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Ball is Not Life

Let’s get this straight. Ball is not life. It will never be life for me again. However, basketball did change my life, where I would end up for college, my relationships, and my family legacy.
My father used to go to the high school I go to now, Nyack High School. He was a four year starter, committed to Villanova University at the end of his sophomore year. Yes, he was that good. He played a lot his freshman year, and after that he was the star of Villanova basketball. During his senior year of college, he was watching the women’s basketball team play UConn who are beyond the average team. The way they played was insane, they would jump from the three point line and score like they were jumping to the moon. UConn would take the game to a whole other world. Trust me, I have seen the videos of them from 1989. Now you’re probably wondering, why would I be watching these videos? My mom played on UConn that year, and my dad being a big shot decided to go up to her when she was a sophomore playing against Villanova. Ever since then, they’ve been together.
As soon as they  got out of college, my dad turned down an NBA offer. He wanted a normal life and let his children grow up to be basketball stars. So they moved in together across the river from Nyack,  Westchester County. For three years they’ve lived in an apartment and had my oldest brother, Aaron. After neighbors complaining of Aaron being a loud crier, they decided it was time to move out and start a bigger family, so they moved into a nice house in Nyack, New York.
A year later they moved into the sparkly new house, my parents gave birth to the next demon, Reed. I could care less about Reed if you ask me but, he is another big shot in the family, an exact replica of my father. The same pitch-black colored hair, same golden eyes, sparkling white teeth, the same height of 6’5, and same stand out personality that makes you want to punch him in the face if you’ve been with him too long. Such an attention whore. I apologize for that language, but I can’t stand it. I like my oldest brother, Aaron, so much better than Reed. He is more like my mom, reasonable, and humble. See, you would watch these videos of my mom and see how outstanding she was, but to this day she will not admit the fact she was good, and neither will my brother. While he wasn’t obnoxiously tall, he had some height, but most importantly he was a smart player, as well as a smart student. He attends Duke University and plays basketball there.
Get ready to hear my basketball story, because it is is the best story out of my everyone in the family.  I hated this sport with all of my heart and wanted to quit, yet everyone in my family loves it. My father has been coaching me on a travel team since I was an eight year old in second grade. He would take me out to the Rec Center to shoot around about three times a week every night during basketball season. My father constantly tried to get me better. He would have my brothers play against me when one of them is a senior and the other a junior playing on varsity when I am a 7th grader playing on JV. Yet, to this day I still don’t believe I should have been on JV at such a young age. Yes, I might have had above average skills, but at the time I was thinking, and so was everyone else, the only reason a seventh grader would be playing JV level is because this youngest of the Wale family has to be as great as her parents and her older brothers right? Nope, not the case.
I remember the first day of my ninth grade season. I did indeed had an excellent season for a 7th grader and 8th grader on a high school level team. The varsity coach came up to me the day before the day of my ninth grade tryouts.
“Well isn’t it Ms. Heidi Wale,” said the man who I wanted to throw a basketball at, “ready to come up and play with the big gals?”
“Coach Raynes, don’t you think I am a bit to young to be playing on varsity?” I asked. I truly didn’t believe any freshman deserved to be.
“C’mon Heidi!” He said with laughter. “You are apart of the Wale family. The family of basketball maniacs! There is one spot open, and you are definitely the right for it. Have fun today and don’t mess up!”
Just because he said that, I instantly knew I would do bad. I wanted to take a basketball and throw it at myself so hard that it knocked me out. Yet another girl had just came up from the middle school, and oh my god was she amazing, but I have to admit I was better in the sense that I was a more mature a player. That summer before, my dad had tried to get me to do this certain shot from above my head and not from my chest.  I remember arguing back and forth with him.
“Heidi!” My dad shouted at me the summer before. “I know you can do it. You need to release the ball above your head, not your chest.”
I argued, “Dad, I will never have this shot down by the season, I make most of my shots from how I shoot it now, why can’t you let me be?”
