As a college athlete, sometimes it is easy to lose sight of why you play the game you fell in love with as a kid. I play a sport that has one of the longest seasons possible. Basketball is full go from September to March. We are in full three hour practices for five months. Basketball is a beautiful sport, but it takes a toll on your body. By the time February rolls around, the amount of lactic acid built up in your legs is equivalent to the amount of dust built up on the books in the stacks. As much as I try to fight it, exhaustion sets in.
With a few weeks left in my second collegiate season, I felt this way. Then, my childish love for the game refilled every crevice of my heart. I was reminded why I play.
Before the last home game of my sophomore season, I stood in the locker room waiting to hit the floor of Leede Arena for the final time that year. The coaches cleared out, leaving the thirteen of us a few minutes to get each other hype for the game. We lined up single file, and just before we ran out, everyone took just a second to collect themselves. In the quiet moment just before running onto the floor, one of my teammates looked at me and said, “This is my favorite moment, right before we go out.” I grinned at her in agreement. Everyone went silent, we shared a few hoots and hollers, then ran out of the locker room in a flash, through a tunnel of our coaches’ high fives. Three minutes until tip off, and we had never felt more alive.
In the moment before you go out onto the court, standing barely separate from everyone in the arena, waiting, the anticipation takes over you. Adrenaline replaces the blood flowing through your veins. Everyone is yelling, jumping, grinning ear to ear and ready to face whatever the game holds. No other feeling compares to the moment right before you head out onto the court. Your heart is beating out of your chest. The door to the locker room cracks and the silence of the locker room breaks. The door shuts again but it’s too late. Your lungs fill with the sound of the music and the crowd. It controls your pulse. You no longer need oxygen to sustain you. This moment is enough.
This moment is enough to shake the fatigue, the exhaustion, and certainly all the doubt. It reminds me why I play. The countless hours in the gym, out of breath and dripping sweat, suddenly become worth it. I haven’t even stepped on the court and every ounce of effort I have put into basketball leading up to this quiet moment in the locker room all makes sense. It’s the calm before the storm. I’ve never felt more ready to take on the hurricane than I do in this moment.
At the last home game of my sophomore season, just before leaving the locker room, just before my favorite moment, my coach looked at each of us and said, “We love Saturday nights! We live for Saturday nights. We live for this.”I sure do.