My friend Hannah and I were the last two left at our lunch table when the basketball coach walked over to get her to sign up for the team for a second season. I laughed as she begrudgingly said yes and he watched as she went to write her name on the sign up sheet. I didn’t expect him to turn to me and ask what sport I was picking for the winter. I didn’t have an answer, but I knew basketball wasn’t it. He asked me why and I told him the decision was also for his sake, that he didn’t want me on his team—I had played in middle school and learned that the sport was not my strong suit. He also smugly assured me that I wouldn’t be playing for him on varsity, but on jv, and after combatting the rest of my excuses, I followed Hannah over to the signup sheet.
When it came time for tryouts, I was shooting well and felt comfortable with the skills we were being tested on—I’ve always been fine, or dare I say good, at shooting a basketball, but my trouble comes when it’s time to play. I am not aggressive in the least; if someone comes running at me when I have the ball, I will give it to them no questions asked. These skills however were not being tested for and somehow I got pulled aside at the end of the day and asked to be on varsity.
I was definitely an imposter on that team. I had no idea what I was doing and the whole set up was super intense. We had buzzers set for exercises and water breaks, we had special practice jerseys, and there were some really good players on our team. It was kind of funny looking back; even though every day before practice I considered quitting, at the end of it I realized it was the most fun I had had in a sports season. I was actually proud of myself and realized I had been taking myself so seriously, expecting perfection from myself, and even when I didn’t match those expectations, everything was okay. I didn’t have to be great, or a starter. My lack of skills didn’t affect my personal relationships, which was something I had convinced myself was real. I had friends with me on the team, Hannah and Mary especially, who made it an extra great shared experience. The rest of the team was great, and our coaches were really funny, even though I still don’t know if they meant to be.
Our head coach also looked out for me a bit—I was super awkward and it was clear I didn’t feel comfortable on the court. I gripped the collar of my jersey because I didn’t know what to do with my hands or myself, and every time I did, I would hear: “Isabel, hands off your jersey” booming from wherever he was. It became kind of a joke throughout the season and somehow it made me feel reassured--someone was calling out my discomfort, and it brought me back to reality for a second.