To The High School Athlete Wearing My Old Jersey

To The High School Athlete Wearing My Old Jersey

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Some of us were destined to become athletes. For me, my athletic fate was declared in the home video of my mother in labor. My father was hoping I was a boy so I could follow in his footsteps and become a “football star,” but my mother knocked some sense into him, reminding him that they might have a girl. He then laughed and said, “Then our little girl will be a star.”

Low and behold, here I am. Luckily for my dad, I instantly fell in love with sports. I always had a ball in my hand, and it's safe to say that I was dribbling a ball before I could actually walk. I’ve loved sports for as long as I could remember.

Once I was at an eligible age, I signed up for every sport I wanted to play. Each year, I was able to love my sports more and more, but notably fell completely in love with basketball. Once my potential and talent were obvious, my parents then allowed me to try out for out-of-town teams. Soon enough I was spending my summers playing in time-consuming leagues, driving state to state. By middle school, I was playing for some of the best AAU teams in New Jersey, with girls from all over who soon became my other family.

By this point in my athletic career, I also had a consistent number: 23. There was no particular reason, other than being influenced by Michael Jordan, but it just happened and it stuck. Although it might sound silly, one of my biggest concerns upon entering high school was not having my number. Thankfully, everything happens for a reason and I was able to. It was claimed and mine for my entire high school career.

Every season leading up to your senior year, you’re always told how quickly your four years will go. You're told to embrace your years playing the sport you love. Then slowly and without any realization, those glory days come to an epic end. Now all those teams, recognition, titles, and championships are something I can never get back. Although I was given the opportunity to pursue my athletics in college, nothing will beat high school sports and wearing the number I was known for having. It didn't really hit me until my senior night and during states.

I’m now the one sitting in the stands, watching games with the other alum, and it’s unbelievably uncomfortable because I'm dying to get out there. I wish I was on that court in my number. Now, as I sit here reflecting on all my years, I just need to tell you something about that very number they call before introducing your name.

As you play my game, in my jersey, on what was once my court, I want you to think about all of those before and after you. Always remember those little girls just now learning to play the game that we have both grown to love. Remember the little girl in you and that first significant basket you made.

There’s a lot of history in that very jersey you are wearing today. It represents your successes and your losses, just like it represents mine. I made shots and missed shots. I had steals and rebounds, just as I've had the ball deflected and stolen from me. There were times when I was anxious. There were times when I was nervous. There were times when I was indescribably angry in that jersey, to the point where it felt like my blood was boiling.

But there was nothing like the smile captured on camera when I stepped on the court during my first varsity game. I’ve had some of my happiest moments in that jersey along with some of my saddest-- like when I cried like an actual baby when I walked off the court after my very last home game.

That jersey isn’t just a jersey--it’s a legacy, and every legacy has its own story. It will never die. As I watch from the stands three years later, watching the very same plays I used to breathe and sleep that you are now executing, you should know that I am expecting a lot from you. I want nothing more than for you to play better than what you think is your best, because even I didn't do our number the justice it deserves.

Don’t take it for granted like I did. Don’t you dare complain about the endless amount of sprints you have to run during preseason like I did with my girls. If I could, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’ll take the sore muscles and elbows to the face. I’ll take back all the ugly bruises that covered almost every part of my body. I’d pretty much do anything to wear that jersey one last time and to see my family, who were my number one fans and supporters, cheering me on in the stands.

Own that jersey. Own that number. Do so with pride. Like myself, it will be the hardest goodbye you’ll make when leaving high school.


Cover Image Credit: Buzzfeed

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A Letter To My Go-To Aunt

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I know I don't say it enough, so let me start off by saying thank you.

You'll never understand how incredibly blessed I am to have you in my life. You'll also never understand how special you are to me and how much I love you.

I can't thank you enough for countless days and nights at your house venting, and never being too busy when I need you. Thank you for the shopping days and always helping me find the best deals on the cutest clothes. For all the appointments I didn't want to go to by myself. Thank you for making two prom days and a graduation party days I could never forget. Thank you for being overprotective when it comes to the men in my life.

Most importantly, thank you for being my support system throughout the numerous highs and lows my life has brought me. Thank you for being honest even when it isn't what I want to hear. Thank you for always keeping my feet on the ground and keeping me sane when I feel like freaking out. Thank you for always supporting whatever dream I choose to chase that day. Thank you for being a second mom. Thank you for bringing me into your family and treating me like one of your own, for making me feel special because you do not have an obligation to spend time with me.

You've been my hero and role model from the time you came into my life. You don't know how to say no when family comes to you for help. You're understanding, kind, fun, full of life and you have the biggest heart. However, you're honest and strong and sometimes a little intimidating. No matter what will always have a special place in my heart.

There is no possible way to ever thank you for every thing you have done for me and will continue to do for me. Thank you for being you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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