I’m about Eleven years old and I signed up for Turnpike basketball because one my childhood best friends loved basketball and his dad was the coach, I joined their team, I wanted to play sports and fit in with my friends. I knew I wasn’t great at basketball, I wasn’t coordinated and I got tired easily, I just wasn’t good at sports in general but I did hustle and played with heart. I was always nervous because I knew I wasn’t good and the crowd being there didn’t help, it was too much pressure. I knew my friend’s dad who was also the coach was not impressed by basketball abilities, I’m sure if he could have, he would have kept me on the bench for the entirety of the game.
I remember one game, in particular, I was on the court trying my best but I missed every shot, I fouled a couple times and I was intimidated by all these other kids who were bigger and better than me. At some point, I managed to steal the ball from the kid I was guarding and for whatever reason, I ran toward the basket on the opposite end of the court, I wasn’t even paying attention to my teammates or the crowd, I made a layup and score a goal until I heard the crowd boo me and my teammates looked very angry including the coach. In my excitement, I didn’t realize that I had made a basket for the other team, I saw parents from the stands grumble in disgust and the other team laugh at me, it was totally humiliating.
From that moment on, I really hated sports, I hated the competition and that everything was about winning, I hated how mean my teammates were with me when I made a mistake, I was frustrated at myself that I couldn’t play sports well despite my best efforts. Even now, the mere mention of sports annoys the hell out of me and I am sure it comes from the moments where I was made to feel like nothing because I threw the ball into the wrong basket. But what I hated the most was how grown adults could treat a child so poorly because he wasn’t the best basketball player in the world, it’s cruel. And that sticks with you the rest of your life.
I played a few more years despite me not liking it, I wanted to be with my friends but as my friends and I drifted apart, I stopped playing sports in any kind of leagues and just stuck to shooting hoops by myself in my driveway, no crowd, no pressure, just me, a basketball and my boombox. As I write this, I am filled with sadness but also pride that I had the courage to make the effort to play and came to the realization that sports wasn’t for me. And you know what, that’s ok. There is more to life than sports, I just everybody else could see it that way. 🏀