Perfect Feeling This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Sweat is running down my face. The crowd is silent as I stand at the foul line. I roll the ball off my fingertips into a perfect backspin, pounding the floor. The pressure is on. The ball soars out of my hand and drops perfectly through the net.

I've played basketball since I was three. My dad taught me everything I know. It's been the one gift he actually came through on. I play whenever I get the urge. There is something that draws me to it. It might be a mix of competition, adrenaline and the friendships I've built along the way.

Adrenaline is key - I live for it. I strive to reach my maximum. Basketball has given me an outlet to see how far I can go. Some people don't think basketball is a hard sport, but there are so many things to think about. The opponent should never be able to outsmart you. You need basic coordination and knowledge of the game. I love running up the court and putting a perfect pass down so that my team scores.

Basketball gets my heart pumping. When I play alone at home, I try for hours to reach the sweet spot of perfection. "You don't play against opponents, you play against the game of basketball," Pat Riley says in my head.

I look forward to competition. Going against another person shows you your mistakes. Your competitors show you new moves. I love the contact. I'm challenged to stuff someone, or out rebound other girls. Not only do you have to compete with your opponents, but your team as well.

There is no more gratifying moment than when the coach calls your name as part of the starting five. To get there takes hard work, but if you love what you're doing, it isn't work. When you show your stuff on the court, the coach doesn't replace you. The pressure can be unbearable; it takes a determined player to push to the top, to fight for a game on the line. I love to experience the feeling that I never stop trying hard when I'm on the court. When I'm on the bench, I reflect on my mistakes. Basketball is more a mental sport than physical.

"Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates" is Magic Johnson's version of John Kennedy's speech. I cherish the companionship. You can tell who takes time to build friendships and who just sinks into the crowd. A close-knit team knows their strengths and weaknesses. You know where the ball should go, or when to set the pick. All it takes to break a team is one person's shyness or negativity.

The sport lifts me when I'm down. It releases all my stress in an instant. I love the way a basketball bounces in just the perfect way to return to your hand. The leathery texture runs smoothly off my hand; just watching the ball form a perfect arc touches a nerve. Basketball has never let me down, and it's taught me one great lesson: Either you want it or you don't. If the urge is bad enough fight for it, give all you have to obtain it, and be proud with glowing pride.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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