The first day of tryouts. A new flock of butterflies gathers in my stomach and makes me uneasy with anticipation. I look around to see my more experienced counterparts making every shot, and my belly flips.
We all take to the court to warm up, but I can't shake the emotions that clutter my head and make me second guess the reason for me being here.
We start running, a task I can handle, and I feel myself climbing the invisible ladder that separates the junior varsity and varsity teams as I continuously beat most of the other girls.
By the end, I'm breathing heavily and my head is dizzy, but I don't care; I just hope they notice me. The coaches tell us that they will have the results for the teams tomorrow. They said they need 10 people, and I could be one of them.
The next school day is torture; all I want to do is go to practice to find out what all of my hard work has amounted to. By 3:30, I'm ready in the gym with my new Adidas shoes and cut T-shirt. As I sit there waiting to see if I made the cut, I feel a familiar knot forming inside of me.
The coaches sit us down to give us a talk. My hopes come crashing down as they tell us that they will not keep all of the new players that were just moved up. For us, our tryouts are extended for the rest of the week. For me, the misery is extended for the rest of the week, too.
At last the agony is over as Friday's practice comes to a close. The coaches call us over; it's the deciding moment. They said that they are for sure keeping one of us, and most likely two, but not all four. That leaves two of use to get moved back down to JV. But they still don't tell us who it is. They say to wait for Monday, and they will definitely know the results by then. So for now, more waiting.
Monday seems like it will never come, but then it is upon me and it's time for practice. The coaches call me over. My heart pounds in my ears as I walk over, my hopes high above the gym ceiling, but the look in their eyes and the way they sigh before they start speaking lets me know that disappointment has a name: the JV team.
They tell me that even though I was good, I needed more experience and that it was age that really played a big role. They say that maybe next year if I work hard I can make the team, but for now I have to practice on the other side of the gym. My cheeks are hot and I fight back tears as I choke out, "OK." I'm afraid I might cry when they announce that practice is over. I run into the locker room, grab my stuff and sprint out of the school, but not before I feel a burning running down my cheeks. I slam the door and tell my dad just to go home; I need some time to myself.
I get home and sit down on my bed. I know I shouldn't be crying; it's just a game, but I feel empty knowing that all of my work, determination and worrying came down to nothing. I was the only one cut. They kept the other three girls. This brings me down even more: Knowing that I will have to go to practice tomorrow and face the pitiful glances of those who realize that I was not good enough. I don't even want to play.
I'm right. The next day I show up, and people bombard me with, "Oh, it's OK" and "Maybe next year" but it only makes it worse. How close I was to the glory of being a freshman on varsity, but now I'm stuck, wishing for it all to be over. I can't focus and keep missing shots. Finally, while we're all doing individual shooting, I'm so frustrated I give up and throw the basketball to the ground. All my anger goes into this one throw and I just want to go home.
The ball bounces right back up, twice as high as from where I threw it from. Somehow the ball didn't accept being put down and shot right back up even higher.
I take a moment and stare at the ball. I pick it up, and it feels light in my hands. My shoulders relax; I take a deep breath and shoot the ball. It goes in. This is one of the few shots I've made today, and it gives me the much-needed boost of confidence I've been lacking. I keep shooting, feeling calmer with every made shot. I came to the realization that even though I feel thrown down because of not making varsity, I have to fight through it. It's not that bad that I'm on JV; it will just be a stepping stone for me to become a better basketball player.
Practice ends, and I go home once again. I flop onto the couch in the living room feeling upbeat and optimistic. I'm ready for the oncoming season and the chance to work hard so at next year's tryouts, I can bounce back even higher.
Hollie Dowd just finished her freshman year at Glen Lake High School.