Essay About Basketball and My Life
I grew up in a blue house atop a hill sitting on a cul-de-sac of a small town in New Jersey. I was always involved in some type of sport growing up, I was a “tomboy” as some would put it. My mom put me through dance class, gymnastics, and soccer, but I ended up quitting all of them. I was often playing with the boys at recess or throwing a ball around with my dad when he would come home from work. Eventually I found my love for basketball in about the third grade. As a family my mom, dad, sister and I would sometimes play two on two on the hoop in front of our house. That’s when I began getting competitive, but I always had fun with it at this point in my life. The third grade was the first year I played travel ball and I wanted to finally commit to a sport. However, by the time the end of the third grade rolled around my father broke the news to my family that his job was moving to Florida, meaning we had to as well or he would lose his job.
I still remember the blue ‘for sale’ sign nailed into the grass, sitting next to the curb in front of my house. My dad made my sister and I take a picture in front of it. She didn’t smile. She was not happy about moving and my parents told me about the move before they told her, even though she’s three years older. That didn’t make her any less angry about it. Since I was so young my feelings were mutual about the whole situation, but since my sister was older, she was closer with the friends she would have to leave behind. I wasn’t leaving much behind. Moving to Florida was the start of something new for me.
Life in Florida
After we moved to Florida, I began playing basketball at the local YMCA on a team with older boys since there were never enough girls to make up a team and if there were, they were terrible. I played in as many leagues as my parents would sign me up for and attended as many summer camps as I could. Playing basketball brought me happiness during these years. It wasn’t until the sixth grade that basketball began changing.
My dad decided I was getting too old to play in local leagues now and it was best I join a girls AAU team. I was comfortable with basketball the way it was; I feared not being good enough to play with these girls and dreaded the change I knew was to come. Basketball suddenly became more serious, more practice and more training. Now the focus was getting better and getting exposure. Tournaments were no longer attended to win, but with the hope of catching the interest of a college coach. Trophies and medals slowly faded out of my life and the only reassurance I was going to get was going to have to be from me.
My Eighth-grade Year
My eighth-grade year was when I began questioning my love for basketball and if it was really for me anymore. It became too serious, too competitive, I honestly didn’t know if I was enjoying it anymore. I didn’t look forward to practices, I was always anxious and nervous before and during. I had switched AAU teams, my father’s choice, he believed I had a better opportunity here. Walking into that first day of practice, not knowing anyone was frightening. There was only two people in the gym when I walked in, little did I know those two people would still be in my life, today.
Eventually the gym slowly filled up. On this team we practiced with girls 3-4 years older than us and every time we scrimmaged the only thing going through my head was “don’t mess up, don’t embarrass yourself”. As I entered high school, basketball reached an all-time high of commitment and dedication. These were the years that counted most, and this is when more coaches would attend games. These were also the years that filled me with the most anxiety though. We attended the largest tournaments there were, they consisted of around 100 courts and even more teams. They were usually held in massive convention centers and the escalator down into the midst of it all would cue the nerves. Hundreds of coaches attended these tournaments all from different division schools, all around the country and it was your job to play well enough to get them to keep coming back to watch more games.
Ninth and Tenth Grade
Ninth and tenth grade were my most difficult years of basketball. I continually questioned why I put myself through it, I was no longer having fun playing. I think I did it more for my dad than for myself at this point. Or for the sheer fact that basketball was the only thing I knew now, what would I do with my life if I didn’t play? Everything was forced, I should have wanted to get better on my own. Partially it was my own fault, I didn’t have the most confidence by far and I would overthink immensely. Before games I wouldn’t be excited, I would get so nervous, just ready for the game to be over.
Even though it was mostly my own fault, my father didn’t help much on the road during tournaments. We would go for weeks sometimes, traveling to play in different tournaments. My dad was quite uptight and added to the stresses I already put on myself. I was already hard on myself and sometimes he failed to encourage me, even though I know that wasn’t his motive. He harped on the mistakes I made, what I should have done, what I needed to do to get an offer, to be better. His after the game talks only brought me down, and eventually my coach implemented a 24-hour rule encouraging parents to wait 24 hours before talking about the game. That helped, as well as my coach talking to my dad persuading him to be a little easier on me.
My dad would force me to go to training sessions all the time with different trainers and with different people. I loathed that. I never wanted to go without anyone I knew, I hated being alone. I was never much of an independent person when it came to working out, I needed people around me to uplift me. My dad would make deals with me persuading me to go twice a week to training sessions by bribing me. The summer of my sophomore year he promised me a car by my junior year if I would start training with a lady named Jacky.
I signed his stupid made up agreement, yes, he wrote out a contract, yes, he is extra, and yes, I wanted a car. I signed that paper angrily knowing I was just going to play basketball to get a car. I knew it shouldn’t be like that. I hated those trainings for so long but what I hated more was when he took me. Every time I would make a mistake or miss a shot I would look over at a disappointed face. It was like that in games too, most of the time when I peered up at the stands, he would just be looking down shaking his head. I should be grateful though that this was all he did, and he no longer yelled at me during games. Nothing would make me angrier than hearing “Shoot the ball!”, I would yell back in the middle of games “Shut up!”, times like those were so infuriating and embarrassing as hell. I wanted nothing more than to make him proud, but I also wanted nothing more than to fall in love with basketball again.
The Most Crucial Years
Junior year was the most crucial year of travel basketball for everyone. It’s your last opportunity to get an offer. I had no offers. I had interests but those meant nothing if they weren’t offering any money. The stress from myself, my coach, my father, all ended with two offers I received after that last tournament. It wasn’t until my last AAU game, the end of junior year summer, I never felt so light and so free. It was then I realized I truly despised travel basketball and high school basketball was the last string holding me and basketball together. Senior year was by far the clarity I needed. I was happy, I was no longer weighed down by anything, I had nothing to lose, it was my final year and I knew where I was going to college.
By senior year I took control of my own life, finally. I created my own schedule and wanted to get better on my own terms. I no longer had to be bribed to do things, because I wanted to play basketball again, I enjoyed it. I scored my 1,000 points my senior year and that was a goal I always aspired to reach since freshmen year. I was finally proud of myself; I gained more confidence and took more risks. As stressful as basketball was for me throughout most of my life, I learned so much from it and grew as a person thanks to it. I simply had to learn to love it again. I would not have met so many amazing people if I had not taken that journey. I am where I am today because of basketball and hope to continue maturing and growing while playing.