Jan 11
essay challenge: Hardship
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Hardship

Basketball has been my life for as long as I can remember. It’s the biggest commitment I’ve had to make in my life. Hundreds of hours spent on the court, watching tape, thinking about ways to improve. When I step onto the court and get into my flow, there’s an overwhelming rush. My mind is cleared of every problem from the day. But as much joy as it brings me, there’s also more pressure than I can explain. I’ve been placed in the spotlight as someone who’s supposed to bring the team together and perform. With the weight of my coaches, one of them being my father, my teammates, and my own expectations there have been times that I’ve crumbled. Basketball is as much a mental game as it is physical. You have to be able to see everything at once, read your defenders and your teammates. Your brain is in constant motion with your body. But I’ve also learned that there’s such a thing as thinking too much.

 My sophomore year was probably the worst of it. My first year of true varsity minutes. After only a few games one of our starters was injured, and I was brought up to take her place. She played a key role in every game, and everybody was watching to see if I could be the same. I felt the hundreds of eyes waiting for me to fail. All I wanted was to do well. All I wanted was to be what my team and my coaches needed me to be. But because I put so much pressure on myself the opposite happened. Before games I couldn’t shut my mind off, couldn’t think straight. Focusing on everything I needed to do to be better, obsessing about my mistakes. And every mistake I’d make, no matter how small, I’d dig myself deeper into that hole. It just continued to get worse. Panic attacks before and after games. Constantly wondering why I wasn’t getting better, and why I couldn’t perform. The self depreciation overwhelmed my thoughts. It felt like everything was collapsing in on me, and that I’d never be able to get out of it. 

    It ruined my season. I began to hate basketball because of the way it made me feel. The anxiety oozed out into other aspects of my life, making everything suck. After the season ended I took a break from basketball. Months of not practicing, not watching, not thinking. And somewhere in that break I found a way to cope. To stop worrying so much, and to just play for the love of the game. The take the worry, anger, and every other emotion and use it to make myself better. This season even more pressure has been added, I’m a starter and now a captain. I’d love to say that the crumbling anxiety has completely left me, but it hasn’t. I still spend hours thinking about my mistakes and how I need to be better. But I’m now able to turn it off. To stop thinking and just be present in the game. With that, I’ve refound my passion and love for the sport that's always been there. 

 
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