The winter sports season is coming to an end, which means basketball games will soon be replaced by those occurring in the spring. It’s now a time for most winter athletes to reminisce about past victories and promise to stick with the diet for the next year. This period is certainly emblematic for myself as I reflect on my varsity basketball debut, recalling what I learned as a first-time high school baller and as an official substitute for the team.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Before you start to think, “Here we go again. It’s another bitter athlete who never got her glory”, remember that I am an underclassmen, it was my first year playing high school basketball, and I am still in the process of learning the game. Therefore, not having the expectations and pressures of being a more legitimate “baller” allowed me to have the most authentic experience I like to call: “a curious, naive athlete venturing out into the unknown world of basketball.”
The first game of my basketball career was a roller coaster of events all on its own. My heart was pounding against my chest as I knelt by the scorekeeping table, preparing to show the coach what I’ve got. Once on the court, everything fell into place. I was zipping in and out of defenders, making the most solid passes imaginable, and had even made a few rebounds. Yet despite my brief moment of greatness, looking up at the clock, I see that only thirty seconds have passed by. It turned out that the solid one week of practices before the game had not prepared me enough for the brutal battle. Precisely seventy two seconds after my epiphany, I’m back in the comfort of the plastic seating of the bench.
Indeed there are times when I am spontaneously subbed in at the last forty or so seconds of the game. Yet, playing to the best of my abilities is a struggle when I am constantly faced with limitations: calves slightly cramping up from sitting in the same position for too long, head spinning from the sudden physical activity, and eyes darting back and forth from the ticking clock to the basket. In the back of my mind, I’m anxiously judging how much longer I have to prove myself.
I occasionally look back on these experiences, cringing at how inelegant and amateurish I must have seemed. Nevertheless, I have concluded that nothing will surmount the awkward moment when the rest of the team smells of perspiration, like an uphill battle and fiery spirit, and I still smell of my mother’s moonlight breeze laundry detergent. This is accentuated when everyone else is sweating profusely (enough to leave on the bench a silhouette of the number printed on the back of their jerseys) while I am maybe a bit damp on the upper lip from all that excessive cheering. I have silently endured these brief moments and have kept to myself, but on certain occasions such as the team huddle at halftime, they are certainly a challenge to overlook.
In all seriousness, there’s no doubt that every single person on the team – starters, substitutes, coaches, and managers included – is equally important and crucial for the team’s success. Although my time on the team was sprinkled with moments that I will dare not dwell on beyond the gym, the bench carries some sort of inexplicable nostalgia that will always remind me of my early years as a “baller” and the unforgettable memories made with my team.
Rachel Kahng, Grade 10
Seoul Foreign School