I have a lot of great stories about me. Especially ones from when I was really young; my parents say I had quite the personality. But something I know I had (and still have) is a focused mind. Sure I like to fool around and laugh, but when I need to be, I am focused. I work hard to achieve what I want, and will to not let anyone get in my way. Actually, that reminds me of one the many stories I have. You wanna hear? Well, of course you do. Ok, where to start, where to start... This story begins a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...just kidding. It starts in fifth grade, actually.
Just about the time when every girl I knew besides my mom had cooties, I started playing basketball. I played whenever I could. I had to commute to the local park though, so for my birthday my parents got me my very own basketball hoop. Still have it today. It’s sitting right outside my house right now, waiting to be used. Anyway, during the summer following fifth grade, I went to sleepaway camp, and, the sport everyone loved there just happened to be basketball. Great, right? Wrong. Everyone there was a lot better than I was. I was one of the worst kids on my team. I didn’t really care until one of my closest friends, passed me the ball during one of our games. Well, he tried to pass it to me. It bobbled out of my hands and went out of bounds. So, he went up to me, looked me right in the eye, and said two of the most unforgettable words an eleven-year-old can hear, “You suck.” I didn’t say anything, but inside I was going ballistic. On that very day, my desire to be one of the best players was born.
I came back from camp determined to become a better player. I told my mom that I wanted to get better, and she told me she knew a basketball trainer. Perfect, I thought. I took lessons with Dennis for most of sixth grade. I took them with one of my friends, Justin. He had quit hockey to play basketball. “Good choice,” I had told him, “hockey sucks compared to basketball.” He agreed. Dennis worked us hard that year. We practiced all of the basics, like layups, shooting and passing.
Soon, I entered seventh grade. This was the year I wanted to make the school team. I had told Dennis this, and he laughed. “Maybe not yet,” he said, “but one day you most definitely will. You just gotta practice.” Tryouts for the team were in November, so I continued to practice every day. At this point, my skills had gotten a lot better. But my handling and shooting could’ve used some work. I asked some of my friends if they thought I could make it. The response was the same, “Not this year. Maybe next year, though.” They were right. In the end, I didn’t make the team. I was upset, heartbroken, actually. I really wanted to make it.
But then I thought about what Dennis had told me. You just gotta practice. I planted a thought into my mind that day. No matter, what I was doing, no matter where I was, it was always there with me. You will make the team, but you must work for it.
I worked tirelessly in seventh grade, improving every facet of my game. By the end of that year, I was a well-rounded, good player. When I went to camp that year, my confidence was high. I was in a new league with older kids. This is part of your practice, I told myself, Be confident. You’re better than most of these guys anyway. My thoughts worked. I had a great season, averaging about ten points and three assists per game. I even won the Defensive Player of the Year award.
I came home from camp with a newfound optimism. When I asked my friends if they thought I could make the school team this time, the answer was different, “Yeah, you’ll probably make it.” I was ecstatic. This is my year, I thought. Tryouts would be a walk in the park. Over 100 kids tried out and I made the second cut. There were thirteen spots and fifteen kids left. Two of us wouldn't’ make it. At the end of the tryout, the coach sat the fifteen of us down. “You guys all did great,” he began. “No matter if you made the team or you didn’t, you are all great players who deserve to be on the team. I wish I could have you all on the roster, but I can’t. The powers that be say that I can only have thirteen. So, here is the roster. He put the list on the door and left the gym. We all looked at each other, then the list, and back at each other. Suddenly, we all ran to the door to see who had made the team. I read down the list. I kept looking for a name that started with D. Nope...nope...wait! I went back to the last name I had read. It was Dylan! My heart started to race. I read the full name. Dylan… Jackson?! That’s not my name! And then I remembered, I wasn’t the only Dylan who tried out for the team. I read the rest of the list. I read it twice to make sure, and then once more. My confidence shattered. I didn’t make it. I was angry, upset, and heartbroken once again.
