Young people could learn much from a former Australian representative whose early athletic aspirations did not unfold as once thought.
Jarrod Fryar's story is not so much a cautionary tale, but it is an illustration of the importance of having back-up plans in life and not putting all of one's proverbial eggs in a single basket. It is also a story of reembracing one's hometown. Mr Fryar, now 28, was on the verge of sporting stardom having represented Australia with aplomb as vice-captain of the Under 17 Australian basketball side in the 2010 world championships.
In order to fulfil his national commitment over a decade ago, Mr Fryar missed eight weeks of Year 12 studies. There were regular trips to Canberra for training; the sessions would run Monday to Thursday and he would return to school for Friday's classes. Further tournament preparation unfolded in Serbia. The competition itself occurred in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2010.
"We didn't know what to expect. We didn't know what team in our pool would be a standout," Mr Fryar said, reflecting on the time.
"The first game, we played Poland (ranked #20) and we were ranked #7. They beat us by about fifteen or twenty points, a brutal, rough start to the tournament. They were probably the second-best team there."
The Australian team did bounce back, only losing to North American power Canada by a few points. A number of victories followed, including a notable one against China, before succumbing to eventual winner, the USA.
For the charismatic sportsman, the possibilities of playing at higher levels were there for all to see and US college basketball was unquestionably on the radar.
However, years of intense focus on the game was not without consequence.
"Because I'd done so much basketball - training before school, training after school - I'd been burning the candle at both ends. I was burnt out. I wanted to have a bit of a break," Mr Fryar said.
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Mr Fryar stayed in Ballarat at the end of 2010. He kept one hand in a familiar field, while also experimenting with another pursuit of his youth. Two pre-seasons were simultaneously completed, one with the Ballarat Miners basketball side and one with the then-North Ballarat Rebels football side.
Mr Fryar took the plunge and pursued an AFL dream. He remains realistic about the journey.
"(The Rebels) tried me as a key position player down forward with some pinch-hitting in the ruck, but I didn't play consistently enough for the year," Mr Fryar said.
"A few (AFL) clubs had spoken to me, but there wasn't anything concrete.
"I probably wasn't going to get drafted or rookie-listed.
"It didn't pan out like I had planned. I wasn't quite tall enough (for the ruck); I didn't have the same game sense.
"My options at the end of the year (2011) were do I play VFL and try to play with the Roosters (in the VFL) and see if I can make my way in there or do I go back to basketball?"
Remaining grounded and mature, Mr Fryar took on a Bachelor of Education at Deakin University in Melbourne. He would start basketball again, but this time it would complement his life rather than be his major commitment in life.
"I focused on 'Plan B' which was to be a teacher and, if basketball picked up again, I'd make the adjustment," Mr Fryar said.
Mr Fryar benefited from the greater balance day-to-day and had success in the different aspects of his life.
He made the under-20 state basketball team in 2012, captaining it, and leading the side to a gold medal. Leadership was also taken on with the Melbourne Tigers' second team, before a few seasons were played with Eltham.
Having completed his tertiary studies at Ballarat's Federation University, the now-qualified Mr Fryar taught Physical Education and History at Doncaster Secondary College for three years. It was during this tenure, he discovered his passion for coaching basketball.
It is a passion he has brought back to town, having returned with his fiance, Jasmine, to live and work in 2021.
Being from Ballarat, we had a connection to the cityJarrod Fryar
"Coaching is where I've found my calling," Mr Fryar said.
"I've really enjoyed it. As a player, I was never world-class at one aspect. That's probably why I never pushed on and played professionally. It was something I was not destined to do. I don't have any regrets about anything I've done.
"I'm really happy that I can use what I have learnt my whole junior life and I can start to put it into somewhere I really enjoy.
"My mum said to me, 'It's almost like you did an apprenticeship for ten years or so. You've got all of these skills and knowledge and understanding and you've got nothing to do with it anymore'. Coaching is an outlet to use this knowledge and skill. I'm really excited about it.
Now based back home, Mr Fryar is well-placed. As well as teaching and coaching, he is thriving as a senior player at Newlyn in the Central Highlands, having been lured there by old school mate, Dan Wehrung.
"Dan Wehrung called me and said, 'Do you want to come and play football at Newlyn (in 2017)'? Mr Fryar said.
"Of all the sports clubs I've been a part of, Newlyn has been the most welcoming and enjoyable to be around. It is run very well from the top down and all the people there are fantastic."
The pull of Ballarat was irresistible for Mr Fryar and Jasmine.
"Being from Ballarat, we had a connection to the city," Mr Fryar said.
"Our families have lived here for a long time. We are excited to be back to be close to them. It's an affordable place to live; it has great schools; and great working opportunities."
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