if you fail one after another,” Ross said. “You have to kind of rebound and focus on the next play or the next day.”