“Heidi, you need to learn sooner or later,” my dad started to calm down, he always gets anxious when it comes to basketball. “you need to become more a mature player. If you get the muscle memory down, I promise you will be making varsity in no time.”
At the varsity try out, I wanted so badly to make varsity because of my family, so I tried with all my heart to make the ball go into the basket with this shot. However, if you were an outsider watching our tryouts,  you would have thought I was aiming at the wall. Then I looked over at the girl, who wasn’t shooting correctly, but she made it in.
So as you expect coach pulled her up on Varsity. Raynes apologized to me, but the team had enough players. This was my third year on JV. Third. As in the amount of time you’ve been in middle school. As in the amount of years I wanted to be in a coma so I didn’t have to play basketball with this man for the next three years after my JV year. I would never ever use the word hate towards someone, but Raynes was cutting it close. The whole year I was miserable. I tried my best of course, and wanted to help  my JV coach, however I was barely even with him during practice.
As a result of girls getting hurt on his team, Coach Raynes used me for practices. Of course I had to obey him. I felt like a wooden puppet being dragged around the court by this man. He could say “fall” and I would have to drop to the floor, or else. Life was hard at this moment in my life. I couldn’t deal with this man for another few years.
The next year, I had played field hockey. I absolutely loved it, and understood what it was like to play on such a loving team, very family like. Each sister, so to say, on this team wanted to play not for themselves, but for Coach Morgan and their teammates. At the end of the season, we lost to a nationally ranked team. I can remember the buzzer went off, and while the other team celebrated, we just kept holding each other like it was the last time we would see each other. You felt the love, and you felt the comfort from this family away from home. However, you did not feel it in this sport of basketball.
My grades Sophomore year were not strong. I was a 101.0 average student in freshman year. However, sophomore year was harder, and the beginning of the year was rough with balancing sports and work. The previous years I only played basketball and lacrosse, but stuck to just basketball last year. I couldn’t balance two sports this year one right after the other. Basketball was starting a week after field hockey was over. What was I supposed to do? My family has a legacy of basketball stars, and I was going to end that? Do you know how rough that would be on my mother and father? Then again, I needed to do something for myself, and make myself happy. I did not want to play for a lying, annoying, controlling man. There was no sense of family on this team, just misery.  I needed to focus on my grades, but again basketball could help me get into a good school. My parents and brothers did go to nice schools, don’t get me wrong, but somewhere deep inside of me wanted to go to an Ivy League school. My mom thought I could do it, but looking at my grades this year, I threw myself a party when I got a ninety.
I worried about myself this time around, and I never had put myself in front of anyone before, but I worried not only for my grades, but my happiness. That is when I decided I would not play basketball my Sophomore year. The first day of tryouts, I came home with my new basketball sneakers my father had  bought me and I put it right on the table with the receipt. They looked at me with such shock and confusion.
My mother questioned me “Heidi, what time are tryouts dear?”
“Mom, Dad, I am here to tell you today, I decided not to play basketball,” I told them sternly, they didn’t take me seriously.
“You are so comical, what time do you need a ride?” My father asked.
I tried again, “No, Seriously, I am not playing basketball this year.”
“Now Heidi, don’t be ridiculous, everyone in the Wale family plays basketball,” he said with a demanding demeanor. He grabbed his keys, “Get in the car, I’ll explain to Raynes I got stuck in traffic or something.”
“What don’t you understand dad? I am not playing for that goon!” I was getting angry now. “I refuse to play basketball, and want to be happy, and pull up my grades. I want to get into an Ivy League, and with the grades I have now, there is no way I would be able to bring up my grades and do basketball.
“How could you do this?” He said very upset. “You didn’t even discuss this with me, you didn’t discuss this with us! All the time and money we put into basketball for you to become better and go to college and play basketball. I don’t want to talk to you.”
