Half A Step Off

I began playing basketball when I was 12. I was the tallest on my team and was taught to play center and forward and loved every minute of it.

Just one year later, every one else grew, and I didn't. I went from being the tallest on the team to on of the shortest. I went from playing forward and center, to playing guard. The problem with that is that I wasn't a great ball handler. In fact, I'm not super athletic at all. I had to work very hard at playing basketball.

I ended up trying out for the school squad, made the team, but sat the bench during the 8th grade. In 10th grade, I had worked my way up to sixth man. (This means, you're the first sub in during a game.) I played a lot, and I loved it.

Then came varsity and back to riding the bench. My coach was convinced that I had no business playing basketball yet, instead of cutting me, she kept me on the team and would put me in the last minute of every game. Fun stuff, huh?

Let's skip to my senior year. I was the only senior on the team, was determined to make captain, and didn't. Not because my teammates didn't vote for me, but because the coach didn't want me to be a captain. I could have quit right then, but I didn't. I decided to stick it out. I earned some playing time by not playing in our Jrs versus Srs flag football game during homecoming week, but I still only average around 2 mins a game.

Then one day, we were playing the team that was known for the best player in the area. She was super quick, scored a lot of points, and was definitely on her way to playing college basketball. And within the first few minutes, she was well on her way to beating us herself. (This also caused our coach to throw her suit jacket on the floor much in Bobby Knight fashion. I'm convinced that the only reason she ever wore that jacket was so she could take it off and throw it.)

All of a sudden I hear, "April! Get in there for (I forget who)! And you got Shelley."

Do you want to take a guess at who Shelley was? You guessed it. The best player in the league. I'm not quick, and I'm short. This could end bad. I knew our coach had done that just to try to humiliate me. She had plenty of other talented players that could have handled this assignment.

In a split second, I decided I was not going to let this end poorly. I had a game plan. I knew she was quicker than me, so I played half a step off. What this means is that when guarding her, I backed up just a bit more than I would someone else I may guard so that I could keep up with her. Also, I learned quickly that I could anticipate her every move by just watching her eyes. (In basketball, you're taught to watch the ball on defense. Or at least I was.) As good as she was, she telegraphed her every move.

I held the best player in our league to just 5 points the whole time I guarded her in the first half. She was frustrated. To help matters, I matched her 5 points.

I would love to tell you that in the second half, I made the winning basket. The truth is once we got back in the game and had a chance to win, she pulled me, and I went back to my seat on the bench. We still lost that game, but it wasn't because SHE beat us. It was because THEY beat us, and that for me was a personal victory.

Life sometimes reminds me of that player. It can be quicker and taller and ready to kick my ass single-handed. Some days, it's going to score a career high on me. That's just going to happen. I can't predict when it will, but I can try to prepare myself.

There was a time in my life when I let life control me. I worried about where I was, where I had been, and where I was going. While I can be laid back, I like to know where I'm going. Where things are headed. Truth is, I still worry, but I'm learning to not let life control me. I have a game plan. I try to play half a step off. That way I can keep up and try to anticipate.

Yes, some days, I'm going to lose the game. In fact, I may lose a lot, but as long as I can have small personal victories in life, like I did that day on the court, I think I'll be just fine. No. I know I will.

Just play half a step off. ;o)

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Bacardi Mama said...

What a great story and life lesson for us all!

MitaKay said...

I. Love. This!!! Great post, girly!

Brooke said...

i really needed this today! :) i'm stressing so much about life piling up on me, that i'm not enjoying my social outtings like i should because i'm worried about what's at home not getting done.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to remember this exact lesson lately. It's hard to do when you are in the thick of it, but I'm trying. Personal victories are the best.

Christie O. said...

i love this post! and i so love the way you can metaphor your way into a great story!!!!

and i superlove how you are taking control!

Heather of the EO said...


I love hearing stories from the past, and this was so well-written and inspiring. Thanks, lady.

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