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The Name Game

In most small towns, there are two kinds of athletes. There are athletes who play The Real Game, and athletes who play The Name Game. The difference between these two athletes is the name gamers rely on who they're related to and their last names, and the real gamers rely on their hard work and talent.
“Hey Coach,” I asked, running up to him in the hall of the Verona school, “do you mind if I help out at practice? Since Erika is here anyway?”

After he told me I could, I hurried off to throw on my freshly washed reversible jersey, and lace up my Adidas sneakers, joking with Jamilla in the locker room. For the next two weeks, Jamilla and I dressed with the team and practiced with them. When they did layups, we did layups. They did Shoot 100, we did Shoot 100. We did punishments together, crusher after crusher. Being the extra defender and helping trap, we helped every girl get better, including ourselves. I wanted to be on the team so badly; I could see myself in a LaMoure Loboe varsity jersey already. To be honest, I thought that I was becoming a part of the team, with or without a jersey.

One day, after a tough practice, Erika and I came home and my mom asked us how it went. Erika didn’t answer right away, and the mood in the room suddenly felt heavy. Her face burdened with sympathy, bluntly revealed, “Coach gave Jamilla a jersey.”
The air became heavily depressed with my disappointment. I couldn’t believe that after two weeks of working my butt off with the girls, I wasn’t on the team. For a split second, I thought I hadn’t made the team because I wasn’t good enough, but then I realized that this was the Name Game at it’s finest. All this time how could I be so naive and actually believe that sports were based on hard work and skills and not last names? With my naiveness stripped away, I could clearly see this game that my family had talked about. I could see that it was the same game that had stripped Erika of her earned starting spot, just so a “name” could start.
Then I remembered what Coach had said earlier: “Yes you can practice with us, but don’t expect a jersey. I’m not adding anyone else to the team.” he said, pushing his glasses higher up on his nose.
This only made me madder. Why couldn’t I get a jersey? I had put in just as much time as Jamilla, so why does she deserve it over me? Why would Coach lie to me, and give her one?

I decided to work harder than ever before. I was going to make it next year--no question about it. I wanted to show them that I could and would earn a spot next year, without having to rely on my last name. I would show them how to play the Real Game.

I would rather play my hardest at the Real Game than the Name Game. I want to know that I got the varsity jersey because I worked hard and pushed myself towards improving, instead of getting a jersey because I’m related to the coach. I would rather get a varsity jersey by having what it takes to make the play or score the point, not because of what my last name is. I want to be a leader on the floor and an unselfish individual willing to sacrifice anything for the team. I want the jersey because I have my teammates back, off the court and on. I don’t think that only the friends of the “names” should play and be passed the ball. If high school sports worked this way, ball hogging won’t be allowed, and everyone will have a fair chance to play.




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Jamilla said...
today at 11:04 pm:
I find the whole name game a cop out for people who aren't athletic enough to make the team. These same people wear their blinders instead of developing the drive to be competitive. Instead of working hard, supporting their team (by the way, you are not a team player when you make excuses as to why another gets chosen over you), doing whatever it takes to be a part of the real team; these wannabes gossip, talk about the true members, and continue to bully them in this same 'feel sorry fo... (more »)
 
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