Home country: USA
Special skill: Basketball AND spelling!
Hey, I'm Zaila Avant-garde and I hold three Guinness World Records titles for my basketball skills AND I'm also the 2021 champ of the Scripps National Spelling Bee 🏀 🐝🏆
I'm Zaila and I'm from Louisiana, USA. Louisiana is a beautiful state that is culturally unique, historically significant, and filled with interesting people. I love it! ❤️
My love for basketball started at quite a young age - I started playing when I was just 5 years old. 🧒🏾
At first I really just enjoyed running around and hanging out with the other kids. I really liked the camaraderie that comes along with playing a team sport like basketball. 🏀
Why and how I break records
I really enjoy the challenge and reward of breaking records, but sometimes it can be difficult fitting in training for a record with school and my other hobbies, lol! I’ve had to learn to manage my time really well. I do a lot of multi-tasking.
🏀 My current records 🏀
- Most basketballs dribbled simultaneously - one person
- Most basketball bounces in 30 seconds (four basketballs)
- Most bounce juggles in one minute (four basketballs)
In the build up to my record attempts, it’s really a team effort. My parents handle all of the behind the scenes logistics. My little brothers help me as much as they can too — but they’re all still really young. 👶🏾
It’s empowering to know that you’ve just accomplished something that nobody else in the entire world has ever done before
What it's like being a record holder
Breaking records is definitely rewarding though - when I broke my first record it felt awesome. Getting there was literally years in the making so I was really happy! 🎉
The next two records felt even better because I could finally say that I was a 3 times record holder. I keep my GWR certificates on the wall next to my desk in my study area.
The key is to never get too far behind in school so that I can always have free time available to pursue my other interests.
To any other kid who wants to one day become a GWR title holder - the only way to get something done is to do it! Good luck ☘️🤞🏾
My top tips for sinking a basketball three-pointer ⛹🏾♀️
- Maintain a stable base (legs) capable of generating explosive (but controlled) energy
- Develop a smooth and fluid shot that’s simple and repeatable
But it's not just basketball that I'm skilled at...
As well as basketball, I love practicing my spelling and participating in spelling bees. There's more similarities between basketball and spelling bees than you might think!
They’re both really fun and super competitive and both involve a TON of practice, persistence, and hard work. They also both help to teach important life lessons like how to work towards a goal and how to be a good teammate.
My hard work paid off when I won a virtual spelling bee competition in August 2020 - my first big competition win! I was shocked. I was really just trying to do my best and maybe let everyone know that I was an up and coming speller.
But my win definitely came as a BIG and pleasant surprise…
...and then I went on to win the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee! 😄🎉🏆
It was amazing. I got congratulations messages from LeBron James, NASA and Barack Obama!
Which is correct? 🤔
While it will certainly take a LOT of patience, time, and hard work — becoming a Guinness World Records title holder is one of the most awesome and super rewarding experiences that a kid can have.
My plans for the future
Making it to the WNBA is definitely a major goal of mine. ⛹🏾♀️🏀
I really, really like playing basketball competitively — so being a WNBA player would be a dream come true.
A lot of coaches and scouts say that I’m one of the top female basketball players at my age in the country — so hopefully if I can keep working hard and getting better I’ll be able to be a pro one day.