For adult athlete Rachael Pelly, basketball is akin to reuniting with a long-lost love. Something she had fond memories of from her past but stashed away for years, only to rekindle the relationship many years later in adulthood.

Rachael immediately fell in love with playing basketball as a kid in Australia. The sister of two older siblings who played basketball and the daughter of parents who were competitive squash players, it was only natural for Rachael to get into sports, too.

“By the time I was born, my brother and sister were already playing basketball,” recalls Rachael. “So my fate was set in that, but I come from a very sporty family.”

Besides basketball, Rachael also dabbled in soccer and surfing. In her twenties, she played a little social rugby and netball.

young girl holding a javelin in one arm as if ready to throw
Rachael trying javelin as a kid

Full Circle Return To Basketball–And Motivating Others

Despite the family genes, Rachael doesn’t consider herself a gifted athlete who could have turned pro. Instead, she calls herself “kind of sporty.” 

It’s a moniker many of us adult athletes can relate to. And it’s what Rachael chose to use for her new venture to inspire other adults like her. Rachael’s Instagram, Kind of Sporty, offers beginner tips for adults who might otherwise be intimidated to try sports.

What made Rachael decide to use her experience with re-entering sports as an adult to motivate others? Here’s the backstory.

Inspiration From 80-Year-Olds

Rachael earned a degree in clinical exercise physiology and also a certification as a personal trainer. Upon graduation, she began working with the older population, but most of her work was theoretical and did not involve actively working in sports.

Rachael was counseling her elderly clients to do more physically than they thought they were capable of doing. 

“Society discounts the older population, and they discount themselves,” says Rachael. “Being able to guide them to do more physically and seeing the joy that comes with it, it’s wonderful.”

She realized the conversations she was having with her clients were the same ones she was having with her friends.

“I started hearing the same language among my friends in their thirties, saying things like ‘I used to play soccer, but I could never do that again.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re saying the same thing as my 80-year-old clients!”

In a pot-calling-the-kettle-black moment, Rachael realized the same applied to her. She could no longer ignore the nostalgia of playing basketball that had never truly left her.

Rachael’s Triumphant(ish) Return To Basketball

Over 30s basketball team with four men and two women holding up a "Champions" sign.
Rachael in her adult basketball league

So, after a long hiatus from basketball between her teenage years and her thirties, Rachael picked up the rubber ball that had been gathering dust and realized how much she missed playing. She started off by shooting and dribbling on her own at a basketball court.

IDA soccer cleats Scheels ad

Shortly after practicing on her own, she went on a recon mission to check out a local league.

“I just went and watched them play a little to do a vibe check, and then I decided to sign up as an individual where they place you on a team,” explains Rachael.

Her return didn’t go quite as she envisioned.

Rachael recalls thinking, “‘I can shoot a basketball. I can dribble-ish. I’ll just get started and pick it up as I go,’ but it was really fast-paced, and I didn’t do a very good job of picking it up as I went.”

While her teammates were encouraging, Rachael knew her skills were a bit rusty, and she didn’t fully understand basketball rules. So, she was proactive and hired a couple of basketball coaches to train her. The coaches were familiar with working with adults, but Rachael left the sessions feeling like something was missing.

“I learned all these cool skills and things I wasn’t able to do two years prior, but I still didn’t know the fundamentals,” she says.

Back To Basics

It wasn’t until watching her five-year-old daughter’s introductory basketball practice that it clicked. Rachael noticed she was listening intently to her daughter’s coach and learning more than during her own private coaching sessions.

“I’m watching and thinking, ‘Ooh, that’s a great move.’ And I would incorporate it into my own game the next week. It was such basic stuff, but you realize there’s a lot of assumed knowledge [from those who coach adults],” says Rachael.

Coaches who work with adults don’t always start with the absolute basics of basketball or other sports, which many beginner adult athletes need, but are sometimes hesitant to vocalize for fear of looking foolish. (Note: Never be afraid to let a coach know if you don’t understand something. Most will happily explain anything if you ask for more guidance–otherwise, they shouldn’t be coaching). 

Passing It On Through Social Media

woman sitting cross legged on ground holding a basketball on her lap
Just a girl and her basketball

Rachael thought if she, as someone who played basketball as a kid, felt intimidated upon returning to the game, others likely felt the same. Thus, Kind of Sporty was born on Instagram earlier this year. Using social media to help others was the perfect way for Rachael to combine her professional experience with her personal experiences as an adult athlete to help others.

Edge Spray ad 300x250

She says she draws inspiration from the content already created to teach sports tips to kids and reframes it in a way that will appeal to adults who are beginning their journey into sports. Rachael also watches beginners playing sports to see what they might struggle with, and she’ll incorporate that into her content by creating tips on correcting those common mistakes.

Whereas much advice, even for beginners, is typically built on somewhat of a knowledge foundation, Rachael tries to start from absolute ground zero. The intent behind her Instagram account is to make sports more approachable for those who feel trepidation. She hopes building the basics will encourage adults to eventually get out there and play the sport that appeals to them–whatever their age.

Rachael also gets messages from parents of kids who play sports who appreciate her simple explanation of some topics. While those parents might not intend to play sports themselves, they learn how to understand their child’s sport better.

Go Ahead. subscribe.
(You know you want to)

As much as we like you, we aren’t obsessed, so don’t expect us to write everyday. You’ll just get notified about good stuff.

P.S. We’re totally okay with you stalking us, though.

Advice To Adults Who Want To Play Sports But Are Intimidated

Rachael and I share a common goal: the advancement of adults playing sports. While Adults Play Sports perhaps covers more of a broad swath of content for adult athletes of all skill levels, Rachael’s niche focuses solely on the beginner adult athlete.

“It’s about helping people to get confident and capable enough to step out on the court and fit enough to stay out there. It covers skills, knowledge, and physical preparedness,” explains Rachael.

Rachael’s advice to adults on the fence about getting into sports later in life? “I totally get it. As adults, we don’t put ourselves in many situations where we’re learning something new and are exposed to that feeling of failure. We get really comfortable with being comfortable.” 

She continues, “As soon as you accept you’re going to suck at something initially, and once you persist through that, it turns the fear into an enormous amount of pride and success.”

Rachael concludes that once you’ve become a better adult athlete, you should show grace to the next generation of adult beginners by encouraging them in their efforts to learn a new sport.

Be sure to follow Kind Of Sporty on Instagram so you don’t miss out on any of Rachael’s content! And be sure to check out our sports directory to find an adult basketball or other sports league near you.