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Lexee's Travels - Part I

02/14/2012 11:50 AM -

Lexee Guerra, a Junior at Kaneland HS and member of the Bulls Elite Basketball program, she is currently studying in Mexico for the next 6 months.  Follow along as she learns Spanish, immerses herself in a new culture, and plays basketball for Costa High School.  She will document her experiences throughout her journey.  Stay tuned for Part II. 

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Lexee Guerra, and I am 17 years old.  My life has always been kind of cool, because I have so much family, and I am so close with a lot of them.  I’m talking about first cousins, second cousins, and even third cousins.   I still continue to meet new family members all the time.  When I was little I found it very interesting that I had so much family that lived in Mexico, and they would come and visit all the time.  My seventh and eighth grade years of school I met a new cousin who was the same age, and came to stay in Illinois for two years to learn English.  She went to the same school as me, and after about three months, we were able to communicate in English almost perfectly with each other.  This interested me in doing the same thing, but in Mexico; in fact I had never been to Guadalajara , Mexico, where my family lives, and I have always wanted to go there.  This is when I came to a crossroads in my life… with basketball.

When I was little I went through the same usual things that every kid goes through.  I got involved in as many sports and activities as I could, because at that point in time, I didn’t have a clue, and enjoyed whatever sport my parents put me in.  At some point in my life I played soccer, softball, ballet, horseback riding, cheerleading, volleyball, track, and of course, basketball.  When I was little, I remember I was currently playing softball, soccer, and basketball for about three years already.  My mom and dad sat me down and told me I could be on a travel team if I wanted.  My immediate response was obviously, “yes of course!” as usual.  But then they explained to me how a travel team works, and that it would take up a lot of time, and are very intense thing.  I loved the idea of that, and I was even more excited.  My mom then told me, it would interfere with the other sports, and I would have to give some sports up.  I remember feeling this new sense of maturity at that point, because it was my first big decision I got to make on my own about my life.  The first words that came out of my mouth without thought was, “basketball!”   My mom looked at me surprised at my quick response , and she asked me if I was sure, and offered to make more than one sport work.  I told her I wanted nothing to do with any other sport, except basketball, “all basketball,” I told her.  I don’t know what it was about basketball, but I loved it, I got excited to play it, and when I played it I would get this big adrenaline rush, and my mind was in another place.  I knew basketball was my sport, and my dream was to become great. 

Since then, basketball has been my life, all year, every year.  I played on  various AAU teams but found my home with  “Bulls Elite,”  which I have been playing with for the last two years, and planning on my next and last year of travel ball being there.  It by far is one of the most organized, hardworking and attentive programs I have been a part of.   I also go to Kaneland High School, and play with them as well during school season.  Throughout the beginning of my ball playing to now, I have hit some bumps in the road with basketball, mostly referring to confidence and my mental game.  I have found that skill only goes so far, before you get to the mental game.  It is the worst thing that can happen to someone, and the hardest thing to recover from.  I have gotten many elements of my basketball smart and skills from many coaches over the years.  I take something away with every coach I have had, but when I found Bulls, besides the great training, I would say I have been pushed more than ever to gain my confidence back.  I also was able to regain the fun in the game.  Coach Erin, Coach Casey, and Coach Tony have all helped me improve and are still pushing me to become better.  They have always believed in me, and helped me find my way.  I owe them so much, and I am thankful to have them as coaches. 

Because my life revolves around basketball, this brings me back to not being able to go to Mexico.  It was a hard decision for me because I understood that I had an advantage to go live with my family members in Mexico, and have the experience of a lifetime.  I would be able to learn Spanish, indulge myself into a new culture, as well as meet the many other family members I have not yet met, and gain closer relationships with the ones I already have.  The opportunity became more and more serious to me midway through my junior year of high school.  The plan was for me to finish the second half of my junior year in Mexico for six months.  The problem was I would be missing the second half of my school basketball season and the beginning of my Bulls season.  I didn’t want to be set myself back in basketball, but at the same time, I would be missing out on this amazing experience that worked out perfectly at that very moment in time in my life.  The reason for this was because I had already taken my core classes first semester, and was already ahead in many subjects.  It would work out perfectly to go to Mexico for the second semester of my junior year, and then go back to Illinois to finish out school my senior year.  The grades I get in Mexico would not affect my GPA, and my schedule for next year is already planned out so that I have more than enough credits to graduate. 

