A year ago, I was sitting on a bench. I was running plays and running sprints. I was a high school athlete playing the sport I had come to love, the wonderful game of basketball. Senior year I was playing with a group of girls that were my second family making memories I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. Travel tournaments, summer leagues, and winning back to back conference and district champs made my high years of ball so worth while. For awhile, I thought the season would never end, then feeling the agony of defeat hit with losing the game before the state championship. And in the blink of an eye, that was it. I warmed up pregame for the last time, I rode a bus to and from a game for the last time.
Here I sit, a year later, as a college freshman, that hasn't played the game she loved for almost a year. I've taken in plenty of games. On winter break, I watched my former team play for the first time. I sat in the stands, behind the bench. As I sat there, watching my cousin and her teammates warm up, I was filled with this sense of longing. Longing for one more game, one more practice, one more pre-game speech. But I couldn't, that part of my life was in the past. As I watch, I recalled how the plays coach called worked. I remembered offenses and defenses. All the memories came flooding back. Facebook memories hsan't be helpful in not giving me all the feels, with giving me a notification by time I wake up in the morning. It seems like everyday during the past week or so, it was a memory from either my junior season or senior season, and it was photos from championships. It seems like it all happened yesterday.
Tonight, I watched my former team and coaches play in their district championship. The nail-bitting game between my alma mater and the team we had beat two years prior had me on the edge of my seat. As I sat there with one of my former teammates and friend, we recalled plays called and gave our opinions of the calls made. As we sat watching, the memories of senior year came back into my head. I wanted my coach and team to win so bad because the feeling of working hard for a championship win is unbelievable. Getting to have your coach put a medal around your head is something you never forget. Nail bitters are the worst time of game out there, I hated them when I played, and a year later, I still hate down to the wire games. When the buzzer sounded, history had been made, my former coach and team became the first time in district history to win three back to back championships. That moment filled me with such pride for my school and team.
Watching the girls accept their trophy and line up to get their medals made me think back to winning senior year. The sense of pride I felt beacuse I actually played in the game, instead of sitting on the bench. The overall thrill of seeing pictures all over the paper and online. Playing senior year made me realize I was part of something bigger than myself. I was a part of team that played every game with a want to win. Our coaches pushed us so hard in practice and set the bar high for us because one, they knew we could do it, and two, they wanted us to the best version of that team.
After four years of playing high school basketball I've learned a lot. I don't just mean plays and strategies. I mean more practical things. For example, I learned that if you never give up, no matter what the outcome looks like, things can turn around. We could be losing some games at the half, but explode in the second half and comeback and win. Also, I learned the value of working together. It's hard to accomplish big goals with the help of others. You can't go out and play basically a game of five on one and expect the one, single person to win. I learned to appreciate everything that happened during the season because you never know when that last game will take place, or when you have finished you last practice, until it's over. Yeah during my years, I learned the more game-orientated things like plays and moves to use under the hoop. But those won't last forever. When I'm old, I won't be able to shoot or dribble, but I'll be able to keep my head in it and never give up.
A year later, I have some advice for all those who step onto the court, not just at my high school, but anywhere. Cherish every moment, good or bad. Sure, running sprints at practice isn't fun. But, when you are no longer being told to get on the line and die a little on the inside at those words, you'll miss them. I did. You laugh at all the silly things said by coaches and teammate, then as you sit and watch, you laugh as you recall them. Next, play for the name on the front of the jersey. Staying humble and being a team player will be what gets people to remember the name on the back. Lastly, don't give up. No matter how fair you trail an opponent, how many fouls you have, no matter how much time is left, no matter the score, keep your head in the game. If you take yourself out of the game mentally, you take yourself out physically. Don't give up on yourself or your team. You never know how the outcome of the game could change.
A year later, if you asked me if I missed high school basketball, I'd say yes and that I would love to go back. But also, I don't mind being in the stands. It's alot less stressful. Yeah, it'd be nice to go shoot on my beloved gym floor one more time. But until then, I'm good with sitting back and watching the game unfold.