Alumni: Dominic Norton Q&A

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Dominic Norton represented Youngbloods at Junior National Level for several years, eventually moving on to Barking Abbey Basketball Academy and then took his trade to the United States of America at Tuskegee University. During his time at Youngbloods he represented the England Basketball Junior National Team playing an average 25.6 minutes at the 2010 FIBA Europe U16 Men Division B Championship.

What has been the most interesting/exciting experience in Basketball?

There hasn’t been a single most interesting lesson that I have learned. They have all been a compilation of experiences that have contributed to the person I am today. However, there are three major lessons that I have found interesting. They concern what my college coach called “the big little things”. Although I’m putting my own twist on this idea I found it interesting that no matter how far you go you can never substitute these two things.

There’s no substitute for family.

As previously stated, I grew up within the Youngblood’s organization, as did many of my teammates. We have shared best of times and worst of times. It wasn’t until I got to college and seriously learned the business of sport that I truly appreciated the coaches and teammates that I knew truly cared about me and our collective success. We don’t talk all the time, but you can be sure I think about them a lot. The times during my freshmen and sophomore year when I was missing the familiarity of everything I grew up with I took pride in the fact that I was a Youngbloods player. That holds weight, or at least it should to every player, past and present, of the organization. That means you carry yourself with respect and dignity, you treat others with the same respect you would treat one of your coaches and that especially means no matter how much somebody may try to break you down or hinder your success you fight through it because that’s what we do.

There’s no substitute for hard work.

If you think getting out of London, England or even Europe is making it, it’s not. At every new level you start from the bottom again and must make your way to the top. You may be told that all you must do is work hard and you’ll get everything you want. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true of life. However, you must assume you won’t be given any handouts. So, work hard work extremely hard; not for the national team coach or for your parents but do it for yourself. The chances are not only will you not receive any handouts but they odds will be stacked against you. By the way, champions thrive in those conditions to be the champion you were raised to be.

Working hard isn’t easy, you may be homeless, sick, broke and everything seems like it’s going against you. This game is a marathon, not a sprint, so persevere. Many players in their younger years excel and show huge promise to only burn out later in their career. Stick to the plan over the long run and come out on top.

I want to make this abundantly clear, not everybody has to work hard in the same way. You may spend every second working on your game and never be given the opportunity. That is what you signed up for. Players ahead of you may abuse and not appreciate their position and responsibility. This should not affect your work ethic and professional mental attitude.

What way did your time at Youngblood’s influence you?

There are a countless number of ways I can answer this question but believe right now the answer that will bring you the most value is that Youngblood’s provided me with space where I could develop and find myself. As an athlete this is very important, many players reduce their playing time because they do more than they can or attempt to play outside of their role. In life, this is even more important. Youngblood’s helped me develop confidence in myself when teachers were telling me I wouldn’t be anything. I had teachers literary laugh at me when I told them I wanted to go to America to play basketball. Coaches that cut me from teams for just not being good enough. You do have a family but at the end of the day only you can truly help yourself, you must believe in your abilities when everybody is saying you can’t. I learned that with Youngbloods, with Coach Caroline, Stephen, Emma, Patsy and Kenrick. This is not only true with basketball but with life.

Is there anywhere in the club/in London that holds any special memories of your basketball days with us, or do you have a favourite memory of your time at Youngbloods?

The interesting thing is that, for me, the special memories was never the times we won championships or even the times we had motivational talks after we lost. That is never what kept me at Youngbloods. It was the smaller things that I favoured most. I remember after Under 15 national league games talking about our goals and promising Stephen that I will go to America and play college basketball and be someone that won’t be easily forgotten. He always held me to a higher standard whether it was a future aspiration or the difficulty of a drill. I remember being 12 and practising fade away jump shots after Saturday practice in East Ham Leisure Center and Emma teaching me the mechanics despite not wanting me to shoot fade away jump shots. I remember begging Caroline to let me attend Tuesday practice when I was too young, and too small for the under 15/16 but saying “ok, but if you get hurt it’s not my fault” then helping me get stronger and faster to the point where I can compete and excel. These were the most important memories to me, memories I replayed in my head after a bad practice in college to make me feel better.

What advice would you give to students/alumni for success in life after Youngbloods?

First, there is no life after Youngbloods. You are always a part of the Youngblood’s family and that is your strength. Many teams and players in the States or even in London do not have the type of relationships we have at Youngbloods. The advice I would give doesn’t differ much from the advice given to me by the coaches at Youngbloods and different clubs across London.

Don’t follow the crowd

I think the coaches beat this into me to the point of exhaustion. This can be used in many ways, but all are extremely important. One bad decision can change your whole life so decision making is crucial. Not everybody that is with you is for you so your so-called friends are not the ones you should be taking advice from in most cases.

Remember those that helped you

It’s funny that you hear a lot of successful people are “self-made” but once you study their story you learn many people impacted their lives in unimaginable ways. This is no different for me. Every single London coach, official, fan wanted to see me succeed, that is rare especially the older you get. You may not ever be able to return the favour, however, pay it forward. You will almost certainly get the opportunity to help someone else even when it’s inconvenient. When they have that opportunity and are faced with the decision to give more or less always give more and remember those that helped you.

Find Mentors

The people you have around you are extremely important. Most of my time is spent around people who possess qualities that I would like to inhabit. By learning how they carry themselves and approach certain areas of life it helps me avoid the mistakes they’ve made.

Study the Game

The game is played between the ears so develop the ability to think the game. How far you go is not only dependent on your athletic ability but also your character. It’s important to take the time to consistently improve all aspects of the game. Read the books! Watch the film, not just the highlights. This leads to a larger topic of working on your craft. No matter where you find yourself, you have to take your time to study that topic to be the best you can be.

Who/what has been most inspirational to you in your life?

Failure. It may sound weird, but I get a lot of comments in college about being an overachiever and that everything just comes easy for me. My advantage is I have failed more times than people have tried and with every failure, I learn and grow. Every time I’ve been cut from a team, I went back home and worked harder on my game and carried that chip on my shoulder.  The same goes for when I haven’t been given minutes, receive bad test scores or any experience that didn’t pan out as I desired. I learned to “fail fast and fail forward”, that means I wasn’t scared of a challenge and not living up to my own expectations. As long as I learned from it quickly I knew I can always keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to students/alumni for success in life after Youngbloods?

I have accomplished nothing except being the son my Mum prayed she would raise, the brother my sister wanted to look up to and the friend my friends are proud to have.