Monday, November 19, 2012

Basketball & Its Lasting Impressions

Writing is therapeutic, so perhaps that's one of the reasons I chose to start this blog, and I need some therapy for my stupid dreams. Just kidding, but seriously... I just got up from a nap and for the countless time I had another dream about my basketball experience at Doane College. Perhaps that's because these last few days I have been going through my overflowing closet and dresser and deciding what clothes to keep and what to give away. As I was going through long sleeved t-shirts I ran across my basketball shirt from my freshman year of high school. This shirt is over 10 years old, but it's still in really good shape (shows how much I wear it). I held it up trying to decide whether or not to keep it and a flood of basketball memories came back to me. Some good. Some bad. But they all made lasting impressions.

I'll be completely honest with you, I'm so thankful for the experience I did have, however, I wouldn't call it a positive one. Lately, I've been dreaming about it more and more and it's quite honestly starting to drive me crazy. I'd love to put it behind me! But every single time I dream about it, I'm reminded of these basketball experiences and I roll it through my head over and over again. So hopefully by writing about it, I'll stop dreaming about it, and eventually FORGET ABOUT IT.

I walked on to the college basketball team with ZERO confidence in my basketball playing abilities and was hoping to simply walk on the team with a group of girls and a coach who would help me get it back. I had just graduated from a couple of experiences that didn't exactly encourage me to pursue sports. One was medical the other was... I can't even think of a word for it. Hear my story and perhaps you can come up with one yourself. My junior year of high school was by far my best year in sports. I had my top PR's in track and field, running a 12.99 100 meter sprint, 26.9 200, and a 59 split on the 4x400 team, I didn't realize how fast I was until I went back and looked at my high school scrapbook where I kept every PR sheet our coach gave us at the end of the year. The times were not competitive at my level on an individual basis, but we had 3 other girls running approximately the same times, allowing us to have killer relay teams. We walked away with a 5th place and a 3rd place medal at state in the 4x200 and 4x400 teams. I kept the Denver Post article which named the top athletes in different arena's of basketball. I was named one of the top athletes in Colorado for my 3 point shot. I'm not writing this to brag, I'm writing it so you understand that I was going into my senior year cocky, which looking back I know was part of my downfall. God has a lot to say about pride!

Today, I truly believe my senior year was meant to be a humbling experience....

I was expected, and I expected, to have an amazing senior year, but two things kept that from happening: a coach and a broken foot (I should say three because God is sovereign!). My basketball coach knew that my one goal was to play college sports. I didn't care if it was for some podunk basketball program, perhaps he didn't know that, but I absolutely loved the sport. My junior year I had started for the team and for the first time in our high school's history we made it to the first round of state. My senior year rolled around and my coach benched me, stating he was "building for the future." I asked him to fill out an application describing me as a basketball player for prospective college coaches and in the section where it said to describe me he wrote, "short and stocky." Perhaps he looked at my 5'4" frame and thought, "HA!" Whatever his reasoning he crushed my spirits. I remember bawling (thinking I was fat) and my sweet, sweet brother erased it and wrote something else. I became a brat about the whole situation, however, and if I was the coach dealing with my bratty self, I would've wanted to put me in my place. I was ANGRY and bitter, and those are two, very deadly combinations. I began writing down every single mistake this guy made, wrote a letter and submitted it to the administration, hoping for revenge. I had the "don't mess with me attitude." Uh, can someone please slap me now?! I feel so stupid sharing that with you, I was a selfish moron.

I'm ashamed to write that I hated him, that feeling does not exist anymore. Yes, I'm still frustrated at how it all turned out, but God had a plan different than my own. My attitude stunk. I was hateful. I wanted revenge. I was angry, especially towards another player, younger than me who always yelled at me when I made a mistake or bragged about starting over me. Sometimes I wondered if the coach's listened to her. I became so afraid to mess up! If I screwed up, I was back on the bench, and this is when I swore I would never, ever do that as a coach. Making a mistake is one thing, learning from it is another, repeating it over and over again would require a bench talk. I understood that even as an 18 year old, but the more afraid I become of screwing up, the more I screwed up! The more I screwed up, the more I sat on the bench. The more I sat on the bench, the confidence level decreased to an all time low. The less confidence I had, the more I screwed up, the more I got yelled at, etc. It was a vicious cycle.

Looking back I truly think this was God trying to humble me. I came off a year where "I" did this and "I" did that. I was so interested in "MY" status as a player. "I" got a Rocky Mountain player to watch status. "I" was ranked as a top 3 point shooter in the state. "I" earned a 3rd place medal in the 4x400. I, me, my. I'm sick of myself when I think back to my selfish attitude. Yes, I loved my teammates but I was very stuck on what medals and awards "I" could bring home.

Thankfully I'm not who I once was. If you haven't been around me in the last year you need to understand exactly how much I've changed, read my blog on how I'm Not the Same as I Once Was, Thank God!

The second aspect of a failing senior year was my foot. I had this weird bump on the inside of my foot and occasional shooting pains that started from that area and ran up my ankle. Plus it was achy after I worked out, go figure. I had a broken navicular bone and had ruined some ligaments in the process. I can't pin point the time it started hurting, but I can pin point to the specific time when I knew something wasn't right. We were running in our 4x200 team and our hand off went awry, with the person who I was supposed to hand to taking off to early. I leaned to hand her the buton, dragging my foot, and something popped. I walked off the track going, "wow that really hurt!" Well, duh! In the process of tearing ligaments I popped off the end of my navicular bone. I ran through the season, complaining the entire time (which I don't put up with as track coach, and I have to wonder why my coach put up with me?). I had the, "poor me," and "I can't do that because it hurts" attitude. I still can't tell you why my track coach put up with my whiny behavior. Honestly, if I was her I would've told me to, "Shut up! There's nothing I can do about it. So either suck it up or go to a doctor who can do something about it."

