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Smallest Inspiration MAG
The game was over and once again we had lost. No one said a word. No one had to. The long faces told it all. Everyone wanted to improve, and playing against harder teams would make us more experienced, but why did Coach choose this tournament?
The atmosphere was different, nothing like what we were used to. Empty seats lined the arena, making the basketball court look larger than regulation size. The vaulted ceilings made the whole place seem bigger; plus, it was freezing. The air and elevation affected everything: we breathed differently, and our shots were off. This was officially the most difficult tournament we'd ever played in, and it wasn't because of the competition. Why had Coach registered us to play? The question lingered in every one of our minds. Only one answer was logical: if we planned on playing at a collegiate level, this would become our sanctuary, so why not get used to it now?
Almost every game was a blow-out. My team couldn't seem to get it together. Nothing felt right. We'd been playing together for two years and it felt as if the chemistry was fading. In between quarters we'd talk and try to critique the situation, but as soon as the whistle blew, it started all over again. After the last drastic loss, I was walking behind my team on our way to the Sun Devils locker room. I was still in the zone, continuing to think about the game. It was almost as though scenes were replaying in my head. Out of nowhere I felt a soft tug on my shorts. I slowly turned and looked down at a young girl holding out a pad of paper and a pen. I was shocked. All I could think was how horribly we'd just played, and she wanted an autograph? Why? How come she came to me and not one of the superstars on the other team? I mean, they were obviously better.
“Jay, this would mean a lot to me,” the girl said in a high-pitched voice that interrupted my thoughts.
“No problem, what's your name?” I asked after taking the pen and the pad.
“Melanie,” she said quietly. I signed and was about to walk away when she said, “I know it must not be easy to lose, but you played really hard and never once gave up. You hustled to the end and that's what made you stand out. You have a really good attitude and the skill to go with it, but you can't win them all.”
Standing there listening, my jaw dropped. All I could get out was a simple, “Thanks.”
“You're welcome. Thanks for the autograph. You really made my day.”
“No, you made mine,” I said with a small smile.
As I entered the locker room, I couldn't help but think about what she had said to me.
'”Hey guys, guess what just happened?”
They all listened in awe and smiled smiles of inspiration. Her words motivated us all.