I was the first to enter the locker room. Inside the room was the coach and all of the jerseys. I wanted to be a part of the team so badly. And just because I couldn’t play on the team didn’t mean I couldn’t still be a part of the team. Plus, it would allow me hang out with friends for a couple of hours after school. As I went to the bathroom, I thought about the choice I had to make: ask the coach to be the manager, hang out with friends, and maybe get to play a little, or don’t. Go home. Abandon my goal. There was no choice there. Only one option was suitable for me.
I walked right up to the coach and said, “Excuse me coach. But I remember that there was a manager on the team last year. Can I be the manager this year?” He looked up at me and smiled. “Sure,” he said. He kept me in the room for a couple of minutes to explain what my job was. I had to go to all of the games and keep stats and I should come to practices when I could, but it wasn’t mandatory. I agreed, and shook his hand with mine.
I came out of the locker room a happier kid than when I had been when I first entered the locker room. Still not excited, but happy enough. I told my friends the news, and they were happy. They knew how much it had meant to me, and that I was really upset when I didn’t make the cut. They felt especially bad for me because there was a kid on the team who I was better than. His name was Mikey. Mikey was tall and athletic, which was why the coach chose him over me. The problem was I had a lot more skill than he did. He couldn’t shoot or drive and could only make his layups when he was right under the basket.
Basketball season was fun. I went on the bus with the team. I did kind of feel like they were talking down to me just a bit, but I didn’t care. I was just enjoying the ride. When we got to the game, I would sit at the stat table with the manager from the other team. We had to pay attention to every stat and foul that everyone had. It was actually a little challenging, but fun.
I did that for thirteen games. The last game was a different story, though. I was walking into the locker room after school when one of the guys on the team went up to me. “You should ask coach if you can play today,” he said. “Last year, the manager played in the last game too.” I liked the idea, but I wasn’t sure. He would probably say no anyway. But, after my friend had told the team about his idea, they too told me I should ask. “You deserve it.” they said. I walked into the locker room once more. The room that had started my “career” with the team was the room I would ask to get what I felt I had deserved from the beginning. “Coach, I was just wondering… can I play in the last game?” He looked at me. I looked back. He turned, grabbed a spare jersey, and threw it at me.
I was ecstatic. From that point until we got to the other school is a blur to me. I just remember being excited and scared. I started off doing the stats. I sat there for the first quarter. When the second quarter ended, coach called me in. He pointed to a kid on our bench. “Do the stats. Dylan’s coming in.” I smiled. I got up and walked on the court. Then, I heard cheering. I turned, and saw the parents section from our school screaming.
Apparently, the kids on the team had told their parents I would be playing. They were happy for me, they felt I deserved it too. The quarter started and I was playing defense on a kid who I was pretty evenly matched with. Same height, looked to be same weight too.
My teammates kept trying to get me the ball. At first, I didn’t want it. But then I realized, this was what I’d been waiting for. I called for the ball. My teammate smiled, and he passed it to me. The parents started to cheer. I locked eyes with my defender. I began to dribble, putting the ball left and right. Finally, he did what I’d been waiting for. He turned his waist, which I knew would give me enough time to get to the hoop. I ran past him and got to the free throw line. I saw the defenders coming in on me. Easy, I thought. Time slowed down. I saw the basket, the parents, the bench. And then I looked at coach. He was looking right at me. Why didn’t he choose me? Mikey had scored three points in the entire season. That’s thirteen games! You’re going to regret not putting me on your roster, I thought. I turned back to the basket and floated the ball up. Time began to move faster. The ball in the air. The ball was hitting the rim. The ball rattled into the hoop. Time was full speed now. The parents roared. So did my teammates. So did coach. Finally, I had proven myself. But I wasn’t done. The very next possession, I stole the ball and got a breakaway layup. The people roared even louder. When the game was over, everyone was giving me high-fives and sais “nice job”. My parents found out too, and congratulated me. We all went out for a celebratory dinner. That night, I laid in bed, thinking about the great day I had just had. My hard work and focus had helped me achieve my goal. I smiled, and with that thought, I closed my eyes and went to bed.