A jack of all trades: Serika Shillingsworth

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A guard in basketball, wide receiver in gridiron, centre in rugby league, forward in AFL and goal-keeper in soccer – there is nothing that the talented Serika Shillingsworth can’t do. We sat down with the Flames hopeful to understand what drives her sporting passion and why it is such a major part of her life.

Looking at your sporting resume, we can see basketball, gridiron, AFL, rugby league and most recently soccer on your list. Is there any sport you don’t like?

No, I like everything. I like to give everything a go. I would play anything when it is in season. My heart definitely lies in basketball though. I started playing it at the age of six and ever since then I’ve fallen in love with the game. It’s the first sport I ever played.


What elements of the game make you more drawn to basketball?

Just the thrill of the game and how fast-paced it is. Going up and down and having to be on your feet, I really enjoy that speed. Because I know that game the most, it’s such a mind-game and that’s what really got me engaged with the sport. You have to think quick on your feet and the decisions I make aren’t always great, but I guess that will come with time through more training and playing.


You’ve spent time in the Flames program as part of the Sydney Uni Sparks. How has your involvement with them developed your game?

It’s been a huge help playing with people that have a lot of experience and learning from people like Karen Dalton (Flames General Manager) and the coaches, as well as the girls that play. It was a big leap from being in juniors when I was 17 and moving into the Sparks program and then the Flames. I’ve learnt to have patience when I’m playing and have a bit more poise. I’ve been doing a lot of gym work, working on my quick feet and hands which is pretty much everything you need for basketball. My education around basketball has grown vastly and I’ve learnt many things which I didn’t think I needed until now.


Do you have your sights on suiting up for the Flames one day in the WNBL?

The Flames is such a big goal for me and hopefully I get to wear that jersey sometime soon.


You traded the hoops for a pair of gloves at the FISU University World Cup in China. I understand it was your first time playing goal-keeper, was it a nervous experience and what was racing through your head when you got the call?

I was at home when Karen Dalton called me and said ‘do you want to go to China to play soccer?’ I told her that I hadn’t played keeper before but if they needed someone then I was keen. It was about a week-and-a-half before the trip and I had never been overseas before so I had to rush around and get everything done. I was just excited to go overseas, see another country and meet a new group of friends.

I remember walking up to John Curran, our coach, and telling him half-an-hour before our game that we needed to go through the rules before kick-off. He told me to put your body on the line and that is exactly what I did. I did two training sessions with a keeper-coach and then I rocked up to the airport and met the team for the first time. I got taught the basics in those sessions like how to fall, how to catch the ball and keep one hand behind the ball to stop it.


You are a proud Indigenous person and are vocal about your heritage and community. How important has sport become for the Indigenous culture?

Sport has a special way of getting all cultures together and not many people know about Indigenous country, especially people coming from overseas, so playing basketball while getting to know girls that don’t know about that stuff gives me a chance to really show them what our culture is like. For me that means a lot because I like telling people about my culture and it gives me a platform to voice myself.


You are pursuing a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Sydney. What drove you to this degree?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at university, so my plan was to go, see what I liked and figure it out from there. I’ve changed my major about two or three times but I think I have finally found what I want to do. I started with Psychology, then I moved to Socio-Legal and now I’m in my current major which I’m really enjoying.


Beyond sport, what does Serika Shillingsworth do to keep herself busy?

My family and I all do a bit of art and so at the moment we are trying to help with the drought appeal in north-western NSW. We do our art to build up funds and make sure that people are getting fresh water which is something that is really important to me.