Stepping outside of the path of one’s life and into a totally new trajectory may not be easy; for former professional basketball player Ham Ye-seul (Health Science, 1), it was a particularly tough decision to leave her basketball career and start digging in the books. Ham left her 15-year-long basketball career, along with all her memories and regret at the court and instead chose to go to college, which turned out to be the “right” decision after all.
Coming from a sport-minded family, including her mother who was a Bangkok 1966 Asian Games Gold medalist in women’s basketball, Ham was naturally guided to playing basketball, beginning as early as fifth grade in elementary school. At that time, she did not imagine herself in a distant future as a professional basketball player, though basketball took up a big part of her childhood.
“Before I knew, I was playing basketball in a Samsung Life Insurance uniform, which is one of six professional women’s basketball teams. As I was so busy with fitting myself into the tight practice schedule, I had no time to think of other career options besides basketball, which was something I had been pursuing for a long time,” Ham said.
Playing basketball with famous basketball stars in a professional league in front of fans excited Ham. She enjoyed the thrill and fierce competition, but also noticed herself becoming worn out. Repeating the same routine over and over began to mentally exhaust her.
“A game after another… a season after another… By the time I became 23, my life suddenly seemed so dull to me. I felt no improvement. I found myself to be at the same spot where I was three years ago,” Ham said, reminiscing about the third year of her career.
Just then, a tragic yet life-changing incident occurred in Ham’s seemingly “colorless” life, giving her a chance to take on a new challenge. She damaged the cruciate ligament, one of major ligaments in human’s knees, at a game, which turned out to be critical for her sporting career. She went into rehabilitation for a year, which was when she finally got to take a break from her ordinary routine.
“Rehabilitation was refreshing for me, as I was able to turn my perspective to life outside of the court. I weighed many choices for my future, and ultimately, I had my heart set on a college education,” Ham said.
At the age of 25, Ham resolutely left her lifelong career behind. She decided to study for the college entrance exam and refused to take any advantage of her previous experience as a professional sports player. People told her it would be too much of a challenge, doubting her decision and confidence.
“However, because of the people questioning my success, I was able to push myself even further. I wanted to show them that I could do it,” Ham said, recalling what motivated her.
Eventually, Ham opened up a totally new chapter in her life as a college freshman at Ewha this spring.
“People ask if I regret quitting basketball and choosing to study instead. I actually do not. Rather, it shed light on my future I couldn’t see on the court. It keeps me motivated and I enjoy pushing myself to study,” Ham said.
Ham now aims for a higher dream in her life. Hoping to work for basketball players behind the scenes, she aims to have a career in basketball-related agencies such as the Korea Basketball Association. As the first step, she plans to double major in Public Administration and Health Science.
“As I used to be one of them, I know and understand basketball players more than anyone. Taking this as my specialty, I hope to work in a basketball-related field and contribute to providing a better environment and improving women’s basketball in Korea,” Ham said.
To those who are afraid to make a change in life, Ham’s life journey sends out a message: “Just do it, and do your best.” A courageous one who runs for the hoop can leap high and, at the end, make a slam-dunk.