goodbye basketball

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been sitting at my computer for almost 2 hours looking at random quotes. Pretty much doing anything to avoid writing this blog. It’s not because I don’t want to; it’s because I’m scared. Ever since the soccer game ended I’ve been trapped inside my head. To say I was mystified by the experience would be a big understatement; it was a perfect day through and through. So let me just start with that. Because I haven’t exactly been feeling great since the game; I’ve been quite the opposite.

I grew up with a basketball in my hand. It was all I ever wanted to do. I remember dribbling the ball non-stop in the kitchen, watching videos on youtube so my ball-handling was better. I spent nights watching even more trying to perfect my shot, and would lay on the floor in my room throwing the ball as close to the ceiling as I could for hours. It was my love and the thing I planned on spending the rest of my life doing. I was so confident that nothing would ever get in my way. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but what could ever be so bad that I couldn’t get around? I was at a point in 8th grade where dribbling had become my second-nature, and shooting the ball was just instinct. I had worked so hard to come to that point and I knew that I just had to make it through that 8th grade season until I could be on varsity freshman year. And then I snapped my right arm completely in half. It was no ones fault, in fact, it was bound to happen. We found out I had an extremely low bone density.

The few moments after looking down to my arm were terrifying. I didn’t speak or even cry until we were halfway to the hospital. I remember looking up at my dad finally letting the tears fall as I whispered, “will ever play basketball again?” The answer to that question ended up being yes. I was in a full-arm cast and taught myself how to do everything left-handed. I spent practices shooting on the side and games wishing I could just rip the cast off and jump on the court. When I did finally get to play again, it was never the same. My love had been tested, and my mental illness was at a record high kind of bad. I played on JV freshman year and didn’t even care, I was just so excited to finally play again. We went 17-0 that season and it was all around the best season of any sport I’ve ever experienced. Freshman year in general was the worst year of my life, so having at least that basketball season to look back on is comforting. Quite honestly, it was the only reason I survived that school year.

I didn’t go to public school sophomore year, and instead did online classes. Except during basketball season, I came and sat in a small room off to the side of the library everyday. I had to do that in order to play my sophomore season. I don’t remember much from that year other than feeling really alone. Basketball was still there and so was my mental illness. And once again, so was injury. My bones weren’t as strong as they should have been so I was constantly in pain. I sprained my ankle a few times that season and played on, not willing to tell anyone. Towards the end of the season I started to feel a pain on my shin. I knew it had something to do with my bones but I ignored it all the way to track season, until landing wrong in the long jump sent me to the ground in tears. The pain was unmanageable at that point. Come to find out, I had been walking around with a severe stress fracture.

I spent the summer between sophomore and junior year golfing. I was scared of basketball. I knew that I couldn’t take another season-ending injury and I didn’t want my love to be completely taken away from me, so I avoided it. I ran cross-country that fall and after my second meet I was feeling the same kind of pain in my leg that I had that spring. Only this time in a different spot. I tried to push through but ended up getting the news that I had another stress fracture. This time I was in a cast. I missed all of cross season and by the time basketball came I still wasn’t healed. I rushed my healing as best as I could and tried to play anyway. Let’s just say, throughout high school a lot was happening behind the scenes-besides injury-that were playing roles in deteriorating my love for the game.

It was the hardest decision of my life to leave school halfway through junior year and work ahead to graduate early. Doing so meant I had to leave the basketball team and officially accept that my love was better left somewhat intact and not completely crushed. I finished my junior year in record time and was then working on my senior classes while still attending every practice and game. The only difference being that I didn’t get to suit up or sit on the bench. But the girls still let me feel like I was a part of the team. And now as all my friends are seniors playing their final season, I’m watching from the stands as a graduate.

It haunts me everyday knowing all the potential I had and all the dreams left trapped in my imagination. I grew up watching WNBA and college games believing with my whole heart that I would be there someday. I didn’t have a single doubt, and damn, did I have the passion. But I guess 4 years of injury and 6 years of terrible mental illness struggles, all in a row, tend to lead you in a direction you never planned on heading. The only positive outcome I can find from this experience was discovering the love I had for writing. I feel like I’ve latched onto this and used it to replace what basketball used to be.

Back to soccer… Following all of the players closely for so long and finally seeing them play in person just really made me realize how over basketball actually was. When I was younger I planned on being one of those girls. Going to college and playing on the USA team, having so many little girls look up to me. But most importantly, being able to live my dream with every breath I took. I wanted to make an impact the same way Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Hope Solo, and so many others make everyday through soccer. And I wanted to do that through basketball. Things don’t always turn out the way you dreamt, though. I’m now starting to realize that I have new dreams to make true, and new journeys to be experienced.

Although the first seventeen years of my life were filled with more lows than highs, I’m thankful. I went to hell and back on multiple occasions and was left crying on the floor most nights, just to end up here; in my room writing and posting a blog for the 90th day in a row. I have a book in the works and am about to fully commit myself to working on that. I know that there are so many other ways I’m meant to make a difference in this world. It’s just hard to accept that it wont be in the way I planned my entire childhood and most of my teenage years. I believe writing is my calling and I’ve finally accepted how true that is. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell and a lot more yet to experience. I’m just thankful to know I gave basketball my best shot, multiple times, and I have nothing to regret. This is a new chapter, and I plan on making it the best yet.

-Kelsi

2 thoughts on “goodbye basketball

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