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No Days Off

Natalie Nakase shares her basketball story to inspire other young women.

Natalie NakaseNatalie Nakase is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts as an AAPI Women leader.

In September, I began working for the Los Angeles Clippers as an intern video coordinator. The duties and responsibilities are assisting our head video coordinator and our coaching staff. Each day, the video staff and I break down film of our opponents, which helps prepare our team for games, and we also pass and rebound for the players on the court. The job demands long hours, mostly watching tape, which is perfect because studying other NBA teams is the fastest way to learn the league. I am fortunate to be learning from a hard-working staff, one that also values teaching and mentoring. In the coming years, I see myself coaching on an NBA staff. In order to make this dream a reality, I am committing myself to learning something new every day. I must challenge myself, each day, to do something I fear or am reluctant to try.

I know from observing our coaches during practice that I have so much to learn; yet I couldn’t be in a better place to do so. I believe our head coach and staff, Vinney Del Negro, Bobby Ociepka, Robert Pack, Marc Iavaroni, Dave Severns, Howard Eisley, Raman Sposato, and Bob Thate are some of the hardest-working coaches in the NBA. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity they have given me. I also believe the way my parents raised me helped prepare me for an NBA environment. At a young age, I was trained to work hard every day. My dad might as well have this motto: No Days Off. He works weekends and rarely takes a vacation day. He engrained in his kids that summers were for off-season training, not for vacation. My dad is also passionate about basketball – watching and playing. Obviously, his obsession eventually became mine.

Since I was a little girl, my personality has always been to take the tougher route. I enjoy taking on challenges and never wanted to do something that was easy. The way I see it, the more difficult, the better.

After college, I played two years in the National Women's Basketball League, becoming the league’s first Asian American player. Later, I had the opportunity to play and coach professional basketball overseas in Germany. Afterward, I became the first female assistant in a professional men's league in Japan. The next year, my second in Japan, I became the first female head coach in a professional men's league.

I always tell myself, “Everything happens for a reason.” I don't believe in luck; I subscribe to the age-old saying, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” When I was in Japan, I worked with former NBA head coach Bob Hill, who taught me to always be prepared for the next step. That is now part of my lifestyle: eyes up, ready for the next challenge. I am blessed to have discovered my passion, and also to have the ability to do it everyday. I wake up feeling grateful and enjoy every second of my work. I feel the NBA is where I belong.

It has been a humbling experience to be recognized for these accomplishments. I really hope my work has inspired young women to go after their dreams – no matter what the situation may be. The more at risk, the better! At the end of the day, I am not afraid to fail. I've failed numerous times before. It happens, but you've got to keep trying and believing in yourself. I believe I can create my own world. And I believe I can make any situation my reality.

Natalie Nakase is a video coordinator intern with the L.A. Clippers.