I miss being part of a team. I miss those long hours I would spend at my high school gymnasium, drenched in sweat, taking long deeps breaths right before I have to start running again. I miss lining up on the baseline, whether it was for warm ups or for suicides. I miss that feeling when you finally make a shot after so many failed tries. I miss blocking a shot or stealing the ball. I miss diving for a loose ball and the burns I would get. I miss waking up sore in the morning or after a nap because practice was too intense. I miss my coach yelling at me, not because I wasn’t good enough but because I could do so much more. I miss the bond between teammates. I miss walking into the gym with a big smile on my face because I get to practice with my team. I miss it. I miss it all.
You know, there’s nothing like it, being on a team.
A team is like family, but better. Look, I get it. Nothing could replace family, and I’m not saying that a team can replace family. What I am saying is that a team is like family, just with different qualities. There is a different trust you have within a team, because when one teammate falls, the whole team falls. In a team everyone has to carry their own weight, have to carry the same load as everyone else. In a team everyone goes through the same trials, the same adversities, the same hardships, the same good fortune, and the same glory. Within a family, everyone leads their own lives, everyone takes their own paths towards different goals. People come from the same tree in a family and all branch out and reach out for different things. In a way, each family member waters a different tree to grow, a different dream they’re pursuing. But with a team, different people on different paths come together and forge one path towards a single goal that everyone is reaching for; they water a single tree,a single dream. In a lot of ways, teams can grow closer to each other than they do with family, and I think its because they want the same thing.
I remember, in my senior year of high school, I was part of the girls varsity basketball team. It wasn’t that long ago, its been about maybe two years? But anyway, that year’s team was different than any other team I had been on. I’d been playing basketball for my school since I was in seventh grade (although I skipped my freshman year because of a torn ligament) and I knew what it meant to be on a team. We go through everything together. We get yelled at together, we run together, we score together, we get the glory together. I knew what it was to be a team. But it wasn’t until my senior year in high school when I really knew what it felt like to be a part of a team.
Understanding and feeling are two completely different things. You can understand how gleeful someone could be after getting a promotion at work, but you can’t feel the excitement of getting a promotion after years of hard work. You can understand how crushing it must be to lose a loved one, but you can’t feel how devastating it is to say goodbye to your last grandfather who barely remembered who you were but still cried because he knew how special you were in his life.
So all these years, I had understood what it meant to be on a team, but I guess I never really felt how it was to truly be part of a team.
Let me tell you something, my senior year girls varsity team was crazy. We had a varied team that year, ranging from freshmen to seniors. I think we had three freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors, and five seniors. I’m not too sure about this, but I think I’m close. We were an interesting group that year. You would never have thought that such a diverse group of kids could mesh so well, but we sure did. We may not have been best friends out in school, but once we got on the court there was no tearing us apart.
We weren’t the perfect team though. Don’t get me wrong, we got along really well, but when it came to playing together, we were flawed. We had a lot of things to work on together, especially since we were all on different levels when it came to playing our sport. Some of us had more experience that others, some had more skill, and some just plain wanted it more than others. It was just some of those things that we should have worked on harder, but it can’t be helped. Things just happen. I’d like to think we did well though for the year. Our first half of the season was pretty darn good, we went 4-2. We had a chance at going to the tournament at the end of the season. It was too bad the second half of our season wasn’t as successful. We ended the season at .500, which was still good enough to get us to the tournament.
I remember our last game. It was against the private school Notre Dame, a team we really didn’t like. It wasn’t personal or anything. It was just that they played dirty, and one of their girls complained to the ref way too much and it got really annoying. All we wanted was to play the game fair and square, but they just liked to throw in some elbows and pull some jerseys to get their way. It was a nail biting game too. We were neck and neck all the way up to the last quarter. We did everything we could, someone even made a shot while they were on their knees. Was it a lucky shot? Maybe. Did it matter? Hell no. All that mattered was that we scored. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t win. It was a good game, and we did good, it just wasn’t good enough, and we ended the season 6-6, barely good enough to get a chance to go to the tournament.
I remember we still had practice the next day even though the game against Notre Dame was supposed to be our last for the season. We were expecting at least one more game though, since we qualified for the tournament. We practiced hard that day, and our coach (who was amazing at making speeches on the spot) gave us a darn goo speech that day, telling us our next game was going to be our last of the season, and our absolute last school game for some of us (he meant he graduating seniors) so we better give it our all during our next game. That Friday was our last practice for the season.
The Sunday of that weekend our coach posted on our team wall on Facebook. Turns out, we weren’t seeded for the tournament which meant we had to return our jerseys sooner than we thought. I’m not going to lie, I bawled my eyes out that night. I couldn’t believe it, my season had ended. I had played my last high school basketball game for the rest of my life. This was it. I was done. And then I started thinking of all the things I could have done, like maybe if I had just worked harder, stayed after more often to work on my game, gone to the park more to practice my dribbling skills, learn to shoot better, anything at all so that maybe we could have won one more game because maybe we were just behind one more game. I felt like I had let down my team and it was all my fault for not trying harder. I felt so horrible.
But then, after some time, I realized there was nothing I could do about it. What’s done was done, and I didn’t regret a thing. The only thing I could do was be thankful for having the good fortune to have met such amazing people and having the opportunity to be part of such a great, loving team.
Some of my favorite memories from my senior year was with that team. I remember this one time when we played UCLA with the freshmen and junior team. We were probably louder than the crowds that would go to our games. Everyone was yelling, telling the people on the court what to do, who was open, where the ball was. It was a sight to see. If it was in a movie, it would be the part of the movie where everything goes quiet and you just see a slow mo of everyone yelling and screaming, fighting for the ball, and then the camera kind of slowly circles around the main character who is just smiling idiotically, perfectly content, realizing that this moment was exactly what he or she was striving for during the entire movie, this is what happiness was.
I have gone back to my high school a few times and played basketball during open gym. I have to say, I have gotten better since I graduated. I’m not as afraid to bump into people anymore. Every time I go back and play, a little part of me, the little part that has been a little empty since my last practice with the team, gets just a little filled.
But f I could go back to that moment when we were playing UCLA, if I could just relive it, even for just one minute, I’d be perfectly happy.