I started playing basketball in third grade. Third grade is when Troy Junior Basketball, the city league allows you to start playing. Or at least, when my parents discovered the league. In any rate, it's when I started playing. I grew up around basketball. My dad played for church and with his brothers and pretty much any opportunity he got. He coached the young men's basketball team. My mom also played for church. Saturdays during basketball season were especially busy, one game after the next at the stake center.
When I turned 12 and was allowed to play on the young women's team, I happily played both on the city league and for church. It was really fun that year. Our young women's team was good. There were so many of us that wanted to play, we had to have two teams. That also meant that we got to play games on Saturday, and legit scrimmages during the week for practice. We had pink jerseys. It was so great!
When I started junior high, I wanted to play for school. My dad played for school. My cousins played for school. I was going to play. But there were a few things to worry about.
In Troy, fifth and sixth graders can be put on the "traveling team." The team gets to travel around and play different teams of the same age in different cities, rather than just remaining in Troy playing against the other Troy girls. You also had to be recruited or try out for the traveling team. But this team always played their games on Sunday. I'm sure that I wasn't good enough to play on the team, anyway, but the fact that they played on Sunday ensured that I didn't even try. But it was usually those girls that got positions on the school teams. It also allowed the different girls from different elementary schools to bond and become friends, long before I had a chance.
Not only that, but Troy offers basketball camps during the summer. I never participated in these. I am sure it was partially because I was the oldest, and my parents didn't know much about them, and partially because we were poor and couldn't afford the fees. (I wore boy's Wal Mart basketball shoes because they were cheaper.)
So, I wasn't on the traveling team and I didn't attend the camps. Those two things combined made it a losing situation when I walked into the gym after school for try-outs. But that wasn't the only thing that hurt me. Basketball season was really the only activity I participated in once it turned cold. I rode my bike and went to the swimming pool everyday during the summer, but for the most part, I was a chunky little kid with zero running ability. I'd half-walked every mile I had to run in gym, and I was incredibly slow. I loved basketball, but I was mediocre.
The first day of try-outs must have been meant to weed out the kids that didn't belong. And before the second drill, I was convinced that I was one of those people. The girls that had been on the traveling team also happened to be the prettiest, smartest - soon to be most popular - girls in the school (in my eyes). The coaches knew them. And I was convinced I would never make the team.
And I was dying.
They had us run! so much during the first day of try-outs, that I was sure I was going to pass out. Why didn't they ask to see our defensive skills? Why didn't they ask us to do lay-ups? I don't know. But they didn't. Instead they made us run. I was slow, and I was last. And I was embarrassed. So in the middle of suicides, long before try-outs were even over, I reached the end of the court, and I ran right out the door. I didn't look back to see the reaction of the coaches, I prayed that they wouldn't even notice. And then I hid until my mom came to pick me up.
I can't remember if I cried or not, but I wouldn't be surprised. I was an overly-emotional teenager. I told my mom that I would not be going back the next day, and she didn't make me.
To this day I wonder what would have happened if I had just stuck it through. Would I have made the team? I'm sure I would have sat the bench. There were so many talented basketball players in my grade. But if I had made the team, maybe I would have had a chance to get better. I definitely would have been in better shape during school with all the running and the eventual weight lifting they have the athletes participate in. It's probably my biggest regret from school.
And yet, I haven't learned. When I am in an embarrassing situation, my first reaction is to flee. Even if the greater good means to stay put and get through it.