I was looking at articles on Odyssey a few weeks ago and came across an article, The Coach That Killed My Passion. This article was written in 2016, so it was strange that a 3-year-old article would be on the popular page.
It is currently playoff season for girls basketball, and many senior girls played their last game in the past week or two. During this time two years ago, in my senior year of high school, I read that article more times than I can remember. Seeing that the article has become popular around this time breaks my heart.
Why? Because I know that other girls are going through the exact same thing. Other girls are sitting on the bench when they know they should be playing, but aren't because their coach doesn't believe in them.
Since the season ended, I have debated whether or not to write this letter. The fact that I still think about how much my senior season hurt me, and even sickens me to this day, made me realize that I needed to move on, and writing this letter is how I do that.
I started playing basketball in fourth grade, and it quickly became my favorite sport. The summer before high school I joined an AAU team, which is a traveling basketball team that plays during the spring and summer.
In every sport, at every level, you hear "be coachable, be respectful, work hard, give 110% at practice, put the team above yourself," and so on. I did all of those things. I was recognized for all of those things. Every starter on my team did not do all of these things. So why did my coaches stress those traits, if it came down to who actually got to play, it was the girls who scored points.
I still have questions to this day that I asked my coaches often during the season, but never got an answer then and still don't have one now.
What did I do wrong?
Why wasn't I good enough?
I didn't date at all senior year and I joked around with my mom how I didn't need a boyfriend because basketball broke my heart every week anyways.
When I started playing basketball in fourth grade, I wasn't great at it, definitely not a natural, but the sport gave me so much. It gave me a team that quickly became my family for the following nine years and I was a little pudgy when I was younger, so practices and games helped keep me in shape.
All of a sudden basketball became this light that I treasured in my life. I may have dreaded every practice and game due to my anxiety, but once I got going on the court I never wanted to leave. Every single stressor and bad thought in my life went away when I was on the court.
In elementary and middle school, I had coaches who rewarded hard work and encouraged us to put everything we had into the game. I learned how to become a team player, how to hustle, how to lead when necessary, how to speak my mind, and most importantly-- how to be coachable.
These are skills that I have kept with me to this day, and they have helped turn me into this person who I love.
These are skills that got me playing time during those years, and helped me improve as a player.
In middle school, I was on the "A" team for the basketball team. In the summers, I played AAU.
In my freshman year of high school, I made the JV team and by sophomore year I was starting on the Varsity team. My coaches acknowledged how hard I worked, and I improved throughout the season. They let me know what I needed to fix, but they also let me know when I was killing it on the court. I felt appreciated, respected, and my love for the sport only grew.
Then, during my junior year of high school, the previous assistant coach received the position as head coach of our varsity basketball team.
When you spend seven years working hard, being coachable, being respectful, and receiving respect in return, it breaks your heart to feel that all ripped away from you. I was in a healthy, positive relationship with basketball for seven years and then all of a sudden my worth was being determined by scoring statistics alone.
It didn't matter that I averaged the close to or the same amount of steals, assists, rebounds, etc. in half the time that other girls on the team did. By the time I actually did get into the game, I was no longer warmed up and felt the extreme pressure to perform well in those spare minutes. I did really well when I got in, but I also made mistakes because to wasn't able to develop a rhythm on the court.
To my high school basketball coach during my junior and senior years in high school, if you see this, know that you broke a part of me that will never heal. You took something from me that I loved and that will always hurt deeply whenever I think about it. You ruined the sport for me. You showed me that hard work didn't pay off and hustle had a warm seat reserved on the bench.
I haven't picked up a basketball since.
Every single practice, every game, every team meeting-- I wanted to quietly leave my jersey on the bench and walk out without a word, but I stayed.
I stayed because that is who I am, and who I am is something you could never take away from me.