Dear high school basketball player,
“Get on the line.” These are the worst words that could ever come out of Coach’s mouth. Either that or “We have practice Saturday morning.” When you’re living in the moment you hate these little things. You hate getting up early and going to the gym. You hate timed horseraces and you hate them even more when you have to keep doing them because not everyone made it across the line in time. You hate constantly turning down plans and saying, “Sorry I can’t I have practice.” You hate constantly being tired because you didn’t get back from your game until 11 and you still have three hours of homework to do. You hate when you can’t knock down an easy shot, or the rebound slips right through your hands. You hate the bruised knees, the jammed fingers, and the occasional sprained ankle from time to time. When you’re living in the moment of the game, of the practice, of your life these things seem unimportant. However, looking back all these things made me into the person I am today.
If it wasn’t for all of those horseraces and sprints I wouldn’t know how far I could really push myself. I realized that it wasn’t ever about my physical shape, which was always there coach just wanted to test our mental ability. These things taught me about leadership and to always put my team before myself. If it meant running another line, shooting 50 more free throws, or just cheering them on while they finished it was worth it knowing it would benefit all of us. Yeah, missing out on a few parties or sleepovers seemed like the end of the world then, but trust me it’s not. Team dinners are much more important, trust me on this. Not only because you get to eat (and who doesn’t love stuffing their face after a practice) but because the closer your team is the better you play. Being tired after a faraway game and staying up late is actually beneficial. This only trained me and gave me a look into what every night in college is like.
Now the pain, that’s something I thought I would never miss. I couldn’t wait until my body wasn’t black and blue and my fingers no longer swollen. However, I’d love to go back and get a few more battle wounds. If it wasn’t for basketball I wouldn’t have stories to tell about the scars on my knees or how I got my tooth knocked out my senior year. There’s a saying that’s been printed on thousands of sports t-shirts that reads, “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” Back then I just thought this was some lousy overused slogan coaches put on shirts to try make the other team think we’re better than them. Now I know that this saying couldn’t be truer. The pain, that’s the easy part. Throwing yourself to the floor after a loose ball, taking an elbow to the face at an attempt to get the rebound, running sprint after sprint after sprint, that’s all easy. It is the pride part is the difficult.
When you’re sitting in the locker room after the final buzzer of your last game ever, tears running down your face, and refusing to take off the jersey that’s when it hits you. You wish you could’ve scored more, broken a few school records, and won few more titles. You wish you could go back to the first time you picked up the ball and fell in love with the game. You cannot find pride anywhere, only regret and “what ifs.” But when you’re packing for college and you see all the sweats, basketball T-shirts, warmups, and shoes laying there it hits you. When you go to support your former teammates and you have to sit in the stands rather than on the bench it hits you even more. It wasn’t about how many games I won, points I scored, or how many fouls I got (sorry coach), it was about being a part of something bigger than myself. It isn’t just a game you pour hours, days, and years into. It has and never will be “just a game.” Basketball is a lifestyle, it is love, and it’s always a part of you. One day you’ll stand where I’m at, watching from the stands missing every aspect of the game, wishing you could put on the jersey and lace up your shoes one more time. No matter how much we want to we can’t go back. One day, just like me, you will see that if you love something so much you have to let it go. When that day comes your heart will be full and your pride will be shinning. Enjoy every minute you are on the court, even if it is on a Saturday morning. Push yourself even harder when coach says to get on the line. Do your absolute best even when no one is watching. You may not be the leading scorer or the MVP, but if you give it your all 24/7 and get the most out of your talent you’ll be a lot more proud down the road. Leaving the game behind was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it makes it easier when I see girls playing it with just as much heart and intensity as I did. Enjoy every second of it because it will be gone before you know it.
The girl who used to be you