One of my earliest memories as an athlete occurred when I was playing 2ndgrade basketball in a small gym near my house in Cleveland. Along with my parents, my grandparents we’re attendance. My recollection isn’t completely clear, but I know that it was a pretty close game when I caught an in-bounds pass. I immediately ran up the court full speed and instead of taking a lay-up, something gave me the audacity to take a pull-up 3 pointer. It was the longest shot attempt of my career at that time and it was a relatively clutch situation. I drained the shot, held my follow through, and skipped down the court like I was the man! My granny stood up and shouted, “WOOOO GO SPENCER!”, as she jumped up and down and pumped her fist. It wasn’t long before I saw the look on the face of my coach that I realized that I made the shot on the other team’s basket. We went on to lose the game by single digits, but I don’t recall feeling that bad after the fact. It was clear that my granny was still proud of me and she was still celebrating even though I basically scored negative 3 points that day. That moment summed up how it went for the rest of my career; no matter what sport I was playing or how good or bad I played, I always had family there for me cheering me on.
From that point on the Williams family always showed out at every event. They take showing love to a whole new level and there’s never a doubt who my family members are at my games. They are typically the loudest in the vicinity and they probably wearing matching colors as whatever team I’m on. My family is the type that will shout, “WOO! That’s my baby grandson!” at a graduation even after they’ve clearly been asked to hold their applause. Growing up, immediate friends and family would show up in bunches to my games and they would adamantly encourage me no matter what the outcome. I’ve had aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, all witness when I played like absolute trash and when I had my shining moments…but ultimately, they were always there for me.
Since middle school, after every game I could expect 10-20 people at my house offering advice and hot takes on whatever game I played that day. In college I had car loads of family and friends traveling over an hour to my games or if they couldn’t make it, there was always watch parties back home. I’ve had countless moments on the court that I wish I could have back but knowing that there were so many people that were proud of me allowed for me to keep my head up and keep going. I didn’t just have a parent or two supporting me, I had a whole village of people who had my back and they are the reason I am lucky enough to be in the position that I am in. My family has always been unapologetically supportive and that is why I am proud of where I am from and I aspire to represent them to the best of my ability. So, shout out to the Williams gang back home!
The two leaders of my Cleveland fan squad are my two parents. They both have different ways of showing it but ultimately, they both want me to succeed probably more than they want their own success. Both of them are incredible role models and both of them have gone out of their way since I picked up basketball to make sure that I am in a position to thrive. My dad is one that is probably my biggest critic and my biggest fan. Since grade school basketball he’s been the loudest one in the gym and shout things on the court like “Stop feeling sorry for yourself!” and “Be mentally tough!” It seemed harsh at the time but in hindsight, he was typically right and even then he was always the main one crying like a baby when I did reach success. He’s known for keeping it real so when he says he proud than I know it’s the truth.
* Side note: In the above photograph, the man on the far left isn’t my dad or my uncle, he’s my brother and he’s only two years older than me but people tend to see the bald head and get confused. The lovely lady in the middle with the gold and black headband is my mom. The women to the right of her is my granny who was shouting at my 2nd grade game. The man on the right wearing gold is my dad. All others pictured are a mixture of grandparents, uncles and family friends.
My mom is my inspiration. She always puts others before herself anyway but growing up she would jump through hoops getting me to games, practice, and training sessions no matter how far or what time it was. Whenever I failed, she is the first person to pick me up and urge me to keep going. She pushes me to become better all the time and more importantly, she made sure I was healed and extremely well fed before and after every event. In my college hoops days she would always send a quick message that ended with “You got this!”…even when I wasn’t sure if I did. Her belief in me is off the charts and I most definitely would not be where I am today without her. So, between the two of them it was nice balanced dynamic that helped me embrace the importance of staying humble enough to be accountable, and resilient enough to remain confident through the tough times.
I say all of this to say that I know how much my family’s love and guidance have shaped me and helped me reach my goals. I know most kids don’t have half the amount of support I had and therefore, they might have missed out on all the benefits that it can bring. That is why my role as a Victory Scholar is so crucial. It gives us the opportunity to give back to the game that has given us all so much. It puts me in a position to pass on the lessons and assets that my family has instilled in me through the years. It allows us the opportunity to be that inspiration and guiding force that some of the youth here might be lacking. We can’t necessarily do things like drive them to practice but I know from experience that knowing that somebody has your back and is rooting for you can go a long way. My family has made an undeniable difference on my life and I’m glad Sport Changes Life has enabled me to do the same across the pond.