Photos courtesy of Jenah Piwanski
My ‘Life After Hoops’ story started earlier than expected. When I was younger I had it all worked out, I’d play professionally until I was 35, by that time I'd have an established business, be married and ready to have kids. Well, my body had another plan in mind and after three consecutive seasons of injury I retired last year age 30.
Injuries and sport go hand in hand. It's pretty rare for an athlete not to have injuries so this is all too common. It makes a career in professional sport unpredictable, stressful and often short lived. My injuries started with a slipped disc when I was 21 playing college basketball in the US. Over the years there were times I'd aggravate my back so bad I could hardly walk, let alone run. After knee and ankle surgeries in 2014/15 and then a freak rib injury last year, my body had made up its mind for me and my sporting career was done.
Leaving the sport that I loved was hard, although it was almost a relief to stop battering my body on a daily basis. Having a balanced outlook on life and goals outside of basketball made the transition easier.
Because my injuries started early, I’d always felt the need to have a back-up plan and so while my study was hard to get done due to the travelling and living in towns without Universities I had thought about other options. I'd always wanted to start my own business, I have a real creative side and like crafty things so I decided to get into the gift industry with my own soy candle brand. I launched my company Branch and Bel in 2013 so that has been fun and challenging, and I've worked into the ethos of my company a social responsibility to give back, so I hold yearly fundraisers for local charities. I wish I’d finished my degree earlier... even if I had chipped away at it and done a class per year online I’d be done by now. Yes hindsight, you win again.
It’s crazy how diverse an athlete’s ‘Life After Hoops’ journey can be. Athletes in my circle have moved in to marketing, telecommunications, nutrition, photography... there are those that have stayed in the industry and of course those that have become mums! The great thing about playing sports is it teaches you many valuable life skills such as hard work, commitment, persistence and handling adversity. These are great attributes for any job and so a lot of people I know who have had different careers after sport have been very successful.
I’ve got a few busy months ahead. In August, I’ll head to the US to finish the last 3 classes of my nutrition degree and help out with the Fresno State women's basketball team. I’m being inducted to the Hall of Fame at the University of Wyoming in early September which is a huge honour. Our team achieved a lot during my time there, we went from being ranked 200th to staying in the top 20 in the country for most of my senior year. We were the first team to be invited to dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, had Wyoming soldiers in Afghanistan following our games, and played in front of 17,000 people. Those were some incredible times.
Hanna Zavecz (born 21 August 1985) is an Australian professional basketball player who has played for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Bendigo Spirit, Bulleen Boomers, Logan Thunder and Canberra Capitals in the WNBL. She has also played college basketball in the United States for the University of Wyoming, and for MKB-Euroleasing Sopron in the Euroleague. She earned her first call up to the Australia women’s national basketball team in 2010, was in the final 15 for the 2012 Summer Olympics and represented Australia several times until 2015. In 2016 Hanna will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the University of Wyoming where she was a part of the WNIT Championship winning team and was honorable mention All-American in her Junior and Senior Years.
Follow Hanna Zavecz on Instagram @zavblanc