Dear Freshman Player Me,
This is your older, and believe it or not, much wiser self. I know you’re exhausted right now. You have made some tough and life changing decisions within the past few months. You have finally started high school and are now playing the game you love at a whole new level. While you are happy to have made varsity, it isn’t enough. Every day you attend school and try your best to succeed academically and socially, but when the final bell rings and it’s time for practice, you can’t help but feel the knot form in your stomach. You worked so hard to get here. Now it’s time to prove yourself for playing time, something you never had to worry about in middle school. It seems the hard work and dedication will never end, but remember, you can never have too much practice.
I am sorry to say that you will have some even harder decisions to make in the near future. Basketball is your life. You chose it, and honestly, looking back now I believe it chose you, too. No, you weren’t born naturally fast, athletic, or tall, but you were born to play this sport. I guess you’ll see what I mean as you grow older. I know sometimes it seems like it is not worth it. You’re tired of being tired and sore. You're tired of getting yelled at even when you had a rough day and are trying your best. You hate running those same dreaded lines and when you’re sick you don’t want to be at the gym working out, you want to be snuggled in bed. But let me tell you..it’s worth it. Oh, it is so worth it. You will thank yourself later.
You have no idea what you have to look forward to. New teams, new coaches, new schools, new friends, new experiences, your accomplishments, and life lessons. The memories you will make between all the pump ups and long car rides will last forever. You are going to experience great victories and great losses. You will see what it’s like to make a game winning shot, but to also miss one. These ups and downs will shape you into the person you become. You will learn to value responsibility, good listeners, and hard workers in each person you meet. You will be able to distinguish a couch potato from a passionate soul. You will have young players look up to you and even ask you for shooting lessons. You will break school records, get interviewed after games, become a known person in your league, and be depended on. Yes, your hard work pays off in awards, but you will easily realize that it pays off in so many other ways like your opportunities, friendships, and your love for the game. Heck, you will even have the choice to play in college; I bet you don’t believe me.
You will cry many times in the car ride home after a bad game. You will get frustrated because you will disagree with some of your coaches. You will sometimes wish you could just hang out with your friends after school instead of going to practice. You will wish you chose a different sport or that you had more free time. You will sometimes sit on the bench during a game, knowing that if you were in, you would make a difference. You will have those days when you don’t think you’ll ever be good enough, but you will be. Sooner than you think.
You’ll be captain for two years, you’ll be a top 3-point shooter, you’ll break school records, you’ll become the best player you can be…and it is enough. You will cry on your senior night, you’ll cry at the end of your last game, you’ll cry at your senior banquet, because you’ll realize how much you love the game. It will be by far, the hardest break-up you will ever encounter.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll absolutely love your college. You’ll be overall happy you decided not to play because it has given you time to focus on new things you never did before. But every now and then you’ll really miss the game. The smell of the new gear and the screeches of new shoes sliding on the floor will be missed. That security of confidence that you can play this game with your eyes closed will be wanted. It's nice to be so confident about something. You know the game almost too well.
The college student school gym just isn’t the same or enough. Whenever you go to watch the college girls play at the giant gym you will think that you should be out there too. You’ll miss being known for the sport. You’ll always love it and it will always love you. It was your first love, and you know what they say, you never get over your first love.
So enjoy your time with the game. Learn the life lessons it gives you. It goes by too quickly. Enjoy being able to eat IN-N-OUT anytime of the day because your workouts are so great. You won’t get to do that when you’re older...working out on your own just isn’t the same. Love your dedication and it will love you back. Be proud and never doubt your talent. You were born to play this sport. You are enough. It will always be your best friend and first love.
See you in the mirror,