He stormed out of the room. I have never seen my father so upset. My mother was just quiet. I felt so guilty inside, yet I haven’t done anything wrong. The news of the youngest Wale not playing basketball went around town and the school so fast. It sucked not having my brothers home, because they would have made me not feel as alone as I did right now. My friends were supportive of me of course. Everyone was talking about it, it might as well have been in the newspaper. My friends who were seniors and played basketball told me Raynes was even talking bad about me, and even soon the younger team members were making fun of my skills. One girl said I was just like my father, I could have gone farther and been a star but decided to quit for their own happiness. As rude as that was, I realized how hypocritical my dad was being. I tried to explain to my dad my reasonings, but he didn’t want to hear it, so I gave him his time. He refused to talk to me, so I decided to talk to him once basketball season was over. I thought he was going to be a little less mad in about a month.
Thanksgiving was super awkward, because his whole side of the family came over, and they of course took his side. I tried talking to my cousins, but they giggled at each other and looked to their parents who gave them the dirty eye. Wow, my dad was so manipulative.  Tradition goes, every year after we eat our turkey, scarf down the pumpkin pie, we go outside and have a basketball tournament. I didn’t even have the guts to join in this game. I knew how upset I would make my dad feel. My cousins all laughed at me as they passed by and went outside. I felt so alone.
He still wasn’t cooling down and by Christmastime, he was just cold as the north pole, but I didn’t bother him. I reasoned with him and understood that if I had put in so much time and money trying to get my kid a better basketball player, and they decided to quit without talking to me, I would be furious and heartbroken too. My brothers came home for Christmas, but not for long since they were in season. My grades were up again since I had time to study and get enough sleep. I showed Aaron my report card, and he was proud of me. Aaron was supportive of my decision, but gave me another option. 
“You should try Ivy League Heidi,” He said looking at my report card. “I think you should go back to playing lacrosse again in the spring, you were really good, and these colleges like to see extracurricular activities.”
“I was actually thinking of playing lacrosse again, but what if my grades start dropping again?” I considered.
“You’ll be fine, you have strong grades right now, but you should look into travel teams so the Ivy League schools could see you play lacrosse at tournaments and you could get accepted early. As long as you start getting your skills back, I think you can get in.”
I thought more about what Aaron had told me, and stuck to a plan I had made. During winter break, I worked out, and did wall ball inside the Rec Center my dad used to take me. Every time I went inside, it broke my heart, but it motivated me to prove to my parents that quitting basketball might have actually been beneficial to me.
I emailed a travel team coach, who happened to go to Nyack as well, to come check me out at my high school games in the spring. The end of February came, and so did the basketball season. I finally decided to talk to my father. 
I went into his office and said, “Dad, I need you to understand, I am sorry for ending the tradition of basketball in our family, but I have never been more happy than I am right now. My grades are better, and I think I want to try to play lacrosse in college at Princeton.”
“Heidi, I am sorry I was so disappointed and acted immature about your decision.” He said in a calm manner, “When I gave up the NBA offers, I imagined having three kids who grew up with outstanding basketball skills, and eventually make it to the NBA or WNBA. It was not fatherly of me to not support you, and I am sorry. I am so proud of you, and I will do anything to help you get into Princeton, so I can tell everyone my daughter went to an Ivy League School.”
I did phenomenal during the lacrosse season. I made a comeback from not playing basketball, and became known as a lacrosse star. I scored a many goals that season and the lacrosse coach from the well known travel team let me play with them in the summer. My father recorded highlights and did everything he did with my brothers that helped them get recruited. I sent colleges letters and my transcript and asked them to visit me at my games.
I had a successful summer season, and my coach told me Princeton was interested in me. I was beyond excited. On September 1, of my Junior year, Princeton had called me, and I verbally committed to Princeton University. I  would be playing there in two years as of today. It is currently November of my junior year, and basketball is starting soon. My father is okay with me not playing, and he has never been more proud of me, and my decisions. I used to say my brother Reed was the obnoxious stand out of the family, however, the tables have turned.  I am the lacrosse player in a family of a basketball stars. Ball will never be life, again. 




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