For several weeks after school started, we had basketball conditioning. Lots of running. This was mostly student-led by upperclassmen. I believe the state rules indicated the coach couldn’t be involved when basketballs were used. So we could do non-ball-related activities in her presence. Stuff like suicides, wall sitting to work the lower body muscles, getting into defensive stance and shuffling across the court.
We had a small group of girls try out for the team, to the point where I figured everyone would make the team. Nope. Still a few students were cut. We had the bare minimum of people for varsity and junior varsity.
I was the only freshman girl to make varsity, but that doesn’t mean I was ready for that level.
I don’t think I was a starter immediately, but I played in that first game for sure. I connected on the scoring enough to be second highest for the team. Considering my past struggles of coordination and mastery of various motor functions, that’s impressive.
Being physically aggressive on the court, getting in position for rebounds and boxing out an opponent were not my strengths. To effectively play defense beyond merely relying on my height, that took time.
During that first year there was a stretch where I lost confidence in myself or just wasn’t playing well. So coach had me play for a quarter or two during JV games too to help with that. It probably was a matter of not feeling emotionally ready to take on this level of competition or that I couldn’t give the coaches what they wanted.
I mostly sat by myself on the bus, I think, when we traveled to away games. It was loud with girls, boys and cheerleaders together. I liked my teammates but that doesn’t mean we were buddy-buddy or super good friends off the court. I wasn’t good with the small talk either, so that didn’t help.
I hung in there, though. At the end of the year, our coach wrote a note to players and included individual stats, something I managed to save. She admitted that she had throw me into the “lion’s den” that year but was proud of how I played through the challenge. And apparently I made the winning shot for our final game of the season, so that’s pretty cool!
As the seasons progressed, I did see the direct impact it made with classes. Having that after school responsibility forces you to make better use of remaining time for studying and projects. You’re forced to plan better and start earlier instead of procrastinating. So when the season ended in February or March, it was easy to fall into bad habits and need extra motivation, which certainly gets more challenging in that last quarter of the year. So maybe that’s why so many students played multiple sports. Well, in addition to liking those sports.
But it was exciting to earn the letterman’s jacket that first year. Not many freshmen can say this, even if you are part of a small school. Or you happen to be the tallest girl in the school. Still, it’s not a guarantee, and it’s not handed to you; you have to work for every bit of it.