Beauty in the Struggle

May 15, 2017
By et25_ BRONZE, Oswego, Illinois
et25_ BRONZE, Oswego, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The piercing ringing sound like a fire alarm going off wails as the clock hits double zero. There goes the end to Ray Ray’s junior basketball season. Ray Ray walks off the court with his warm up shirt covering his eyes and hopes nobody notices. In the locker room, he lets the waterworks fly. Ray’s school were state runner ups, for Ray the game wasn’t one to remember only scoring 8 points in the most important game of his career but not only that he missed the last shot for his team to win. In his mind, he made no significant impact on the game and that made him doubt why he even played basketball. As he walks out the locker room, he sees all the fans cheering the team on for having an amazing season, but there's only one person he is looking for, the only person who can calm him down and make him feel some sort of thud in his heart after such a loss. He spots Isabella right near the court where she usually is found barking orders at him. She’s his #1 fan right after his momma. He calmly walks over to her, lays his head on her shoulder, and lets a few tears drop like quiet whispers for her to work her magic.
“It's okay babe,” Isabella coos softly, “Let’s go to Canes. That’ll help cheer you up and we can get ice cream after that.”
“I played like s***, right now there is no worst feeling in the world. I feel like I let everybody down. I put all this work in and this is the result. This is embarrassing,” Ray Ray responds.
                                      * * * * *
Well, things weren’t always this way. There used to be a time where all there was to focus on was having fun while playing. To his mother, he is Raymond Vanderbilt but everybody calls him Ray Ray due to the fact that he looks like a young Ray Allen and plays like him too.  Ray Ray can’t remember the first time he picked up a basketball but his grandma can. She remembers it being the only thing that would keep his attention like a kitten playing with yarn. No bottle, no cartoons, no stuffed animals, just an orange ball to keep Lil’ Ray Ray satisfied. Ever since then there was no separating Ray and the ball. It nearly became apart of his hand. If he had to go to the store for his mom, he was dribbling it the whole way to the store. His mother had to scream and shout down the block at the wee hours of the night to get him to come home from the park and even when he got home he’d lay in the bed and flick his wrist letting the ball glide off spinning in a perfect 360 right back down to his hands. Basketball gave Ray Ray a peace of mind coming from the inner city and with his mom working three jobs it let him focus on the beautiful thud of the basketball hitting the court and the exciting swoosh when the ball went through the net. Its as if while he was on the court all his problems just melted away.
                                       * * * * *
Ray stayed away from basketball for about two weeks after the devastating loss. He didn’t say much to anybody but Isabella, didn’t eat too much of anything, and walked around school with a somber look on his face like a lost puppy. Isabella and his mother expressed how proud they were countless times like an infomercial coming on again and again through the night. Ray’s heart had been broken when he felt the intensity of being close to something he has dreamed about from before he could even remember and having it snatched from him like a child’s toy. Eventually, the pressure that he laid on himself that was like the weight of the world slowly started to fade and Ray Ray picked up the basketball again and his blood began to warm up just like usual. He was in the love with the way the basketball made his whole body tingle and he looked down to see the tiny little mountains starting to form on his arms. Ray Ray is determined to make sure he never feels such pain in his heart ever again… summer starts and one would think for an 18 year old the fun would begin but that was not the case this summer. It became Raymond’s job just like his mother went to work early in the morning and didn’t return until night so Ray did the same. Ray woke up at 5 in the morning Monday through Friday to run 3 miles, straight from there to the weight room where he would end up putting on LeBron type muscles, eating nothing but chicken, salad, fruit, and drinking gallons of water a day, as well as making 1,000 shots a day from all over the court trying to become unstoppable, Ray became a robot to this schedule. Ray would fall asleep on Bella’s shoulder like a baby as soon as he returned home from this robotic schedule. There was no fun with friends this summer for Ray, it was strictly business and that’s the only way he could achieve something that he had never achieved before. The summer comes to an end and Ray has chips on his shoulders the size of boulders as well as gaining twenty pounds of muscle and Ray is ready to prove himself.
                                       * * * * *
Senior year is here… the basketball season is about to begin. Ray walks around school with knots in his stomach hearing the murmurs of everybody saying, “The basketball team has no real chance of being any good this year.” Raymond puts the pressure upon himself to prove all the haters wrong. His first game of the season relieves all the pressure he had put upon himself. Ray put up numbers he had never thought of in his career with 32 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. It was his first triple-double ever, he dominated in every aspect of the game that night. Nobody could stop him on offense every time he touched the ball he scored and on the other end the other team was nearly scared to come near him. Quickly after this, the murmurs of the school changed everybody said things like, “Ray’s going to take us to state… Idk where his game came from but he makes it worth going to the games.” Ray’s Coach has a conversation with him after the game,
“This is your team, son. Do what needs to be done to leave this team's mark this season. It’s obvious to see you’ve had a productive summer. Keep it up buddy!”
“I’ll make sure people remember us, coach,” Ray Ray responds.
Raymond has blossomed with confidence and grit like a rose from concrete. He keeps that terrifying memory of last season in the back of his head.
“Just think about it babe… If that shot goes in last season, you wouldn’t be the player or person you are today. I’m proud of you,” Isabella boasts smiling.
“I guess everything does happen for a reason…”, Ray says smirking. 

The author's comments:

Elijah is a 12th grader in the suburbs of Chicago. Elijah enjoys playing basketball as well as pursuing his athletic career throughout college. 


Beauty in the Struggle was inspired by the pressures young athletes may put on themselves to succeed. 

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