It was a mildly warm morning and today was the day of the playoffs for my basketball team. I could feel my heart palpitating and palms getting sweaty. As I combed my hair and brushed my teeth, I mentally consoled myself that everything would go perfect and our team would come home with a gold medal. I got so caught up in thinking about the game that only after some time did I realize that there was no toothpaste on the toothbrush. I was too nervous and my mind couldn’t think about anything else. I told myself that it was all going to be fine and to stop worrying about it as I poured the milk into the bowl of cereal. While eating breakfast, I watched a random TV – show which had helped to drift my mind away from basketball.
Just then my mom called my name and said: “Are you ready for the game Zain?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be!” I announced.
“You need to keep up that spirit throughout the game”, interrupted my dad.
Now I can feel the pressure of the games because I felt a sense of expectation from my dad. I see my brother walk down the stairs and I greet him as I usually do.
My brother smiles at me and says, “You’re dropping 30 points today right?”.
I laugh, but then give a serious expression and say, “Definitely”.
Even though the pressures of the game make me feel a little uneasy, I feel gratified that I get so much support from my family. I walk around my house shooting my invisible basketball to get as much practice as I can. My day passes by as I keep pacing around my house and thinking about different strategies and tactics I could use in the game. Soon enough, there is only an hour left until my game. I like to get ready before I get to the game so I get my basketball uniform and get changed. I walk out to the car with my mom since I need to be at the school that is hosting the playoffs 20 minutes prior to my first game. The light from the sun shines off my bright red jersey highlighting the number 2.
I sit in the car mostly in silence just focusing on breathing normally and staying calm and my mom understands, so she just plays music on low volume. Finally, the car parks and as the car stops, I feel my breathing stop. I step out of the car and take a massive breath out and sigh, “ Here we go”. My mom reassures me and tells me that I’m going to do amazing. While walking through the hallways in the school, I mumble a prayer and repeat it until I see my team sitting on the other side of the gym on the bench. I take one last deep breath in and out and my mom kisses me goodbye as she sets herself up in the stands while I go toward my team. I greet each of my teammates individually with a high-five and a fist bump. We are all jumping with excitement, but our coach tells us to settle down and start stretching and preparing for the first game. After stretching I pick up a basketball and spin it
around in my hands a few times before I dribble it and practice a few moves. I dribble up to the basket on my team’s side and start taking shots from different areas on the court. Most of my shots are going in with a few being slightly off and bouncing off the rim. The referees signal that it was time for the game to start. The coach quickly pulls all of us to the side and told us to just do as we always do and we will win. He picks me and four other people to start the game. Everyone is in position and the referees set up.
The ball is thrown up. Just at that moment, everything went by slower and I could feel my heart beating and all my senses were acute. Our team won the jump ball and quickly we begin to play. I am too nervous at the beginning, but slowly I find the confidence to shoot more which leads to me making more shots. The time runs fast and the quarter finishes; our team is up by two points. I walk back to my team’s bench and take a seat. My heart is pounding and my mind is running through each play I made looking to find any improvements I can make for the next quarter. My coach is ecstatic with our performance, but still has some aspects we can do better in to guarantee the win. The second quarter comes and goes with me making multiple shots and making great plays leading to our team increasing the lead to 12 points. I thought to myself, “Everything is going perfect”. I look up to my mom standing in the stands and she gives me a thumbs up and smiles.
The third quarter comes rolling in and our team is now feeling more relaxed due to our confidence in winning the game. I’m running down the court with the ball at a full sprint to try to get an easy basket and suddenly, one of my feet tilt sideways and I am on the ground with the ball rolling away. I give a loud grunt of pain but try to save the ball from going out of bounds. The ball rolls out of bounds.
I smack the ground angry at myself still not realizing the severity of my fall. I try to stand up, but as soon as I put any weight on the foot I landed sideways on I shrieked and face planted on the ground. From the corner of my eye, I see my mom and she rushes over to me. My coach quickly realizes the situation and tells me to stay down. The referees stop the play and my teammates rush over to help me up. As soon as I fell after trying to get up, I knew I was done. No more basketball for at least a month or two for me. Worst of all, I wouldn’t get to play in the playoffs. My mind is in chaos as negative thoughts flood in and my face dripping in sweat. I get picked up by two of my teammates and carried over to the bench. The coach and my mom tried to calm me down, but all I could think about was the game. I wanted to get back in. My coach denied and incessantly told me to rest because the injury could worsen. Finally, I gave up the thought of trying to play and shortly after, we won the game. Although we won, I felt horrible knowing I wouldn’t get to play the rest of the games today.
I stayed to watch all of the games and cheer on my team, but the dejected feeling inside never left me. Quarter after quarter, game after game, we won all the way until semi-finals. Our team barely fell short, but in the end, we still ended up winning bronze. All of my team was sad because we all felt that we could’ve won the gold medal, but still, the coach told all of us how proud he was. He patted me on the back consoling me by telling me that injuries happen in basketball. I ended up losing basketball for about 2 months after learning that my injury was a fractured ankle. Looking back at the time now, I have realized that I have become more patient and it inspired me to read more since reading is all I did when I couldn’t play basketball.
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