I don't know how, but I continued to work hard (and whine about it). I loved my track coach. She was consistent. Hard working. And fair. So my work ethic did improve, especially because my teammates pushed me. I ended up making it to state in 4 events, but not doing as well as I'd hoped.

Six months later I found myself at a chiropractor, thinking this was something he could easily fix, staring at my x-ray's opened mouth at this obvious break. So he sent me to a foot specialist and I was in a boot for a long time.

I walked into my freshmen year of college in a boot. I went to every single practice, lifted what weights I could, attended study hall, meetings, etc. and never once felt like the team. At the time I understood why. It's hard to accept someone when they don't practice with you, travel with you, hang out in the locker room, etc. So I decided to lose the boot, suck it up and play, thinking that would help. Mistake (duh, me and my stupid teenage self). I screwed it up more. My doctor now said the only way to repair the damage was surgery and because of the amount of time I had taken to repair the damage, the recovery time was going to be a long one. Goodie. Well the summer after my freshmen year I spent on crutches and was on crutches going into school.

The basketball pre-season workouts started either late August or early September and by that time I was a few weeks from losing the crutches, but I would still be in a boot, and out for the year. My stupid self didn't continue physical therapy once I went back to college, ugh, not helping myself out at all. Instead of gaining strength, I was losing it. Obviously, this was doing nothing to regain my lost confidence, but I still showed up to every practice, weight lifting, meeting, etc. I was also involved in the pep and concert bands. Practice for those events was right before basketball practice, so I would leave one practice to attend another. On many occasions I was late for basketball practice. I began noticing that I was the brunt of ridicule from a few of my teammates. At this time, welcome was not something I felt from them, so I honestly wasn't surprised, but it stung just the same.

I had to sit out my sophomore year, and began my junior year fat and out of shape. My junior year was also the start (and continuation) of a lot of personal drama in my life involving family and the deaths of numerous friends, and instead of reverting to something that would actually help me, I drank. A lot. I was depressed about not being able to play, the death of my friends, and my parent's nasty divorce, so instead of working on improving my basketball skills, I used my free time to drink, and more importantly I rejected God. Sooooooo, things only got worse.

When I look back to that part of my life I was self medicating. The only way I wanted to deal with it was by drinking, forgetting about it, doing something stupid, waking up feeling awful about that, then turning around and drinking again, thinking it would help me forget, doing something stupid again, waking up feeling awful again, drinking, waking and feeling awful, drinking, oh my goodness it was a nasty cycle.

So what does this have to do with basketball? Well, during all of this I continued to go to practice. Drinking obviously did not help me in practice. I was really sucking it up. Plus (partly because I skipped therapy and because I was lazy in the off season) I was weak. My feet didn't move quickly, I was slow, uncoordinated, and really far behind. This did not help me earn a place on the team.

I was also more interested in being part of my sorority, where I felt like I belonged, than being around the basketball team. EVER. I knew they hated me. So, I had no desire to work hard. I had no desire to try in practice. I went because I had never, not once in my life been a quitter. But quit I did. The reasons I quit?
  1. I didn't feel like I belonged on the team.
  2. After being in a boot for more time than I can count, I lost a lot of quick foot speed, which for reasons I didn't understand at the time I wasn't getting back. (Ahem, too much alcohol and I didn't continue physical therapy when I returned to school. Stupid teenager!)
  3. I really, really needed a job. Basketball and pep/concert band practice took a lot of time and I was struggling financially. So I worked in the alumni office at Doane and as a bartender at the Eagles club.
  4. I wanted to spend more time with my sorority girls, where I actually felt loved.
  5. I was turning soft and lazy.
  6. I was really, really behind the rest of the team after all my time "off".
Now that I look back, I regret that decision. Why didn't I just suck it up and play the sport I loved? Why didn't I go to the gym on my own time and try to regain what I had lost? Why didn't I use the off season to make myself better? WHY? WHY? WHY? I don't know why, but now I'm constantly dreaming about it! It's driving me nuts. I keep dreaming that I'm either going back to try and play, or that I didn't quit and randomly show up at practice and I keep failing and messing things up, or that I didn't tell my coach that I'm pregnant, or, or, or (I've had quite a few dreams). Perhaps my conscious self is trying to tell me something. I don't know what that is, but I hate these dreams, because it brings that "I'm a quitter" feeling back again. I was lazy and dealing with more crap in my personal life than I cared to share with my basketball team, because never once did they make me feel like I was welcome. Hindsight, I forgave them a long time ago. I don't hold grudges (what would be the point?). Plus I learned so much (from a coaches perspective) about the value of team camaraderie, and as a basketball coach it is an area I try to foster with the teams I coach. Plus, while I was down I watched a NAIA coach of the year who knew that defense wins games. She knew it and knew it well. I learned a lot just by watching. I took what I had learned and applied it to my own coaching. I'm truly thankful for that as well. So I'm not writing this to make them feel bad, or to tell my side of the story even, I JUST WANT MY STUPID DREAMS TO STOP and I'm hoping that this "writing therapy session" will help with that! :)

I walked away with a bad taste in my mouth. BUT now that I look back I don't think negatively about these experiences. They helped me grow into the person I am today. Yes, basketball made a lasting impression on my life. Basketball helped me to understand the value of perseverance and hard work. It helped me to understand the value of words. It helped me understand that God is sovereign. He loves me and even during these low points in my life I see His hand in it all. Loving me even though I rejected Him. Basketball helped me in more ways than I can count. I'm not a skilled basketball player by any stretch of the imagination, but I still love the sport and I love that God used it to teach me about life.

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