YES Programs



Saying "YES" to an Unbelievable Sports Journey

Kalpina playing basketball

By Kalpina (YES 2023-2024, Pakistan, placed by Ayusa in Fitchburg, Wisconsin).

When I got selected for the YES program, participating in sports was a big dream of mine and a goal that came true for me during my exchange year. I started to play intramural volleyball at the beginning of my school year, but the real sports journey started in early October when I received an email about basketball tryouts. Before that day, I did not have any idea what basketball was or how to play, but something inside me said “yes”. It was the opportunity to achieve my dreams and make new friends.

Kalpina posing with basketball team on basketball court

On tryout day, I had no idea what was going on but I jumped onto the court. My heart was beating fast. The sensation of dribbling a ball for the first time and the nervousness of having no experience were unforgettable. After that, I talked to my coaches to let them know that I really want to be on the team. Luckily, I got selected for the JV team!

The basketball season started, and having daily practices made my schedule very tight. Initially, running and warmups felt so hard. As time passed, I learned some basic rules like dribbling and how to pass the ball with the help of my coach and teammates. In the first two months, my coach and I decided to practice dribbling and shooting individually so I wouldn't get hurt and lose my confidence.

The season felt long and hard for me without doing this with the team. So, I talked to my coach and we decided to do some practice together. I got to know the other players better and we became good teammates and friends. As time passed, I got better at basketball, and finally the unexpected moment happened: I was selected to play in a real game! I was so excited to play for the first time for my team and my school. As the game started I was nervous, but the guidance of my teammates and the support of my host family encouraged me to play. Now when I look back, I feel that the season was too short. It was a great experience with unforgettable memories.

Kalpina posing for camera with host mom

I may not be an “ideal” player, but for me I am the star of my journey. My basketball journey taught me valuable lessons. It made me a committed person by sticking with it, no matter how hard it was in the beginning. It got me out of my comfort zone and pushed myself to be open to accepting new challenges and experiences. This all happened with the support of my great team, loving host parents, and local coordinator. Without their support, I don't think it would have been possible to say “yes” to basketball. This is my biggest achievement so far! All in all, the decision to play basketball changed my perspective on sports and American culture and reshaped my life. I would say that it's very important to come out of your comfort zone and say "YES" to every coming opportunity.