Only 3 out of 10,000 high school basketball players go pro. Doing the math, that’s about .03% of all the high school basketball players in America that make it to the NBA. For me, a five foot 9th grader just heading into my first year of high school, the motivation starts to fade away.
Middle school started out rough, I just moved from being the big, bad fifth grader to being once again the weak link. Our school had a high standard set for athletics and academics, I felt as if I was the only person not ready to step up to the plate. As the year progressed, I really started to grow as an individual, so I was pumped and ready to go when tryouts for the basketball team came around. I was confident and ecstatic to meet the coach. The ting was, all three coaches looked like bodybuilders with their tight shirts and arms about 500 feet in circumference. I have three days to show these guys just how great I can make their team look. Throughout elementary school, I never had a huge issue with confidence, but once I took a glance at what I was going up against, I lost it. No matter whether I knew them from primary school or not, these boys seemed to tower over me by miles. Those three days of tryouts ended up being the longest days of my life and once I found out the result of the tryout, I told myself I was never going to play again. My first year was a failure.
According to research, 70% of children drop out of organized sports by age 13. Aren’t sports supposed to be fun for kids? If this fact is true, then I honestly don’t believe sports are considered what they used to be. That’s at least what I thought coming into my seventh grade year. When I went to watch those games in sixth grade, there was almost nothing fun about it at all. The kids weren’t smiling, the coaches were yelling, and even the parents were yelling at the refs like the refs were clueless or something. I once again debated on if this sport was really something I would ever go back to playing. The thing that I didn’t understand at that age is that things were really starting to become serious. These angry people out on the court aren’t really angry, they ae just competitive and that’s how sports work. The problem with all these kids like me who don’t think they are ready for sports yet, is that we didn’t grow up with the same fierce and competitive nature that these other kids have. I finally figured it out, it was just up to me to get that edge.
Seventh grade tryouts come around, and it was once again time let that motivation from tryouts last year to take over for me. This time I would be judged by bodybuilder #2 on the list, like the first one was any different. To be honest, I hated this man ever since I first saw him walk into the gym. I didn’t care though, because I assured myself that it was going to be different. I worked my tail end off those three days and I thought I couldn’t have done better. That year was the year I finally started to believe in myself after I made the team.
Mom: “Well, How’d it go?”
Me: “It wasn’t too good.”
Mom: “Oh I’m sorry sweetie.”
Me: “That’s cause it was GREAT!”
Mom: (Proceeds to shower me with hugs and kisses). “I’m so proud of you!”
Me: “This is all I could’ve asked for.”
You would’ve thought I could’ve been that excited the whole year, but once again, I was left feeling regretful that I even chose to tryout. Why do we even have practice in the first place, why can’t we all just be like Allen Iverson and just laugh at practice. It is just flat out torture. It is two hours of sitting there, listening to my giant coach yell at us for no reason. The sad thing is, practice wasn’t really even the worst part.
We entered our first preseason tournament with high expectations for the team this year. I’m not even going to take the time to express how bad this tournament was. Long story short, I think it was probably the first time that I cried after a basketball game. My coach was horrible, my team didn’t really like me too much, I couldn’t get along with anyone, and I had yet another season that I was left in the dust because I just wasn’t aggressive enough. The good thing that I learned from that year though, is that there is always room for improvement. The issue that I had though, is that I really didn’t take the time to get better.
Eighth grade year, my final year in middle school, I was still aiming for the sky. I actually knew this coach this time, he just happened to be my teacher for the past two years. “This is it, my final chance as a Gray Gator to prove all the doubters wrong.” I was on the top of my game and I was ready to take off the year. So you could just imagine the pain I felt inside me when I was told I wasn’t good enough. I ran outside after the tryouts to try to get away from anyone who might see me cry. I was left to wait in the rain for yet another shot at redemption, but this time, I was fed up.
That is when it all began, that whole year in between my transition to high school, I was focused on one thing and one thing only, success. I worked tirelessly day in and day out to work towards my goal. I sparked a work ethic in myself that I never want to lose. And this time, I am not going to let anybody get in my way.
Here I am now, a freshman in a brand new school. This story continues from here, and it’s up to me to write the next chapter. I started out fresh by making the team this year, and I’m very happy with how things are going right now. I’ll leave you with this quote that I love from Tim Notke, a high school basketball coach. He says, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”