We’re gonna get another one of these. Trust me I won’t stop working till we make it. This one's all worn out, you can see my fingerprints engraved in it! I want a new one and I want to know when I get it that all these countless hours, and this work has paid off and I earned that ball. So mark my words now, we will be back next year, and when we’re there, this will remind us of all the work we put in to get to that point.
The air was damp. The aroma of athletes roamed the facility. Everyone wearing the same apparel; you knew it was a high school gym. School pride written on walls and shown by actions. Constant desire from everyone around to get better at their craft, which made the racket of a stampede.
Staying focused on their hands, cancelling out all the excess noise in the gym, palms sweaty, fingers grasping the ball. My feet were clenched to the freshly waxed court. I start to separate my hands to begin my throwing motion. Using the strength of my shoulders, I thrust the ball up through my ears. With the pull of the gravity my arm is forced behind my head before recoiling forward at incredible speeds. All the force and speed from my launching arm was released into the ball sending it soaring at phenomenal speeds piercing through the air at the intended target. “Austin!” Everything went quiet for a split second. Before I even turned my head I had already recognized the person. Coach Wood. He stood there at 6’0 tall. Eyes glaring, face boiling. Frantically gnawing on his gum. CHOMP CHOMP. With words to break someones dreams in the palm of his hand he could make or break you in a second. Hands fixed so tightly his veins popped viciously like oil in a pan. Worst part is he was like a maze, didn’t know what to expect next. He could be in a good mood or he could be about to criticize you. You won't’ know till those first words pierce through your ears.
Frantickly I stood there thinking in my head what did I do wrong, is he gonna criticize my mechanics, am in the way of the football workouts, what did I do? “Here, use this ball” and he tossed me a ball. He only wanted to give me a ball? Was that it? I caught it and observed it thoroughly. My heart began to race excessively. No way I thought. It was the playoff ball! He gave me the playoff ball from the MLK game last year. Smooth lavish brown leather. Sewed into the shape of an oval filled at 12 psi. Small enough to grasp with a single hand but to big to wrap both hands around. Cherished for one week but forgotten on the next. Called by some “The Rock”. But when the glistering toe of your cleat strikes passed that white line, and you're finally on the field, the protection of that ball is valued more than life.
That ball means a lot to me. I don't just carry it around because I want to. I carry it around as a constant reminder. A reminder of what I am working for and where I want to be. Crazy to think how important an object could mean to someone. That one ball helps motivate me to constantly get better and to keep working for that one goal I set. Even though everyday I see and use multiple balls that look and feel exactly the same as that one, but they will never mean the same to me. I carry that ball as a reminder and a motivator to get better.