Damian Martin

A Life Changing Phone Call

Damian Martin
A Life Changing Phone Call

Photo courtesy of Perth Wildcats

It’s a funny relationship I have with basketball. It can be so good to me at times, it’s responsible for so many of my happiest memories and is something I love deeply. However, it is also responsible for a number of injuries, regular aches and pains, mental lows and plenty of experiences I’d rather forget.

At times, I hate the game. If only for a minute. 

I quit basketball as a teenager after commuting for a year to Lake Macquarie three times per week, ninety minutes each way, to play for them after my home town couldn’t produce enough players to fill a team.

I took up rugby league, playing alongside all of my mates from home. I was loving the competitiveness of it, the physicality and the mateship; things I got from basketball previously, but without all of the hours sitting in the car. 

One day I received a phone call from some fella named Rob Beveridge.

“Bevo” convinced my dad and I to drive just over an hour to meet him at a McDonald’s in Raymond Terrace to discuss my basketball future.

Bevo was the NSW Institute of Sport coach at the time and promised me a scholarship if I quit rugby league that day and went back to basketball. He also laid out a vision of a career he believed I could achieve in basketball if I worked hard enough. 

As a young kid growing up in a small country town I never played basketball thinking there could be a career in it or use it as a vessel to see the world. Dad and I chatted the whole way home from that meeting with our minds full of possibilities and opportunities that basketball could present. It’s funny now, looking back at that moment. I'm forever grateful Bevo took a chance on me.

I quit rugby league that day and joined the Newcastle Hunters. I’m very fortunate to have parents that spent hours in the car weekly driving me to and from Newcastle to make sure I didn’t miss trainings or games for my new club in the Hunter Valley.

Coach Shawn Dennis and 3 of my siblings at a Falcons camp.

Coach Shawn Dennis and 3 of my siblings at a Falcons camp.

All this while I had four other siblings who were still being taken care of by whichever parent wasn’t on the road with me. Factor in to account that dad was working 10 hour days. I cannot remember one time hearing them complain about what they did for me even though they had every right to.

As I near the end of my career I wish there was something I could do to repay those early days of basketball where they made sacrifice after sacrifice in order for me to be able to pursue a dream. I just hope they don’t ask for the petrol money back!

Now that I’m one of the older guys in the league I love watching the younger players coming through. Angus Glover will be an All-NBL player for a long time. Mason Bragg is sure to find his spot on an NBL team and excite fans with his sheer speed and enthusiasm. Guys like Hodgson, Norton and McDowell-White will have coaches singing their praise for years to come. I’m hoping my legs still have a few more seasons left in them to play at a standard good enough to help my team mates and play my role but know there will come a time when I’m not up to it.

I don’t dread life post basketball, contrary to it, I look forward to the challenge and a new set of goals. In the meantime, I’m going to embrace every challenge and opportunity that playing this incredible sport offers. 

Brittany, Maggie and I.

Brittany, Maggie and I.

Through basketball I’ve had to have toe surgery, two shoulder surgeries, torn my calf three times, three broken wrists, snapped left achilles tendon, torn right achilles tendon, right ACL rupture, left MCL tear, broken arm, broken my jaw three times in the last 18 months and I’m pretty sure my fingers and nose weren’t shaped the way they are now pre-basketball.

I’ve also been in losing Grand Final teams, missed game-winning shots and been the last person cut from an Olympic team.

Injuries and heartbreak are a part of sport. It’s also the reason why success can feel that much better when it happens.

Success doesn't always have to be in the form of winning championships.

It can be achieving milestones along the road to recovery. I remember jogging on a treadmill for the first time since rupturing my achilles. The smile that naturally crossed my face that day as i jogged at a turtles’ pace was just as broad and corny as the one I had after winning an NBL championship. 

I remember the low I went through after getting cut from the London Olympics team. Hated the game. Hated myself. Felt like I had let my family down. All those sacrifices they had made and I couldn’t repay them with a moment to be proud of such as watching me represent Australia at an Olympics. They never felt that way. Never said anything of the likes to me, but all athletes are selfish, need to be in a way and I wasn’t any different.

What picked me up out of that low was when my father was diagnosed with cancer.

How dare I be so down on life for not getting picked in a sporting team, when my dad had an actual problem. Watching his toughness, resilience and attitude toward defeating cancer was something I was not only inspired by but hopefully I have applied some of those lessons to my basketball. 

I’m a big believer that players are at their best when they are fit, confident and mentally switched on for every possession. My message to my teammates before every game is the same. I ask them to play as hard and smart as they can, for as long as they can and to remember to have fun.

After all, it is only a game. The best one. So I’m glad Bevo made that call.

Olympic Ceremony in Rio.

Olympic Ceremony in Rio.

Born in Gloucester, NSW but currently live in Perth. I play basketball for the Perth Wildcats and I'm a qualified marriage celebrant.