Class had just begun when I felt my phone buzzing in my coat pocket. I knew exactly who was calling and what they were about to say. I grabbed my laptop, backpack, and asked my professor to be excused from class. The classroom door shut behind me and I was frozen in the middle of an empty hallway. As I lifted the phone to my ear, tears began running down my face. I remember feeling lost in a place that I was very familiar with. I was walking in a trance across campus to the athletic centre. I knocked on my coach’s door and asked if I could sit with him for a while. He told me to be with family and take as long as I needed, but the only place I wanted to be was on the court. Tip off was set for 7:00pm that night and I refused to miss a game.
As I was lacing up my shoes, my teammates began to arrive. They didn’t know what to say or how to act. All I could do was tell them “we’ve got an angel on our side tonight ladies, lets kick some butt.” Everyone knew. My athletic trainer, my athletic director, my coaches, the student section, and even parents in the stands. But I didn’t want pity. I wanted to play the game I love. So, I did, and it was one of the most incredible moments of my entire life. Running up and down the court with my teammates, diving on the floor for a loose ball, ripping the ball from the opponent’s hands, hitting a deep 3-pointer, and driving hard to the rim are just a couple of things that I truly live for. The excitement before the game and the adrenaline during are all a huge part of the thrill of sport. I had a career high 23 points and we ended with a 16-point win.
After the final buzzer sounded we shook hands and I went running into the crowd. I jumped into the arms of my best friend. We stood there and embraced all the emotions of the moment. I was glad my team won and proud of myself for playing well but blessed to have been given the opportunity to lace up several hours after hearing of my mother’s passing. I cried a lot that night. Mostly because my number 1 fan had officially missed her first home game. My Mom was my best friend and had she not supported me in basketball as much as she did, I might not have been able to grieve the loss of her.
Instead of wondering why her, why cancer, why my family, we don’t deserve this… I thought, thank God I have basketball to guide me and an angel who can help me make layups. All joking aside, basketball changed my life… it saved me from entering a very dark place. Part of my struggle this year has been adjusting to the loss of competitive basketball. The 2-hour practices, team lift, and conditioning keep me motivated. I wanted to make my mother proud on the court and I was willing to work extra hard to do so. Without the structure I am so accustomed to in America, I’ve felt that a piece of me is missing.
Recently, I found a solution which is exactly why I’m writing this blog. It’s simple: go play. I will never be able to live without basketball. I’ll play until I can’t physically get up and down the court anymore. But it isn’t about pride, it’s about how basketball has and continues to save me. The court is my safe haven. I know so many other athletes who could say the same about the being on ice or a field.
I’ve always looked up to my coaches. They made my worst days some of my best because of their positivity and motivation. As my days of playing lessen, my hopes of becoming an role model and coach increase. I know how sport can provide an outlet for players and therefore I want to be a part of an atmosphere that welcomes people with all different backgrounds. We all have a story and a reason why we play. This just happens to be mine. Some of the greatest athletes were made in their weakest moments. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t laced up after that phone call. I can’t really image who I would have become if I hung up my jersey. But without even noticing, that’s what sport teaches us. There is no quitting, only persevering. Now here I am, sharing my story with so many other aspiring athletes halfway across the world. I hope that whatever road block you may face in life, that you will continue to play the sport that you love! Sport changed my life.
Tough Times Don’t Last, But Tough People Do