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A lot of people don't understand what it feels like to be sitting on the bench in the crowded gym when the final buzzer goes off. You haven't played at all during the whole game. You haven't played for days. You've been injured and not allowed to play.
For these athletes, people don't understand what the final buzzer of the last game of the season means. When the lights go out in the gym and the scoreboard turns off until next year, that means something, that nobody understands until you are one of those athletes. For some injured athletes, it means time to recover and get prepared for next year. That's not what it meant for me. For me, it marked the end of my basketball career. As a freshman, it's tough to think you'll never play again.
Very early in our season, I sprained my ankle in practice. I wasn't allowed back on the court for three and a half weeks. Once I was allowed to play again, I had limited game time. After all, I'd missed out on four of five scrimmages, the first three games, and a lot of practices. Getting game time was a tough task, but after a month of hard work, I finally was starting to get more than two minutes each game.
One day, we had a game against our rival team. Coach decided I'd worked hard the past few weeks. He awarded me with a starting position in that game. I got quite a bit of time that game. After half time, we got back on the court and he put me in again.
Playing for a while, one girl took a shot on the basket. Being five feet tall, it takes a lot for me to get a rebound. Trying to prove myself, I tried to get the rebound. I jumped, and missed. Still not giving up, I dove for the ball. One of the opposing girls went for the ball also, but missed and slid through my ankle.
I fought on as hard as I could, but eventually couldn't take it. Coach pulled me out finally anyway, so I didn't have to suffer anymore. My ankle was throbbing and hurt a lot. My left one. The same one I'd sprained two months earlier.
After the game, I went to the trainer's room to get some ice for my ankle. I explained to him what happened and he said he saw me limping a little and knew something was wrong. He decided he was going to go ahead and check it for me. He said I'd sprained it again and put me back on crutches again. I was crushed. I knew I wouldn't be able to play again for a while. My hard work had been for nothing.
I got off the crutches, but it was still bothering me. He wouldn't let me play still. Weeks went by, I wasn't allowed on the court. Finally, he sent me to get it checked by a special doctor. He had it x-rayed and said there wasn't anything broken. He didn't know what was wrong. He decided I needed to get an MRI.
I couldn't get the MRI scheduled until Valentines Day. That happened to be the same day as our first round tournament game. That sealed my fate there. I was done for the season.
I got my MRI, and the doctor looked at it. I had bruised my ankle bone and damaged ligaments in my ankle. I had to go into a lot of physical therapy. Did I mention I also play tennis, run and swim a lot?
So here I am five months after the initial sprain and three months after my accident in the game. I have been through a lot of therapy, and still can't run or jump. Sitting through that first round game, we won. We went on to play again two days later against a team we had lost 95-7 to in a scrimmage. We lost 33-31. When that buzzer went off, it took everything I had to not break into tears.
After everything I've been through, who knows what the future holds. But my mom has told me she doesn't want basketball to be a part of it. Basketball has taken a very active girl and limited her abilities.
The next time you see an injured player on the bench at the end of the final game of the season, think about what it means to them. Think about what got them there. You never know, until you ARE the one on the bench