Four minutes blared bright red on the shot clock. The pressure was on — she could hear her heart pounding and her stomach churning as the last game of the basketball season was about to end.
“I was struggling. I was burning,” said 27-year-old Andrea Gomez, a Miami Spice basketball player. “But the game went on. The coach put me in.”
Gomez stepped onto the court. She decided to leave it all there, for the love of the game and her time. Miami Spice won the game — keeping their perfect 5-0 record.
Gomez is the only Hispanic player out of 15 in the Spice team, part of the Bikini Basketball Association, a semi-pro league.
“I’m very proud to represent the Hispanic culture in a sport that is dominated by others,” Gomez said. “I feel powerful to be able to compete at a high level with other players.”
She was born in Medellin, Colombia, leaving country for the United States when she was 7. She is one of five children in a big and very supportive family.
“My family is very united. We tend to do a lot of activities together,” said Gomez. “When I left Colombia at a very young age, I was sad because I was very attached to my family.”
The Gomez settled down in South Florida, hoping for better opportunities.
“I have been blessed with many things and many girls on the team have been blessed too,” said Gomez. “We have a lot of professionals on the team. We have a dental assistant, a hotel manager and a teacher. It’s crazy.”
Players in the Bikini Basketball Association, a summer league, are selected based on athleticism, personality as well as beauty, according to the association’s web site.
“They are a great team to play for. We have several incentives,” said Gomez. “But the love for the game is what pushes me.”
Gomez plays guard, and like many of the girls on the team, she is tall. She is 5-foot-8 and boasts of being able to reach the rim easily.
Gomez has always been passionate about basketball. She started playing in high school when she was 16, eventually earning a basketball scholarship from Miami Dade College. She also played a couple of preseason games with the semi-pro team Miami Rain.
She continues being active and maintains a busy schedule. Apart from The Miami Spice team, she is a physical education teacher, a basketball coach and a trainer.
“I love the balance my life has now,” said Gomez. “I do what I love. Miami Spice works perfect for my schedule, since all the games are played in the summer.”
However, her lifestyle can be overwhelming — trying to maintain a professional and personal life can be draining, with the latter at times seeming nonexistent.
“The negative side to all of this is that it’s very demanding at times,” said Gomez. “I put in a lot of attention and disregard my own personal life.”
Now that the summer is over and the season is finished, Gomez is back to training and teaching. She has been teaching for five years, and students continue raving about her dedication and passion.
Sara Caballero, a former basketball player for John A. Ferguson High School, said Gomez was always aware of what happened on and off the court.
Gomez taught Caballero her junior and senior year.
“I wasn’t as good as I thought,” said Caballero. “But, I was able to connect with coach. I was tall like her, we had similar body types and we always had that thing to relate.”
Caballero said Gomez helped her throughout her basketball career, eventually equating into three junior college offers to play basketball.
Yet as much as she loves to teach and mentor, Gomez continues being a student of sorts herself.
Gomez teaches hundreds of students and is grateful to change young peoples’ lives. But her coach is a great mentor to her. She said her coaches push her and help her improve her skills.
“To watch Andrea grow as an athlete, it is amazing,” said 29-year-old Nicolas Greer, Miami Spice Head Coach. “She is the epitome of what we were looking for in this league.”
Greer, also known as “Coach McFly,” pushed the team to its limits in the summer with beach workouts.
“The girls ran three, four, five miles on the sand,” said Greer. “Andrea was the first one there, working her butt off to progress. That takes discipline.”
Gomez hopes her passion for basketball can inspire more young women to dream big.
“I came across my success with a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Gomez. “Any young female athlete that has the dream can become successful if they put their mind to it. If they apply themselves, anything is possible.”
The semi-pro team is based in Miami and was established in 2012. The team plays throughout Florida as well as several away games across the nation.
Sara Laplanche, Miami Spice Director of Marketing, confirmed the players are paid, though she declined to get into details on compensation.
Their salary is undisclosed, but their outfits are not. Contrary to the team’s name, the women don’t actually play in bikinis. The women play wearing sports bras and spandex shorts.
“The outfits are more beach volleyball style,” Laplanche said.
The outfits may show off players' bodies, but their skills are what really stand out on the court, she said.