One on One Impossible

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When I was in the seventh grade, I loved my P.E. classes. I dressed out everyday and participated in all the fun activities that our teacher, Coach Thompson, had for us.

As my feet touched the fairly new floor of the gym, I was ecstatic and anticipated what the instructor had in store for the class this particular day. The gym floor was a khaki brown color that had some red in it and crisp, clean while lines indicated out-of-bounds. There were four basketball goals in the gym: one at the end of the court and two on one of the walls.

Coach Thompson announced to the class that a basketball tournament would be going on throughout the week and teams would be eliminated. He also stated that the winner of each class would play each other. We, the students, were put on teams of three. Some were a mixture of boys and girls while others were all boys or all girls. The people that were assigned teams were not satisfied with the prearranged groupings. I know I wasn’t. I felt like my team was really not capable of being productive winners.

I was totally shocked when we had won a couple of games but I was not surprised about the games we lost because the players on the teams we battled were much better and more skilled than my squad. I said ‘my squad’ because everyone expected me to be the leader I was.

As the week went on, teams started to be eliminated, one by one. For all kinds of reasons students’ attendance was not one hundred percent. They were either not coming to school or not showing up for class. This caused adjustments to be made by Coach Thompson. Some games were played two-one-two or two-on-one. In two-on-one, one player has to sit out of the game for a certain amount of time or until a significant number of baskets has been made. Then that player switches with his or her teammate. Another case was if none of the players were present, that team had to forfeit the game and was eliminated. My spirits were let down when I realized we were in the two-on-one predicament. The team we had to play that day only had one person present and it was two of us. I did not like that at all! It wasn’t fair, especially when I saw whom we had to go up against.

***

Our opponent was so hefty and bulky that his shadow stretched ten feet from his body. His posture was common for his size. He patrolled around the school like he was in charge with his broad shoulders and big guns. When his presence is acknowledged to others it does not faze them. I’ll nickname him Big Black, a river here in Mississippi. That was exactly what he was, big and black. My teammate played the oversized beast first. She was big, too, but he still wasn’t a match for her.

After he had made five baskets, it was my time to step in. I was so nervous because I didn’t want to be out of the tournament. Basketball was my passion back then and I wanted to keep playing. My heart was beating continuously at a rapid pace and it felt like my stomach had dropped, all the way to my feet.

I started to dribble the ball and tried to go around the monster. It worked a few times and had gotten easy lay-ups. In addition, rushing to get rebounds helped because I was faster than he was. When he packed my ball as I attempted to shoot, I became embarrassed. The sound of the thump of the ball hitting the floor and him reaching his hand out to hit it was unexpected. The game seemed like it took forever but I did the best I could and tried not to mess up so much because the other students were along the walls in the gym observing. It was nine-to-nine and both of us struggled to get the ball and make that final bucket. My opponent beat me to it so we end up losing by one point, ten-to-nine.

After that long competition with someone three or four times my size, I still kept my head up because I played a good game and fought a good fight. It made me feel better when the teacher said, ”Job well done, ladies, and that was a pretty good game.” He also instructed us to go back to the locker room and change.

***

When I pushed the door to the girls’ locker room slash bathroom, all I could think was: “one measly point”. As I began to take my P.E. uniform off and put my school uniform back on, I felt a little gloomy because I had really wanted to continue to compete in the game I loved the most: basketball. Since I had good sportsmanship I took the loss well.

After this experience I learned that it is not winning or losing but is about how you played the game. I had played a darn good game, too.





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