WHEN she pulls on her Casey Cavaliers jersey and takes the court, Ava Beck feels amazing.
The weight of the world lifts off her shoulders and she can focus on the one thing that matters most – solid defending and helping her Casey Basketball Association side get another Melb Utd. VJBL victory.
That’s no easy feat considering the difficult 2016 she’s going through.
Ava, 10, from Berwick, was told earlier this year she had epilepsy after a string of seizures eventually led to a diagnosis.
She’s been in and out of hospital this year, as her doctors try to get her medication balanced and give her the best chance of living uninhibited by her condition.
It’s meant Ava had to spend a lot of time out of class at Berwick Primary School.
School has been difficult this year – often she’s too tired to go – but she finds the energy each week to take the court and it helps boost her spirits and most importantly… she feels better every time she’s out there with her Cavs’ team mates and friends.
“Yeah I still play even if I feel sick,” Ava said. “When I feel all tired and stuff, I still want to play.
“Because I love basketball and playing with my friends.”
She hasn’t had as much energy as she used to, but no matter what getting to training and preparing for Friday night is special and she’ll never let her epilepsy halt her basketball.
Every Friday you’ll find number 63 on court around the state in the Melb Utd. Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) as the dogged defender sticks like glue to her opposition in the Under 12 Girls R2 East competition.
“They like having me in their team and like me playing with them and I just like playing,” Ava said. “I like getting some goals – I normally do defence so I don’t get a lot of goals.”
Basketball is the escape Ava relishes – she puts her thoughts and worries to the side and only thinks about the next play, stopping the next opponent and celebrating properly with her best mates.
“I don’t think about it (her epilepsy) – I just think about playing,” Ava said. “I do feel better when I’m training or playing.
“I don’t like missing training and I’ve got really good coaches who help me get better in my domestic games too.”
She’s made the step up from the Berwick Panthers domestic team and has loved playing MUVJBL and domestic basketball every weekend.
She even got on court for Berwick Primary School with Hoop Time, as her team narrowly missed out on winning its tournament.
“We were in the boys all stars – only three girls and didn’t verse any other girls – and we got to the grand final and we were runners-up,” Ava said.
That love of the game across any competition or grade has given Ava a perfect record – even when it would’ve been easy to sit on the sidelines for a week or take a well-earned breather, she’s not missed a MUVJBL game this year.
The MUVJBL campaign is too important to her – she couldn’t stop until her season was done.
“Basketball is the only thing she’s been able to do for the last few weeks – she hasn’t been able to go to school, but she was able to play,” Ava’s mum Lisa Beck said. “It helps get her out and about and keeps her happy.
“The friends she made as well was really good – during the tryouts she had her first seizures and ever since the 10 girls on the team have been all really good friends, visiting her and sending her cards.
“Now they all know and it doesn’t change her – she just keeps playing basketball.”
Even in between seizures and hospital visits throughout the last few weeks her Cavaliers’ team mates, coaches and everyone in the Casey basketball community have been by her side.
“Last week they wore purple tape around their arms,” Ava said – as they backed their team mate and made a stand for epilepsy awareness.
While she was in hospital, her coach brought around an armful of purple balloons and the team wrote on all of them – messages of hope, well-wishes and most importantly – hope she’d be able to play on Friday night.
“Team spirit is good in basketball at Casey Cavs – and more so when something like this happens you really notice the bond that they have,” Lisa Beck said. “It’s because they see each other so much when they play VJBL or domestic.
“When you see them three or four times a week, you make some really good friends with this.
“The camaraderie with team mates and coaches is amazing – and there have been a lot of them coming to see her in hospital.”
There’s only one thing left for Ava to say as her 2016 Melb Utd. VJBL season wound up on Friday night, following a narrow 23-25 loss to Camberwell.