I’m sweating. I’m running up and down the court, and still, I can feel the sweat dripping off of me. And after all, it should be. It feels like one hundred degrees in this gym, and we’ve been playing basketball for over an hour. I look up at the time: six minutes left in this game, and we’re down by four. As I glance turn to sprint back down the court, I notice a four inch gash in my arm, a gift from someone’s nails the last time I rebounded the ball. The last thing I need right now is to get blood on my jersey and get taken out of the game, I think to myself, and as I run past our bench, I call to the assist coach for some athletic wrap and tape to be ready during our next time out. But right now, I’ve got to keep playing. We’re running out of time.
This is no ordinary game. To begin with, my high school team is playing the number one team from New Jersey. Next, there are five hundred college coaches watching us play. And finally, out of the five seniors on the team (of which I am one,) I am the only one playing in this game, and I am desperately missing the other four on the court. It was a strange game in all regards, and it was certainly challenging us to rise to a new level. The question was, were we ready to?
All of the odds were stacked against us. First, for the third year in a row, our team has a new Varsity basketball coach. On the floor, he has one senior who had transferred in this season, a hot headed junior point guard, two girls who saw little to no varsity time the year before (one sophomore and one junior,) and a girl who hadn’t played the previous season due to injury. The other team was the state champions the year before. They returned all of their starters, and they were very fast, athletic, and quick. And yet, with six minutes left in the game, we were only down four points. I was starting to wonder if this was a dream, and it wasn’t until a week or so after the game that I suddenly realized what kept us in that game: our team has an uncanny amount of heart.
As I think back on the game now, I can see how significantly this intangible factor impacted our play. It showed when our point guard brought the ball up the court herself against intense pressure defense, and when one girl set herself up perfectly off a screen to frustrate her defender and help her teammate get a shot. It showed when our sophomore jumped a foot in the air above her defender, six times in a row, to have twelve points in the first quarter. And it showed in the last two minutes of the game, after the final time out, when our team annihilated the other team with a series of gutsy, all-or-nothing plays. As I look back now, I know we gained a lot physically, mentally and emotionally from that game. But most importantly, that game has taught me to believe that even when the odds seem stacked against you, with a strong will and a lot of heart, nothing is impossible.
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