As a sophomore, Kate Benz chronicled her experiences with the Cougar basketball team during the 2004-05 season. In 2005-06, the junior forward from Portland, Ore. continues her accounts of life as a Cougar. Please visit wsucougars.com for future thoughts from Kate throughout the year.
January 23, 2006
There comes a point in every individual's life when monotony becomes overwhelming. This overpowering nature causes one to forget the simple things and underlying meanings in certain situations.
Take for example, the concept of sports. It is fairly easy to get so caught up in the routine of the sport that the question of why one plays becomes isolated. Being able to step away from the game offers perspective. I gained this outlook last week when I helped at a practice for the local seventh grade girls' basketball team.
When I entered the gym, the girls were chit-chatting and tossing up shots. They were excited to be with each other and excited to be playing a game no one forced them to like.
I was asked to speak to the girls about rebounding and show them some things we do at a college basketball practice. After I showed them a few drills, I told them that the skills they practice at age 13 are the same things I work on at age 20.
Helping out two great fathers as they coached this group of girls was enjoyable and entertaining. I had a wonderful time, and I plan to help out on a regular basis when I am in town. It was easy to relate to the girls because I remember exactly what it was like to be in the seventh grade.
I told the bright-eyed middle schoolers about my path to the WSU women's basketball team. I shared my most vivid basketball memory with them, which instantly released a stirring feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I remembered being an eighth grader, busy with other sports and school plays but really wanting to play more basketball. My best friend and I were asked to play on a select team, and I was so jealous when she wore her West Hills Premiere Basketball sweatshirt to school because my parents thought I didn't need to play on two basketball teams.
Then, one weekend, her team needed an extra player - just for a couple of games in a tournament. My parents let me go, and we ended up playing in the championship game of this tournament. I'll never forget meeting those girls I thought were just so amazing at basketball. I got to wear the fancy uniform, and the coach actually put me in the game which happened to be versus their huge rival.
It was neck-and-neck the whole game, and then at the buzzer I was fouled. The score was tied, and I was the lone player on the free throw line. All I had to do was make one shot, and we'd win the game. I remember being so nervous because I didn't even really know all the rules and wondered why I was all alone on the court. I took a deep breath, missed the first shot but sunk the second. Soon after, I joined the team permanently, and I never put the ball down.
Over the course of the next four years everybody had their opinions as to how I needed to practice and what I needed to do in order to get to the college level. I was told I needed to stop playing volleyball and tennis, drop a couple of my extra curricular activities, and spend even more hours in the gym. However, I didn't listen. I knew I loved basketball, but I loved being a kid and doing everything else too. I always kept with me the memory of getting that chance to show I could make a key play, even if I wasn't even supposed to be in the deck of cards to begin with.
All of these memories came streaming back into my mind, standing in the gym at the seventh grade basketball practice. At the end of the hour, I was put on the spot. I was asked what my advice was to the girls about keeping up on their skills. I think I told them to play whenever and wherever they could because I know that's what I did when I was their age. However, I wish I could have remembered to tell them one more thing.
Basketball is a game. When it stops being fun, and practicing becomes monotonous and almost like a tedious chore, the passion is gone. If you ask yourself why you play basketball and an answer isn't inevitably clear, then maybe it's time to take a break from the game. But, if the stirring feeling in your stomach - reminding you of that first exciting basketball memory - elicits itself every time you step on the court, then you know you're right where you belong.
As the months quickly pass and my second-to-last year of college basketball inches near a close, the routine of practice becomes pretty repetitive. But almost every time I step out on the court, I remember standing on that foul line in eighth grade and I am reminded of exactly why I play - for the fun I have, the love of the game, and the excitement of the unpredictability of each game. There's nothing monotonous about that.
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