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As part of the This Girl Can Series, we've been catching up with some inspiring women who have found their passion through getting active.

Meet Luisa Degan, former Basketball Club (Women's) President. Her story speaks volumes about the transformative power of sports in reducing stress and forming new friendships. Find the right This Girl Can session for you by signing up to one of our events today.

Luisa Degan, former Basketball Club (Women's) President

Have you ever found barriers that have stopped you from getting active in the past?  

I am very fortunate to not have major barriers that have stopped me from getting active in the past. However, due to lack of opportunities for women’s teams in my age group in my hometown, I had to travel to Luxembourg to play basketball. This location restriction has once been a barrier I had to overcome.  

What motivated you to get active and what activities do you do? 

My brother started playing basketball when we were kids and after trying it out myself a couple of weeks later, I was instantly captivated by the complexity of the sport. In a sport like basketball, it does not matter how long you have been playing for, you can still improve individually and as a team which keeps me motivated even after such a long time of playing. Especially at university, I enjoy being active because it’s a great way to meet new people with similar interests, who you probably would not meet otherwise. Being part of a team and a club also means being part of a community with like-minded people and making friendships that last much longer than your time at university.  My main sport is therefore basketball, with some strength and conditioning on the side. 

Being part of a team and a club also means being part of a community with like-minded people and making friendships..."

Moreover, after experiencing the ups and downs of being a player I started to coach youth teams back home. Fortunately, I was able to continue coaching by taking on a new challenge: coaching some of the UCLWB teams. Although it is quite different from coaching youth players, I genuinely enjoy coaching students and am learning a lot from the experience. The most rewarding part of this is when I see players improve, learn new skills, and develop a passion for the sport on and off court. Being able to play a small part in this and witness a group of players grow and become a team motivates me.  

Juggling exercise with other commitments can be tough. How do you fit exercise into your routine and balance it with other things happening in your life?

As with most team sports, at the beginning of each season, we know exactly when our training sessions are and most of the games will be. That’s very helpful as it’s a regular commitment with fixed training times, so I can plan my week around these, and it helps me to structure my days. It’s good that you don’t have to think about when you want to exercise but you know in advance that certain times of the week will be dedicated to basketball. At the same time, for me, it’s not just a way to exercise but also a lot of fun and a chance to catch up with teammates or spend time with friends. So, for me, basketball is a great way to combine all of this and something I want to make time for every day.  

It transforms a stressful and tiring day to a rewarding, relaxing, and productive day for me..."

Coaching multiple times a week in addition to playing myself can be stressful, but it’s a lot of fun to see both the players and the team develop which makes it all worth it. Every single one of the players that show up to practice and games every week brings so much energy into the sessions, no matter if they played for years before joining the club or have tried the sport for the first time recently. It’s something I look forward to during the week and it keeps me motivated, even when I had a stressful day at university or deadlines are piling up. It can also be a good distraction during those times and am usually a lot more productive after spending a few hours coaching or knowing that I’ll have to dedicate a certain number of hours a week to basketball. 

How does basketball make you feel?

Basketball has the transformative power to make me feel both relaxed and productive. When I am mentally or physically tired after a long day at university, exercising and being physically active is a great way to relax, get my mind off university work and cope with stress.  

Even if basketball takes up a lot of my time during the week, I always look forward to trainings. I always get a lot of energy and encouragement from my teammates, so even if I have had a stressful day, or am in a bad mood before the session; after playing or coaching for a couple of hours, I feel a lot better. It transforms a stressful and tiring day to a rewarding, relax and productive day. For me, basketball has become such a big part of my life that I just can’t imagine not doing it anymore. 

Impact of coronavirus - the coronavirus pandemic had a big impact on the ways in which we were able to exercise. Can you provide us with a short summary of how or if you managed to stay active or how your exercise routine was disrupted during this period? 

As basketball is an indoor team- and contact sport, it was very restricted for a long time. I started university in 2020, so during my first year at UCL, the availability of club activities was very limited due to these restrictions. Having a group of friends to meet up with online and exercise as a group or create running challenges together helped me a lot to stay active. While you could still get some shots up or work on some individual basketball skills alone, it just wasn’t the same as actually playing with a team every day and spending time with my teammates face to face. That’s why it’s great that we are now fully back to playing without restrictions and can just enjoy playing basketball together again.