BY SAMI WYNNE

It’s that time of year again. The well-anticipated basketball season. It’s crazy to think that seven years ago, I was gearing up to start my high school senior year of basketball.  While I knew that it was going to be an unforgettable final season for me, what I didn’t know was that what I would learn would impact me for the rest of my life.  

Starting at a young age, basketball was the game that my dad and I always watched together. Growing up in Kansas City, he took me to numerous high school and college games and spent countless Friday nights watching them on TV with me.  It was at this point that I started to understand why people loved the game. The adrenaline, the crowd,  that feeling you get when your team scores with only a few seconds left or that rush you get from that one play that changed the momentum of the game. It all happens on the court within 32 minutes. Even though I tried every sport, just like all the other kids, I knew basketball was going to be my game.  

“Me, on the other hand, I was good, but I had to work my booty off.”

So it began, the endless hours of being in a gym: jumping rope, running sprints, shooting endless number of free throws, shooting off the dribble, learning post up moves (huge thank you shout out to my parents for rebounding for me). Basketball had officially became my passion. Giving up my weekends and traveling for club basketball tournaments was to prepare for the high school seasons. To be honest, it wasn’t always fun. It was so hard and so tiring. Just like every other kid, I wanted to have free time, but I knew the sacrifices would be worth it in the end.  

I started playing on this club team when I was in second grade; this group of girls eventually became my high school basketball team. It should also probably be mentioned that they were studs. Natural athletes. In every sport. Me, on the other hand, I was good, but I had to work my booty off. I had the skills, but more importantly, I had the heart to keep up with these girls.   

IMG_0794November of 2009 was just the start of an unforgettable season. I was the only senior, which made senior night, “Sami Night.” Don’t get me wrong, that was fun, but being the only senior meant I had to step up and be a leader the team could depend on. Usually, most teams have a group of seniors to make decisions or to help build a team. I had….me.  Having a very talented group of girls look up to you can be intimidating and honestly, that was the biggest obstacle that I had to overcome, believing in myself. They believed in me. My coach believed in me. I had to learn to believe in myself. Little did I know that learning to do that would bring me further in life than I could ever imagine.  

Coach always told us to “find a way.” Find a way to score, find a way to play better defense, find a way to get through the fatigue, find a way to get the job done, as a team. It became our motto of the season.  Find a way to win. There are times in the game, where the plays don’t work, you can’t “buy” a bucket, or you feel like the referees are against you.  These times go beyond the playbook and beyond the whiteboard draw ups.  You, as a team, have to find away around it.  It’s not easy and it’s frustrating; but it shows who the teams are who have the heart to find a way to win the game.  I started every varsity game that season. That does not mean I was the quickest player or the best ball handler. That meant my coach believed and valued what I brought to the team, which was more than my three-point shooting ability.  I had the skills, but I found a way to be leader.       

“The adrenaline, the crowd, that feeling you get when your team scores with only a few seconds left or that rush you get from that one play that changed the momentum of the game. It all happens on the court within 32 minutes.”

Unfortunately, our season ended much too soon and, just like that, my senior year of basketball was over. It’s hard to let go of something that you love. Something that you have worked so hard for your entire life. There are some days that I wish I could go back and relive those basketball memories, but I’m beyond blessed to have been able to experience that season with my team. That season was just a chapter of my life.  However, that chapter was a building block for the chapters to come.        

I don’t remember the number of points I scored in every game or the number of assists I had. What I do remember is that hard work pays off. I remember that believing in yourself goes beyond the scoreboard and that your value as a person is not determined by the stats after every game. This is what I remember seven years later. That the game of basketball, my passion, goes beyond the X’s and O’s.       

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The Awesome Sports Project is an online journal committed to inspiring girls’ and women’s voices in sports. We publish every Tuesday between November and June. To tell your own story, click here!