Basketball - My Favorite Sport

January 13, 2009
“Caroline, can I talk to you for a minute?” my coach asked as I removed my sweaty shoes from my aching feet.

“Yeah, hold on one second.” I replied, still huffing and puffing from our last game.
As the buzzer sounded, the team formed one last huddle at basketball team camp and collapsed to the floor, exhausted. Not quite sure if I should be excited to talk to my coach or not, I drug my feet on the dusty court and hobbled toward her.

“I just wanted to discuss with you about up-coming basketball season and where you stand on our team.” she began as we made our way up to the dorms where the rest of the team began showering, chatting, or getting some much needed sleep.

My stomach twisted as I realized I would not be receiving the good news I hoped for. The background sound of bouncing balls, the squeak of sneakers running down the court, and the cheers of teammates faded around me while she continued the bad news.

Coach informed me that three other juniors and I were in a difficult position this year. Since the basketball program was growing, we would end up getting only a few minutes of playing time in the upcoming season. She struggled to tell us that the other juniors and I were not allowed to play on the junior varsity team as juniors, yet would probably not see much time on the varsity squad either.
My mind was racing and confused. All summer long I had spent much of my leisure time working, eating, and breathing basketball. Ever since freshman year I had strived to become a better player, determined to improve. Discouraged, I now realized my hard work meant nothing in the eyes of my coach.

I miraculously kept my composure as my coach rambled on about how, if I would choose to continue to play basketball, I would still be expected to attend every practice and have a positive attitude as well.
When my coach finished, I thanked her for being honest with me and slowly walked up the blurred stairs. Tears streamed I opened the door to my dorm room which reeked of sweat that my roommate and I had attempted to cover up with Febreeze. Thankfully my roommate was nowhere to be found and I collapsed onto what had been my creaky bed for the past week. I was exhausted, not only physically from the twelve games I had participated in, but emotionally as well. Only a half hour before I had been participating in the one sport that I had been a part of since sixth grade, and I was now questioning whether or not I wanted to continue playing.
The next morning I slumped into my house, and as I gasped for air between my sobs, I unloaded to my parents what had happened. My mom attempted to soothe me while I vented about how frustrated and discouraged I was, and they promised to support me in whatever decision I made. Over the next few weeks it weighed heavy on my mind. And I reminisced from my freshman year.
I was sprinting down the court hot, sticky, and terrified, attempting to impress my coach. It was the last day of freshman try-outs and I was almost positive that I was not going to make the team. I had returned to try-outs today with a renewed confidence after being completely distraught the night before, convinced I was a failure at this sport. My parents consoled me and encouraged me. However, that flew out the window as soon as I made one minor error. Here I was again, discouraged, and all I could focus on were the many mistakes that I could not seem to stop making. Finally, try-outs were over and to my surprise, I made the junior varsity team. I was ecstatic!
Basketball quickly became one of the most dominant foci in my life. I loved it and looked forward to all the team bonding, practices, and most of all games. I never had a dull moment.
However, during my freshman basketball season, I found myself constantly comparing myself to my sister Mary, the varsity basketball star. I watched from the junior varsity bench as my sister rapidly excelled. Although I loved basketball, I was not as good as I wanted to be and that killed me. It took a long time, a lot of tears, and many nights pleading with God for me to realize that I should be proud of myself and not just focus on comparing myself to her.
Sophomore year I was no longer worried about whether or not I would make the team however, I wanted to set a good example for the freshmen. That year I worked especially hard and the team voted me one of the three junior varsity captains. Being a captain taught me a different role as a leader that I enjoyed very much. The three of us attempted to pep up the team before games and helped to keep things as fun as possible during the long, grueling season.
Both my freshman and sophomore years I had the unique opportunity to also have my dad there during practices and games. I would peer over to where varsity was scrimmaging on the other half of the court and watch as my dad ran with the players. He was the assistant varsity coach, and although I was not on varsity, having him involved in this area of my life was incredible. He encouraged me and gave me advice as well as let me voice my frustrations to him.
But now, here I was having to decide whether or not I even wanted to continue playing. It was impossible for me to imagine not playing, as it had been such a huge part of my life for five years; however I couldn’t see myself enjoying sitting the bench if I chose to keep playing.
When I first considered not playing basketball, one of the thoughts that popped into my mind was, “I don’t want to disappoint my dad.” I was so worried that by choosing not to continue playing, I would let him down. All I wanted was to impress him, just like Mary did.
Finally, I confronted my dad about how I was feeling. He put his arms around me and reassured me that there was absolutely no way I could let him down. He was proud of everything I was doing and would continue to be proud of me whether or not that involved basketball. He reminded me of all the other talents I possessed and that basketball didn’t make or break our relationship.
The second thing that kept me from quitting was the thought of loosing all the amazing friendships I had acquired through basketball. I knew we wouldn’t stop being friends all together however, I knew we would no longer share in the pain of having two and a half hour practices every day or be able to celebrate the victory of a sweet win together.
Knowing these things, I continued to pray and ask God to show me what I should be doing. A few days later one of my friends, Kate Kreider, asked me if I would consider helping her to coach the junior varsity middle school team if I decided not to play basketball. This was something I had never thought of doing before, yet I liked the idea. Knowing that I could be involved in the basketball program, just from a different perspective, helped me to make my decision.
A few weeks later I wrote my coach an e-mail telling her that I had decided to not continue playing basketball. I let her know that I was not angry with her and still respected her for being honest with us, the four juniors.
A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I clicked the send button. I had been worried that I would feel like I made the wrong decision and would regret it for the rest of my life. Instead, a feeling of peace came over me. I was positive I had done the right thing.
I am sure when basketball season rolls around this winter, it will feel really strange not participating and having to watch the other girls have fun. However, I’m excited to assist with the younger girls and get them just as pumped as I was to play basketball, my favorite sport.

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