Laura Hodges: ‘Adelaide has always been home’
Born and raised in Adelaide, Laura Hodges has done virtually everything in her basketball career – she’s a four-time Olympian, a World Champion, and a long-time player with her home state team, Adelaide Lightning.
The SA superstar went One on One with Grady Hudd to reflect on her decorated career, life as a new mum, and her impending return to the court.
Grady Hudd: Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing and how you first got into basketball? You were born in Adelaide, is that right?
Laura Hodges: For me, basketball was the last sport I started playing.
I was a pretty shy kid and really struggled to start new things.
Swimming was my first sport – so, just at a local club near my house now, at Unley swimming pool – and the reason I started that was because I broke my leg as a kid.
I was a bit uncoordinated and broke it jumping on a trampoline.
I didn’t fall off, but I was trying to do a trick that I shouldn’t have been doing, and trying to copy an older sister who was a lot more coordinated than me.
After I got the cast off, I struggled to walk and the physio said I needed to get into the pool, so that was my first sport.
I think my parents loved it because swimming burned my energy and I was a kid who was really hyperactive.
So, I got really into club swimming – a lot of early mornings, and afternoons – and then netball was my second sport, I loved netball, and I did lots of sports at school.
Then, my two older sisters started at Sturt Sabres and my parents thought it would be something that would be local and really easy, because the old Sturt stadium was just up the road.
I would go out to trainings, and I’m a lot taller than my siblings, so the coaches thought I should play, but I just didn’t want to try because I loved netball and basketball looked too hard.
After about a year of watching my sisters play, one coach just dragged me onto the court and said ‘you need to try’ and I was a bit hesitant, and then my dad bribed me with a Mars bar.
I was about nine-years-old and liked my sweets, so I did the first training session, and loved it.
We had a basketball ring in the backyard, but when it came to my first game, which was at South Stadium in under 12s, I really didn’t want to go out onto the court, so it was a little bit embarrassing.
My sister had to hold my hand; I was literally warming up holding my sister’s hand and she was thinking ‘how are you going to play a basketball game, I’m not allowed on the court’.
The first five or six games I don’t even think I touched the basketball because I was so nervous, and then one day it just clicked and I did a full court lay-up and then had the confidence from then on.
GH: So, was there a bit of sibling rivalry with your two older sisters growing up, particularly with basketball?
LH: No, it wasn’t really like that.
When I started basketball, as soon as I’d get home from school we were definitely outside practicing until it went dark.
During winter was always a struggle, and we’d end up turning on car lights and things like that to try and stay out there for as long as we could.
But I was actually quite fortunate, I’m obviously the youngest and my next oldest sister and I, we played in each other’s teams every second year and we even got into a few state teams and played state together.
She was the point guard, and I was the freak of the family – my grandma was really tall – but she was blonde and quite short.
So, when we’d go to state (competitions) and had the same names on our back, no one would actually believe we were sisters.
Being a shy person growing up, if I didn’t have two older sisters who loved trying new things, and were really encouraging, I wouldn’t have done what I’ve done today.
GH: And you’ve always lived in Adelaide after growing up here?
LH: Yep, I was born in Adelaide.
(I grew up) in lower Mitcham – well, it’s actually Clapham – so just near the Mitcham shopping centre and the old Sturt stadium, which was in Colonel Light Gardens, and my parents still have that house but have now moved down to Normanville.
So, that’s another place we always love to be.
As much as I’ve lived overseas for about 10 years of my life, I’ve just always loved Adelaide and it doesn’t matter where I go, I think we’re very lucky to have a state like we do, with beautiful beaches and wineries.
I think also the fact I met my husband (Tim Hodges) at 18-years-old, and we’ve been together for over 16 years now, I think it’s always brought me back because we both love South Australia.