I thought this offer through for about a month, I looked for guidance from family, friends, and coaches, but in the end I knew it was my decision, and only I could make me happy.  Right there, I felt another big wrath of independence, just as I had when I was little.  The weight was completely on my shoulders.  I finally made the decision not to go.  I was freaked out and confused.  This time I told no one my thoughts, and acted as if I was not going.  During the next two weeks what I was really doing was praying and soul searching.  I finally decided I needed a change in my life, and I was sick of the same boring routine.  I didn’t care who I would be disappointing; I was going to do this for me, and I was going to find a way to make it work.  If I didn’t do that, I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life.

I had never been away from my family for more than two weeks, and doing this would be a big step for me, but my decision was made two weeks before I had to leave, and I set my fears aside.  After finally doing that, and opening my mind more, I found so much more positives and advantages for going.  I decided that when I go to Mexico, I am really going to find myself, and become more independent.  I wasn’t going to have my mom and dad anymore, everything was all me.  During the beginning of this year I have been faced with more big decisions than I have in my entire life.  I was frustrated.  I felt stressed to keep good grades, study for ACTs, the pressure of basketball, and the pressure of picking colleges.  I was starting to grow up, and I didn’t like it so much.  I ignored many of my big problems, and focused on the same little things in life, like what my plans were for the weekend, or friends, or boy problems.  All those things are a part of life, and should be experienced, but I was forgetting to do the important things for me, and I was ignoring the big problems and decisions in my life.  The fact was those decisions weren’t going to just disappear, and I needed to grow up sometime.  Going to Mexico, I would be breaking away from the normal everyday stresses a little more, and be faced with new stresses that would benefit me.  My life is in my own hands, and I realized it.  Here in Mexico my new stresses are learning Spanish, deciding what I want to do with my life, what college I want to go to, and working on my basketball skills.  I am taking this opportunity to the most beneficial as possible.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I am in Mexico right now.  I am writing this in Mexico, after being here for a month already.  I go to a great school by the name of, “Costa,” and I play basketball for their school.  I would say the basketball is not as intense as it is in the U.S, but it has its advantages and I feel as though it is perfect for me and helping me with the things I need improvement on.  The first thing is I run so much more here during practices here, than I do in Illinois.  I’m not going to lie, I hate running, unless it’s with a basketball in my hand, and a purpose.  The first week of practice, I was behind all of the girls, and dying!  The other day I was just telling my mom how my coach had gotten mad at our team for talking, so he made us run.  The weird thing was I liked it! (well not the getting in trouble part), but I ran for  15 minutes, not tired at all, and wanting to run more.  It was the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me, but my endurance is improving, and I love it. 

The other thing that is very different about playing basketball in Mexico is the fact that they play outside.  It may not seem like that big of a deal, and it wasn’t to me at first either, but after playing the first day, I found out real quick that it was a lot harder than I thought.  After running for 30 minutes outside, we played basketball outside with the sun beating down on us, which my body was not used to at all.  The first day after practice, I came home and slept for thirteen hours!  I soon learned I needed to drink more water and eat more.  I had to adjust myself to the new environment and eating. 

Playing outside is also very frustrating for me sometimes, because the ground is dusty and dirty.  I fall all the time, when trying to make a move or sudden change in direction.  At first I was annoyed and very frustrated, but then I saw it as a way to gain more self control with my movements.  I am really hoping to master ball-playing outside, making indoor playing a breeze for me. 

The other really big thing for me about playing basketball here is that it is helping my self confidence big time.  I think I have always had the ability, but difference is now I am not afraid of disappointing anyone, or making mistakes.  I just do as I feel, and try new moves and shots with confidence and no fear.  I went to averaging about 2 to 4 points a game, to now averaging about 12 points a game.  I intend to take this confidence, endurance, and type of play with me when I return back to Illinois with my Bulls Elite Team.

Other than basketball, I am truly having the time of my life here.  I have met the majority of my family, and feel so close to them already.  They have all been so welcoming to me, and help me with everything.  I also of course have to mention, the food here is nothing less than amazing.  I have tried many new things here, and let me to tell you… it’s nothing like “Taco Bell!”   The other thing I absolutely love here is the sun!  The weather is perfect, and I even got to go to the beach the other weekend!  I also go to parties almost every other day!  They are very fun here, and I get to eat good food, meet new people, and dance.  Something I only get to experience about twice a year at home, so I am definitely enjoying myself.  The people are also so incredibly nice here, and I have already made many friends.  As for Spanish, I don’t understand many of my classes right now, and the new language can be very difficult for me, but I am already improving my speaking, and understanding more.  I hope to be almost fluent by the time I leave.  Coming to Mexico is the best decision I have ever made for myself.  It will be the time I grew up and found my true self.  I will carry on the memories and experiences for the rest of my life. 

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