Holding the ball in my hands, sweat pouring off my forehead into my eyes, I stare confidently at the hoop, ready to shoot my first free throw. My teammates are lined up behind me at the half court line yelling words of encouragement. I shoot my first shot and the ball flies through the air. After what seems like centuries, it sinks in the rim with a loud swoosh, and the crowd roars. My teammates rush up to me, high-fiving and slapping me on the back. The game is tied and I have one more shot. The referee tosses me the ball and the gym falls silent. Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I shoot the second shot.
It rolls around the rim and falls in. The gym is alive with excitement as the final buzzer sounds and all my teammates are on their feet jumping and cheering, some crying with joy. We won the state championship! In the midst of all this, a strange thought enters my mind. Where would I be if I hadn’t been in basketball? My basketball career started in 4th grade. Back then the only thing I really wanted to do was run around, dribble a ball, and hang out with friends. Practices were all very basic: plenty of layups and dribbling drills, and not much shooting or running.
When our season began, we went into the games just for fun; however, we started getting better and going into games with a “NO LOSE” attitude. We ended our fourth grade season undefeated. This is where my love of the game started. This devotion continued throughout later elementary and middle school. We have been extremely lucky to have 5 girls who have remained constant through all of the adversity we have faced together. When I started high school, I had to go through a big change that I had never experience before. I was no longer the star. I had girls four years older than me, not to mention much better.
I had to earn my spot. Though I didn’t play much varsity my freshman year, I learned many ways to improve. The last game of my freshman year was the district championship against our arch-rivals St. Thomas More, which we lost. As I was sitting in the locker room, watching the senior girls cry and listening to them apologizing for not getting us farther, I started setting goals in my head. Our coach came in after the game, gave us a piece of paper and told us to write down what we needed to improve, so the seniors the following year wouldn’t feel that way.
That next summer we pulled those papers out and we started to improve on our flaws. My sophomore year was one that I will never forget. The transition from my freshman year to my sophomore year was a little more drastic. Instead of sitting the bench like I had the previous year, I was now starting varsity as a point guard. Starting the season with this big of a responsibility was very nerve-wracking on me, but my teammates and coaches, gave me a great deal of confidence that carried me through the season.
We had two amazing seniors that were great leaders and very effective on the court. The night before the district championship, I was admitted into the hospital for appendicitis. It was the worst feeling I had ever had in my life. The thought of letting my team down tore me apart. I called my head coach at 4 am the morning of the game, letting him know what had happened and that I wouldn’t be playing that day. Three hours later I had my appendix taken out. All I remember is lying in the hospital bed crying, thinking why this had to happen to me when it did.
When I woke up after surgery, my coach had come to see how I was doing and to let me know that this had happened for a reason and that we would make it work. He told me that if I wasn’t able to go to the game, he would bring me a radio on the way so I could be sure to listen, and that he would stop afterwards to let me know how it went and I could see the team. After all day lying in my hospital bed crying, I was released at 2 pm that day and the first place I went was the gym. When I walked in, my team gathered around me to make sure I was ok.
As I continued to watch them shoot, I decided I wanted to go to the game, but I didn’t want to ride with anyone other than the team. I checked with my mom and she allowed me to ride the bus to the game. Sitting on the sideline, I watched my team win the district championship. My day went from terrible to amazing in less than two hours. It was a great feeling when a few of my teammates came up to me and said, “This was for you! ” The season continued after that, and we won the regional championship, and we made our first trip to the2009 State Tournament, and we placed 3rd.
After all that success my sophomore year, we hit some adversity starting into my junior summer. After our trip to state, our head coach got an offer for a different coaching position at a bigger school, and our assistant also got another job offer teaching. We were left coach-less, and the 5 of us that had been together through everything up to this point didn’t know what we were going to do. A few of us started going to open gym in another town, so we could play, because we had no one to open it for us at home. We older girls tried getting everyone together to see what their thoughts on the
situation were. Finally, in August of my junior year, they hired someone. It was such a relief knowing that our season wasn’t going to be dropped before it even started. We had a few open gyms with the new guy, and suddenly he quit. He left us a week and a half before our official season started. There we were again, shocked and hopeless, some of us wanting to move to another town, just so we could play. Then our current coach took the position. He had been the boy’s head coach for a few years having just a couple successful seasons.
The team had a meeting the Tuesday before practice started and he asked us to make team goals for the season; we told him, “A trip to the state tournament, and an undefeated season. ” Coach looked at us crazy but wrote them down. We started the season off stronger than ever, winning all of our games until it came to the West River Tournament, which we had been back-to-back champs the previous years. We played Wall and they ended up beating us by 3 in the championship game. It was devastating; we couldn’t believe they took our perfect season, just like that. After that game we came back ready to kill, and that’s exactly what we did.
We went into the district championship 21-1. That “NO LOSE” attitude came back into effect and we won the district championship and the region championship for the second year in a row. We went back to state and played our hearts out, with the help of one amazing senior who played a huge role in our team’s success. We finished 5th as consolation champions. As I reflect on the many years I have put into this game, I can’t help but still wonder where I would be without it. I have learned so much about life, relationships, and hardships through this experience.
With the help of basketball I am able to be a good leader, can work through adversity, and am a competitor through any obstacles I am forced to face. As a senior, this year is the beginning of the end of my high school basketball career, and I want nothing less than a state championship. I want to feel the rush of being on the line, with the game in my hands, and seizing that opportunity to make my teammates proud; to prove that all that hard work and hours in the gym has paid off. I want to leave the Newell Lady Irrigators knowing we accomplished something great, and that we will always be remembered.