Every athlete has a favorite number they just have to wear. I had always been #25; however, most guards and shorter players are stuck with the smaller numbers, so I typically donned uniforms way too big for my frame. It didn’t bother me any! For a big time introvert, my number signified a safe place for me and where I could shed that skin to become a relentless competitor. Sports was my outlet where I didn’t feel judged or insecure. Beast mode.
My basketball pre game superstitions and routine were quite comical. I always had to be the first out of the locker room so that I could have some alone time to visualize the game ahead. I had my yellow walkman clipped onto my oversized shorts playing 2 songs way too loud – Name by the Goo Goo Dolls and Gangstas Paradise. And I was sucking on a grape or cherry tootsie roll pop, and if the wrapper had an Indian on it, we had extra luck on our side. Our win/loss record surely didn’t indicate the drive and passion that we had or measure everything we left out on that court.
My primary focus was to make 10 layups (split between each side without missing) prior to the onslaught of balls flying around, while emphasizing a slow follow through. I then moved to the baseline to get my fingers warmed up while dribbling back and forth for about 10 mins. I would then go to the bench to remove my jacket and eat my banana.
Another funny note…. I used to collect basketball figurines of all kinds but it was always a treat to find one that had the #25. My mom would scavenge all the Christmas shops and would find the most amazing Santa ornaments. My collection grew to over 150+ mementos and only a few years back did we both realize that we weren’t lucky, but just fell in line with Christmas Day falling on the 25th. Unbelievable!
I don’t really remember anything out of the norm in my other sports, but I was laser focused on being a great teammate and contributing. NC is a division II haven, as I quickly learned most of our opponents were within a 1-3 hour drive allowing us to play and be back to our dorms prior to midnight to study. This was invaluable to me being able to juggle 4 sports practices and games, while still maintaining a high GPA and proudly being a resident advisor in the freshmen dorm for 2 years too. In my opinion, it couldn’t have been accomplished anywhere else or without very accepting teammates, coaches and administration. I am eternally grateful for the overall experience.
Most of the scars on my body are attributed to those college days, as I truly beat myself up for 4 years. I had no fear and frequently found myself diving head first into the bottom of the score table or hitting limbs on the first row of bleachers in a dead run. Go all out or don’t play, right?!
I would go back in a heartbeat. The memories are so precious and life altering! (BTW, the tennis pic below is one of the few of me sporting a tennis skirt, so have a good laugh at my expense.)