They say it’s not about the destination but the journey and the people you meet along the way. This is true, especially in sports, and there’s no better example than the longtime friendship of Naperville Central basketball player Natalie Jordan, and team manager, Ana Pohovey.
Ana gets involved with basketball at Naperville Central
Ana has special needs and a love and passion for basketball. The Naperville Central basketball program enables those with special needs to be involved in sports, as they have an essential role on the team. As the team manager, Ana has the typical responsibilities of any manager, such as filling the water cups and bringing out the warmup basketballs. Yet, her impact on the team is much more than the job description, as she is one of the team’s leaders and most meaningful supporters.
“I started to just come to the games daily, and I would always fill the cups of water for the players. My experience with the girls’ basketball team here at Central it’s been really fun because I get to come and support all my friends, including Natalie here. I love to support all my teammates and cheer them on, and I think I bring great team spirit to the team,” said Pohovey.
How Ana and Natalie’s friendship began
Natalie Jordan, a starting guard for the Naperville Central Redhawks, has a special bond with Ana, unlike anyone else on the team. Their friendship goes back to before they stepped on the court.
“I moved here in first grade, and I met Ana because she was in one of my classes in second and third grade. I’ve been involved a lot with the special needs community, especially through basketball. We did basketball at Madison, our middle school, together, and then we also started seeing each other more once I joined the Special Olympics basketball team as an assistant coach. Ana is a phenomenal athlete, and she always likes to push the rest of her teammates, and so I love being involved with her and all the other athletes,” said Jordan.
From the game’s tip-off to the last shot, you can hear Ana from the bench shouting words of motivation and encouragement to her teammates on the floor. Likewise, substituted players are welcomed to the sidelines with high-fives and positive affirmations, as Ana takes immense pride in being at the center of the team’s morale.
A bond beyond basketball that will last a lifetime
Natalie and Ana’s time as Redhawks is coming to a close, as they are both seniors. Yet, the pair continues to cheer and play hard for each other as if it’s their last dance.
“I think that instead of focusing on it, being like a sad moment, just try to take it all in, understand that it is coming to an end. But the most important thing is the friendships that we take away and like the journey that we’ve had as a team and knowing that a lot of the girls have known Ana for a long time, it’s special to have our last season with her,” said Jordan.
“My favorite memory would have to be being able to be on the bench with all my best friends and being able to come out and support them and give them a lot of team spirit. And I give them a lot of hope and a lot of confidence,” said Pohovey.
After graduation in May of 2023, Natalie plans to attend college to pursue special education and elementary education degrees. Ana plans to attend the College of DuPage, where she aims to pursue her passion for working with animals. Yet, as they will go their separate ways to follow their aspirations, the friendship they’ve created and maintained for over a decade will last far beyond the hardwood.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Marcel Francis.