Fort Wayne Children's Zoo Home

From Basketball Players to Zoo Keepers

From Basketball players to Zoo Keepers, the game taught both Tiffany and Steve important life lessons. Check out their stories below.

Tiffany BasketballBasketball has always been an important part of my life. When I was young, I used to cheer on Indiana University during Big Ten basketball with my dad, and it was in these moments that I fell in love with the sport. I ended up growing up with a basketball in my hand, literally. From 5th grade through my senior year in high school, my life happily revolved around the sport I loved, and it taught me lessons that I’ve carry through life.

Lesson #1: Time Management= Manageable Time.

Throughout school, I had to keep my grades up to play basketball. Like I said, this sport is everything to me, which meant my nose was in a book and I had to study hard to make sure I never missed a game. Basketball season took up a lot of time due to travel and 2-3 hour practices, and I had to find a way to manage and balance all of it. As a Zoo Keeper, I may no longer balance algebra homework in one hand and a basketball in the other, instead I balance animal care, enrichment, training, exhibit maintenance, paperwork, meetings, and so much more. I couldn’t successfully do my job without those time management skills I gained through basketball.


Lesson #2: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Basketball cannot be played until you have five players on your team. Each player has a different role and different skill set, and together, the team is successful − this is the same with zookeeping. We have a team, made up of different roles and skill sets, that come together to take care of the animals. We cannot do this job alone and we rely on our team every day. My first lessons in teamwork came from the basketball court and have helped me become a good teammate at the Zoo.

Lesson #3: Dedication

The third lesson, and the most important to me, is dedication. In order to become a good basketball player, I had to dedicate my time and energy to improving and getting better. One summer, I shot over 1,000 free throws in my backyard and tracked my results. I am just as dedicated to being a great zookeeper; and now, I spend my summers watching animals and tracking their care and behaviors. I once heard, “Our quality of work is their quality of life,” and those words have stayed with me for years. If I want to give these amazing animals a great life, I need to be dedicated to their care.


With time, I’ve traded in my red and whites for green and whites, and went from being an IU fan to a Michigan State one (GO GREEN!). And even though I don’t play basketball every single day (I’ve tried to start a Zoo league but the giraffe make it really unfair and not as fun) it’s still a huge part of my life and I am thankful for those lessons I learned at a young age because now I get to apply them to being the best Zoo Keeper I can be.

Written by Tiffany, African Journey Zoo Keeper



20210317 160105 (1)With March Madness here, I am, of course, referring to the rush before open season, but I understand you all may have a different reason for thinking March is maddening! Basketball is in the mind of every Hoosier right now, so I was tasked to reflect on my years of playing basketball, and how those lessons have translated to being a Zoo Keeper.

Beginning when I was just ten years old, I played on various teams, both during school and in the off-season, until my final season ended my senior year of high school. Looking back, even though the memories are a bit hazy, what I do remember, I cherish.  During that chapter, basketball was a defining part of who I was and what I did, and I’ve brought those skills and lessons to a new defining characteristic: Zoo Keeper. Just like on the basketball court, communication and teamwork are essential in driving towards a common goal. To win a game, we had to put in the research, create a complex game plan, practice, and trust those around you to help win a game – and zookeeping is no different! As a team, we research our animals’ natural histories to continually improve husbandry and training practices and we continually come up with different plans and new ideas to care for the animals; ultimately, we are a dynamic team, with every member playing an important role. But the most important part of any team, whether there’s a basketball involved or not, is passion. I, and my fellow Zoo Keepers, are passionate and dedicated to the animals. So, whether it’s learning to make the perfect free throw or learning how to care for a Colobus monkey, a passionate team will help you win every time.


Written by Steve, African Journey Zoo Keeper