I wanted to go the local Catholic high school. But the one in town closed many many years ago. So it meant having to attend the school forty minutes away, across state lines.
Like I said, I wanted to go. But it was sad to say goodbye to the friends I had met in public school. And going to a school that far away offered new challenges for getting involved and socializing.
During one of the diocesan-wide basketball tournaments that I played in middle school, the girls basketball coach had come to see me play. He was very excited to have me play when I reached high school.
During the summer before ninth grade, I learned that anyone interested in girls basketball could join up for voluntary team conditioning. So Mom drove me over and dropped me off for morning sessions.
I didn’t know what I was getting into. I walked in to see several girls and a female coach, so something had changed with the staffing. But when I walked in, I wasn’t forced to offer a weird introduction; they all knew who I was. And one girl immediately commented she liked my shoes, not something I heard very often. They made me feel welcome right away.
And then we got down to business with a lot of running and ball-handling drills and more running.
The gym had no air conditioning, so summer heat in the South was brutal. We ran around the football field a lot, up the stadium steps and did many drills on an agility ladder that was laid on the ground. It was very tough work. Trying to keep up, trying to improve my stamina. Trying not to trip as my feet tried to imitate seemingly unnatural movements.
The ball handling drills were just as challenging as all the running. We did rounds of dribbling two balls at once, dribbling figure eights around the legs and something called a spider dribble where you’re alternating dribbles in front of your knees and behind your knees. There was also a drilled that I believed was dubbed the machine gun. The group formed a semi circle with someone in the middle. The person in the middle passes a ball and then quickly receives a second ball from someone else. The goal is to release the ball quickly and receive the ongoing ball, working on speed and peripheral vision. I was actually better at this drill than others.
So while it was hard work, I’m glad I was able to make those summer sessions. I had an opportunity to get to know several upperclassmen (potential teammates), getting to know their names so that I would recognize some people I passed in the hallway.
Although it wasn’t like I didn’t know anyone at this school. Many kids who had gone through the Catholic grade school in my hometown were also here. So I became reacquainted with several in my grade whom I hadn’t seen much since sixth grade. No one mentioned the horrors from that year, so I was at least free from that embarrassment.
The other big event that summer was being invited to a pool party for the girls and boys basketball teams. That was every bit as intimidating as it sounds. I was still very much self-conscious of how I looked, especially in a bathing suit. My suit was a two-piece, but one of those shows-off-absolutely-nothing tankini tops with a skirt bottom.
I went. I got compliments on my suit. And the guys knew who I was too and talked to me, offering generous predictions of how our season would go.
It was flattering but awkward to have senior boys talking to me. Then again my brother was a senior at this school so it probably shouldn’t have been so surprising. But to be a freshman and have upperclassmen boys acknowledging you in the halls is a big deal regardless of how it happens!