It has been too long but the Dream Chaser series is BACK and better than ever! This month we meet someone who had a love for a game and created her own lane and is on a mission, to spread her love of the game to others and prove that you really can do anything with a good plan and work ethic. What if you were born with a condition that should prevent you from playing sports among other things? But instead of accepting it, you figure out how to overcome it and along the way you fall in love with basketball. The story gets better you come up with the idea of getting a portable basketball hoop and drag it from city to city to challenge people 1-on-1. Sounds crazy right? Or is it brilliant? Oh, and when she plays, she is playing on TWO sprained ankles! But ball is life and we do what we got to do for things we love. Hailing from Philadelphia let’s get to know the baller who believes ball is life Stephania Ergemlidze.
Joe Cardoso: You grew up with a medical condition that would have made most people quit. You didn’t and had awesome parents to support you. Can you talk about your childhood and the role sports played in your life?
Stephania Ergemlidze: Yeah, so I was born with my legs and feet completely turned in and wasn’t supposed to be able to walk. I had casts on both of my legs until I was about 3. And at that point even though they were more straightened out and I was doing a lot of therapy, I was extremely uncoordinated and still couldn’t really use them properly, so my parents decided instead of letting me sit down and accept the situation I was given, we would put me into every sport possible to defy what was deemed as possible/impossible for me. People always ask me, what you got you into basketball, but it wasn’t really a choice for me. However, had it not been for basketball and all the other sports I‘ve done over the years (gymnastics, swimming, MMA, boxing), I would never be where I am today. Sports have been a huge part of my life and have really molded me. I used to go to all my different practices after school and by the time I would get home, I would be in so much pain because my body wasn’t made for what I was putting it through, but there was also this huge satisfaction of knowing that I was doing it. That I wasn’t letting anything stop me. And I think it’s that mindset that has really guided me through my life.
JC: At what age/point did you fall in love with basketball?
SE: I honestly don’t remember, I started trying to play around 5, and by the time I was in 4th grade I was playing with the boys at recess every day and I guess after that I became attached to my basketball, always wanted to play. I was such a gym rat.
JC: It’s clear that the basketball court is your happy place. What has the game provided for you?
SE: As I said, because of basketball I can run and use my legs and do things I wasn’t supposed to be able to do. But on top of that, it gave me a place to think and relieve stress and vent. No matter what I was feeling, basketball always was there. I always joke that basketball is my boyfriend, but it’s honestly kinda true. Ball is life!
JC: Not playing ball in HS or college why did you decide that?
SE: There were a bunch of reasons. A big one was that I was in and out of the hospital pretty much for a whole year in 10th grade which was the first year of high school at my school. Tore my MCL, tried to keep playing on it and made it worse, got stomach ulcers, double pneumonia, kidney infection, then chest infection all in one school year. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I almost felt betrayed by basketball at the time since the MCL tear kinda started it all. So I quit basketball for a few years and started MMA instead.
JC: So you wake up and decide to start this amazing ride playing popup 1v1 across the country. How did it all come about?
SE: I was just sitting there one day and decided I wanted to do it and then tried to figure out how, and that was really it. I’m a pretty impulsive person. I went on Amazon, ordered a hoop, called my video guy, and then went out to shoot it! Haha
JC: How did other ballers and family react to the early days?
SE: I’m sure everyone thought I was crazy…my dad just told me not to end up on CNN! Haha
JC: Let’s talk basketball who are some of your favorite players in the league or college right now?
SE: So I’m weird, but I don’t have favorites for anything, I just like things for different reasons. I obviously think LeBron is the goat. Luka is a beast. Huge respect for Bradley Beal. Steph Curry is unreal. So many talented ballers. Most people that know me well, know that I love Shaq, even though he’s not in the league anymore, but I always joke how I model my game after him since I have a big man mentality haha.
JC: How do you decide where to play and what has been your toughest game so far?
SE: In general, I’ll play anywhere, but in terms of the hoop videos, big cities usually and then just scout out ahead locations, hopefully, corona goes away soon so we can get back to it! And the toughest game, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’ve played so many people in my life. Hopefully, there will be a lot of tough games coming up!
JC: Will we see more outreach events from you like the Nike challenge for the homeless you took part in.
SE: Yeah, so that wasn’t really a Nike challenge, we just were shooting a vid at the Nike store where we already planned to do something to help some people and just happened to be that the Nike staff wanted to challenge us so we figured it’d be a good way to try to do more! But that’s one of my favorite videos, and giving back is definitely something I’m trying to tie into my portable hoop series, so I’m super excited about that!
JC: Where do you see this platform and brand you are building going in the future?
SE: My goal is honestly bigger than just social media, I’m not looking to be a YouTuber or Instagrammer or TikToker, I’ve never really cared too much about that alone, those are just kinda vehicles to get to where we’re trying to go. A big goal for me though is to put on for females and show everyone really that you can do anything you want to do if you’re willing to work and sacrifice for it. On top of that, have some cool projects in the future that I’m excited to get moving again as well. So just have to keep working! I’m excited though!
JC: Have you had that moment yet, where you look around and can’t believe this is your life?
SE: No haha, I’m really hard on myself so I’m usually the opposite, and just thinking like ahhh I’m not doing enough, do better! I’m not where I want to be yet, but we’ll get there!
JC: Do you play 2k?
SE: I do now! Haha, I started playing like 2 weeks ago on twitch (@stephaniae). I had never touched a video game prior to that, but it’s been fun learning with my followers there!
JC: Who is Stephania Ergemlidze?
SE: A little tomboy that looks like a girl, but just loves to ball and wants to do as much as she can to be the best person she can be for herself and others.
Starting this series years back I wanted it to showcase people who had been given a bad deck of cards in life, but turned them around and were winning. Through their stories inspire readers and also perhaps spark something inside. Zero doubt Stephania checks all those boxes and I am excited to see what she does next as she grows her reach and brand. I can’t thank her enough for cutting out some time to share her story. Make sure to follow along on all her social media channels what city will she be at next once we reach the new normal, it’s an event you want to pull up for. Think you can take her? Text her (215)309-9648.