Playing on my high school basketball team last year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was demanding physically, emotionally, and mentally. I left practice every day more drained than I thought humanly possible. Every single person gave more to the team than they could afford, with no tangible reward. Our record was abysmal. The lack of respect and encouragement from our coaches left us with no support system. So we supported each other.
Together, we fought through shin splints and tendonitis, bad refs and dirty opponents. We played when we were sick, tired, hurt, miserable. We ran until we threw up. We sat together while our coaches cursed us out. We pushed each other to rise above it, to get better. And occasionally, we won.
But something happens when you spend two hours a day, six days a week with the same people. Something happens, around that fifth set of suicide sprints, when you look across the court and see someone else working just as hard as you, struggling just as much as you, feeling just as much pain as you. There’s something about that unified struggle that brings people together. It transcends the game of basketball, and even sports. The bond formed between a team reaches far beyond the court. My teammates are my best friends.
I believe in my team. I believe that we can overcome any obstacle, be successful in anything, on and off the court. When the team succeeds, the players share the reward. When the team fails, they share the burden and the punishment. Alone, that burden is Mount Everest, but together it becomes just a hill.
Off the court, we are all best friends. We have sleepovers and endless inside jokes. We help each other through tough times. Whatever it takes, the team is there for you. And that is what makes team sports so powerful. In individual sports, you do grow and improve. But in team sports, you work with others for the success of everyone, not just for yourself. Success is sweeter and failure is less bitter when it is shared with those you are close with.
That’s why we play basketball. We don’t play for money, or fame. This is only high school. We play for the game, and for each other. Our love of the game brought us together, but our love for each other keeps us that way.
This year, I am team captain. I have never had to have so much responsibility, so much discipline, or so much dedication. But I do, and I see it as a personal duty to be there for my team the way they have been there for me in the past: to give unconditional support through whatever challenges we may face. This, I believe.
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