Sports — What thoughts come to mind when pondering that word? Do you have any memories associated with sports? When I think of sports, the first memories that come to mind are from my middle and high school days. In the midst of teenaged angst, playing basketball was an escape for me. I could leave all my problems and worries at the door and act like they didn’t exist for a while. I was part of a team, representing a school, a community. It was a community in and of itself.
Our parents all knew each other, would stay and chat after some home games. I looked up to a lot of the older girls, the varsity players, as inspiration to try hard and be the very best version of myself that I could be. And I even shared a special camaraderie with some of my peers on my team that I don’t believe I would have found doing anything else.
Playing sports in Sahuarita wasn’t exactly a perfect experience. (What is in this world?) But I believe that all of the good moments I had outweigh the bad.
One night, we played against Amphi High School. I remember very well when my moment came that night. Somehow, I stole the ball. Then I immediately dribbled as I ran all the way down the court. With one girl to beat, I performed a bit of a juke move and maneuvered around her before laying the ball up into the net. We were already up on the scoreboard by a significant amount but that play pretty much sealed the deal. After the game, as we filed off the bus back in Sahuarita, one of the seasoned varsity coaches put up his hand to give me a high five as he exclaimed, “Good job!” That meant so much to me. It was one of those moments that made getting over the nerves, the stress of losing, the loneliness and detachment I sometimes felt… all worth it. It gave me a sense of validation and — Dare I say it? — gratification.
I remember as well that there were two exchange students on our team. One was from Holland, the other from Tokyo. If it weren’t for basketball, I wouldn’t have known they existed. The Japanese girl was very small for her age, but boy, could she shoot from behind the arc! She undoubtedly helped us out in many games. We nicknamed her “Sake Bomb,” though I don’t really get the inside joke. (Must be the blonde in me!) The girl from Holland had a name that was hard to pronounce. So we literally just called her E.G. She was a neat person. I had many lively conversations with her. She smiled a lot, seemed very excited to be visiting the USA. I learned a lot from both of them.
Just before the season started my senior year, I needed to make the varsity squad or I wouldn’t get to play. Unfortunately, I was cut after tryouts. It was a crushing blow that took me a couple of painful days to get over. I just didn’t want it all to end, didn’t want to be left wondering what might have been. It was nevertheless a neccessary life experience. Without rejection, we don’t learn the value of hard work, of putting your all into something. We don’t learn that some things in life are not meant to pursue after a certain point. Rejection humbles us.
A couple of years later, I saw the video below as it debuted on Youtube:
In this inspirational presentation, Carrie Underwood travels to her hometown to meet with a few teenaged girls and talk about why sports is important.
“A lot of my friends were going into high school and doing the wrong things,” one girl shares. “Sports is keeping me… an angel.” “You don’t have time!” Carrie responds with a chuckle. Which is very true. Sports and other extracurricular activities take up a lot of a kid’s time after school, and even some weekends, depending.
I found myself relating to the video in a lot of ways. What I hadn’t expected was for Carrie to go as deeply into her own personal life as she did about three quarters of the way through.
“I think I would just wanna tell fourteen-year-old Carrie that all of the things that you think matter so much… like, someday, you won’t really even think about. It’s all gonna work out pretty awesome.”
She next went into the “wonderful” people that she has always had around her — like her parents and her hometown. She shared her gratefulness for them.
I remember my first thought being, Damn, how much would it have meant to me to hear this from my childhood hero when I was thirteen, fourteen? She touched on a lot of the exact circumstances that were true in my life. I nevertheless am grateful for hearing this when I did. It to this day has given me perspective and peace of mind that I can now pass down to my children.