Some may think that a kid growing up with a physical disability should find a new dream. I was always told wheelchair basketball won't pay the bills. But, me being as stubborn as I am, that dream never went away and I am living it today!
For those who don't know me very well, my name is Matt Scott. I'm a 23 year-old wheelchair basketball player born and raised in Michigan. I was born with a birth defect called spina bifida, and I have an undying love for the game of basketball. That love has helped me get a college education (I attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where I also won three collegiate wheelchair basketball national championships) and led me all over the world. I have played on two U.S. Paralympic Teams in both Athens and Beijing and now I'm living halfway across the globe, playing professional wheelchair basketball!
I arrived in Istanbul, Turkey on October 6th and it has been nothing short of an amazing experience ever since I landed. A lot of people that I talked to about coming to Turkey seemed very concerned about my safety and worried I wouldn't be able to get used to the culture. Although I didn't know much about the country previous to my arrival, I was not ready to judge before I experienced it for myself. WOW is all I can say! I love it here.
The city of Istanbul is beautiful and huge! More than 15 million people live here. It is such a big city that it is broken up into old and new Istanbul. There is old Istanbul which is very beautiful because of the ancient architecture, beautiful mosques and lots of cultural buildings and art. It is breathtaking checking out old Istanbul. Then, there is new Istanbul which is extremely modern. Countless numbers of tall gorgeous buildings, numerous shopping malls that are huge and have very nice things to buy, The Marmara Sea is minutes from my new apartment and it is very pleasing to the eye. I live in the more modern part of the city with a mall in arms reach of my place.
The adjustment to the culture has been easy for me. The traditional foods include mostly meat which makes me happy; however if I want something that reminds me of home I look no further than the food court at the mall which has a Burger King, McDonald's (those things are everywhere!) and KFC, I even saw a 7-11 on my way home from practice yesterday! Turkey is amazing.
The people here are extremely generous and helpful. I feel right at home. I have trouble communicating with people outside of my team, though. Almost everyone affiliated with my team from management all the way to the athletes speaks English pretty well, so communicating with them has been a breeze and they help out a lot when it comes to communicating with others. As far as basketball goes - it's a universal game! I am adjusting well to my teammates and have earned their respect in the short time I've been here. This is an amazing experience!
I am well taken care of here with a beautiful two bedroom apartment and a four door car that suits me just fine. The area I live in is very safe and seems to be a popular spot with the mall and sea being so close by. We play our first games next weekend and have a huge competition in Japan in mid-November. Until then I will be "doing my job."
I am in the gym everyday with the team for a few hours in the afternoon, followed by an hour or so of my own personal workouts. The trainer joins me for my weightlifting program and pays close attention to my technique, and provides guidance and motivation. Then, I eat lunch at the club's cafeteria which serves something different everyday. After lunch, I usually tag along with my teammates to one of the malls in the area or drive around the city to become more familiar with my surroundings. Some evenings we scrimmage against other nearby Turkish teams and soon we will begin a second team practice in the evenings. After all this is over, I'm free to do as I please. Wander the city, grab some food or rest up for the next day at the office! This is a dream come true.