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I cannot count the number of times I had to jump into the canal to get my ball back
My name is Jacopo Bertotti. I was born in Florence in Italy. When I was only a couple weeks old, our family moved to the Netherlands because of my dad’s job. We lived close to ‘het Westerpark’ in Amsterdam. A really nice neighborhood, very diverse. You would always find me outside hanging out with friends. 

When I was about 9 or 10, I found my passion for basketball. The first court I really considered my own, was right next to my house. It’s called ‘Between the Arch’. A really fun court alongside the canal with one basket and a metal fence around it. There used to be this hole in the fence and the ball would fit right through it. Sometimes after a shot you couldn’t get to the ball quick enough, and it would bounce through. I cannot count the number of times I had to jump into the canal to get my ball back!

By hanging out with all sorts of people I expanded my horizons
In high school it was a challenge for me to find my place. I didn’t really connect with the other kids in school. I felt like they were spoiled, and everything was handed to them. I usually have a better connection with people that have had to struggle and fight a bit to earn their place in life.  

To me, that was a reason to look elsewhere for friends. I gathered a group of guys around me, all with different backgrounds. Just like me. We acted a lot tougher than we really were, even though the other kids never seemed too impressed by us. 

By hanging out with all sorts of people I expanded my horizons. From those experiences and friendships, I learned what works for me, which had a huge influence on me as a person. Now I get along with anyone and I respect them for who they are.

There is nothing I can do about my height, but I change the way I play
Being disciplined and never giving up is in my DNA. When I started focusing more on basketball that came in handy! On the court I am very often one of the smaller players, so I have always had to deal with guys being taller than me. I used to think that being an excellent shooter would set me apart. Now I know there is always going to be a taller guy that has just as good a shot me, so I need to be a more versatile player. I realize that there is nothing I can do about my height, but I can do something about the way I play. 

A strong defense has now become a major part of my game. I can challenge my opponent, so they start making mistakes. I also got much better in reading my opponent, knowing how to rattle their cage a little. In the past I would be useless to the team if I wouldn’t land my shots. Now I focus on other parts of the game to still be an asset to the team. 

It has been a process. It still is. I think I should work on my mindset the most. Sometimes I am very tough on myself, to the point where I really take myself out of the game. I have noticed that when I focus a little less on the things that aren’t going the way I want them to; a bad start of the game doesn’t mean I can’t be great the rest of the game. 

3X3 feels like family
3X3 boosted my confidence a ton! Confidence in my game, but also confidence in that I am a talented player and person! When I first experienced the game through 3X3 UNITES, it felt like one big family right away. I am proud to be a part of it. I wanted to seize opportunities and 3x3 UNITES gave me plenty of them. It was up to me to make those opportunities count. 

Of course, it wasn’t always fun to wake up at 6 in the morning to put together courts for events, but I knew if I paid my dues, it would create new opportunities. Last summer, I was building courts for the PRO League when I was asked to take a spot on one of the teams. It really felt like a reward for my hard work. I immediately said yes, but then I also wanted to prove myself. I wasn’t just warming the bench, I had to prove I was an addition to the team. After four weeks of games we even made it to the finals! At this moment, I am working on motivating other great players to play 3x3 and to make sure that they understand part of the game is giving something back. 

Success to me is fully living up to your potential
My definition of success probably isn’t the same as that of someone else. This is how I see it: everyone has his own ladder. How high up on that ladder you manage to get is what defines success for me. When I reach the end of my ladder, I am just as successful as someone else that reached the end of his. For one person the end of the ladder is playing at the Olympics, for another it is playing in the Dutch Basketball League. 

I know I am ready to seize opportunities and to give it my all! If last year taught me anything, it is that hard work does pay off.

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