Rising to the Top

My heart is beating so fast; I can feel my chest pounding. I can’t even hear myself think with all of the uproar. The enemy is staring me down, waiting for me to make a move. Like me, their faces are filled with intensity. They want victory almost as much as I do, but I can’t let them win. My competitive spirit tells me that defeat is not an option. As I dribble down the court, I find my opening and I don’t have time to hesitate. The ball leaves my hand and lands just where I want it. It dives through the hoop without any contact with the rim and the game is over. We won by a point.

I started out my basketball experience by playing recreational basketball, and I didn’t get the ball a lot. I could sense that the better kids on the team believed they were superior to me by the way they looked at me. They would have that smug look on their face and I couldn’t stand it. I was Determined over the next summer to do whatever I could to surpass their level. I spent all my time out on the driveway, improving my skills. My dad had assembled a list of drills in order for me to practice more effectively. I had to do hours of lay-ups, jump roping, and the dreaded figure eight dribbling drill every day. They weren’t what I would consider fun, but I did them anyway, knowing that the end result would be well worth it. The next year not only did I play recreational basketball, but I tried out for the travel basketball team, and made the team due to nobody getting cut. Though this was a competitive team, I was once again at the bottom. Most of my time on the team was spent watching from the bench waiting in anxiety for the coach to call out my name to send me in the game. But that year I became the star player on my recreational team. I knew this time that my teammates wanted the ball in my hands and my confidence grew stronger. I had gone through a tremendous change. I was making all the shots, and taking the ball up the court for my team to set up our offense. I led my team to the championship game, beating out my other travel teammates' teams. We lost the game by a couple of points, but I couldn't have been happier.

It took me a bit longer to move up in ranks on the travel team, but every year it was clear that I was gaining on my teammates. I began to get a decent amount of playing time, and I became a vital role on the team. One time my team was down by four points with only seconds left and we needed a miracle. The coach set up a play ending with me shooting a 3-point shot. I took the shot while an opposing player slapped my arm, and it somehow made its way through the hoop. I was at the foul line and I could have tied the game with this one shot. As the ball left my fingertips, I knew it wasn’t going in so I ran up for a rebound and took a quick shot. I missed again, but my team was not mad. I almost kept the game alive, and that’s when I knew I had established myself as a good travel player.

My confidence continued to grow, but my seventh grade year, I was cut from the middle school team and my confidence was shaken. I couldn’t believe some of the kids who made it over me and it hurt for a day or two, but I had to learn to accept it and move on. I wouldn’t let this be the end; in fact, it was a blessing in disguise because it made me work harder than ever before. I made sure that every day they would practice, I too would be working hard on my skills. My eighth grade year I got on the team. Though I was not happy with my role on the team, I accepted it and would do the best I could with the opportunity given to me.

I am now finishing up what is left of my competitive basketball experience. I have been playing up yet another level on an AAU team. It involves a lot of traveling and playing the best players out there. I once was forced to guard a 6’8 dunking machine, and it was embarrassing, but I am hoping it will help me improve and get the varsity time I have been working my entire life for. I was on the team my junior year, but I didn’t play as much as I wanted. For my senior year, I hope I can prove that I am worthy of a starting position. No matter what happens though, I will always cherish the memories I have had playing the game. It has taught me life lessons, and has allowed me to grow both physically and mentally. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the game of basketball.





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