My sister asked me to write my five most personally significant sports moments. After spending a day and half thinking it over, I’m not going to include moments that I was a spectator and/or fan. I’ll save that for another day. In no particular order, these moments made me into who I am.
Scared of Baseballs:
Before I moved to Louisiana, I played 1 year of tee-ball in Kentucky in 1st grade. We moved to Louisiana in the spring of my 2nd grade year, so I didn’t play that year nor in 3rd grade. Then in 4th grade at 10 years old, I tried out for Little League. I was awful, and even worse, I was scared of the baseball.
I was a kid who hadn’t played ball in two years and wore these embarrassingly large early 90’s style giant glasses. I remember the first practice where Coach Robichaux, Coach Bryan, and Coach Terry tried to get me to hit in the batting cage. I had some hand eye coordination from tennis lessons, but I was scared of baseballs. I was relegated to the bench and when I came off the bench I was put in right field. Right field for those of you who didn’t play little league is where the worst kids go stand in shame.
But I had no shame. I was always positive. I was always happy, but I couldn’t hit. What I did have was a fantastic eye. I was walked almost every single time when I went up to bat and my coaches also figured out that I could steal bases. It gave me a purpose which was fantastic, but I still couldn’t hit. What made it especially embarrassing was how good my team was all year. I was the worst kid on one of the best teams in the league.
My coaches were the most understanding men in the world. We went to the batting cages all year, and they were really positive about teaching me how to swing a bat. I knew the machines weren’t going to throw an errant pitch at my head. I just didn’t trust another kid to not throw it at my head. The last game of the season, we were safely in 2nd place. I got to start and play most of the game. It was that game that I finally got my first hit. It was blooper to right center field. I don’t remember the count. I don’t remember the at bat. What I do remember is how loud the cheers were. I remember how proud my teammates, coaches, and parents were of me.
I remember thinking that if I can get a hit I can do anything. I had never worked so long and so hard for anything in my life up to that point. I remember finally not being scared.
We lost in the championship game that year, but I already had won. The next year, I batted leadoff and started in center field. Our team won in the championship game when our pitcher threw a no-hitter… and yes I got a hit.
Coaches Aren’t Always Right:
It was 5th grade. It was only my second year of organized soccer, and I had this Russian coach named Brad. He had it set in his mind all season that I was a defender. He was a nice enough guy, but it was a given every Saturday morning he brought his one night stand from the night before to go to our games.
He used us to get laid and didn’t really pay much attention to anything else. I spent the whole season relegated to center back. I was so frustrated when my teammates couldn’t do much of anything in our attack. I begged him all year to play forward.
It wasn’t until the second to last game of the year where he finally relented. We played against this team called the Bulldogs. In the first half, I took the ball from the left flank, got to the edge of the 18 yard box, and just kicked it as hard as I could to the opposite corner. GOAL! Then a bit later, I got a cross from a teammate and put in my second. At half time, I didn’t say much of a word to coach. In the second half, I again got the ball and chipped the ball over the goalie’s head.
I had a hat trick for the first time in my life and in my first game as a forward. I never played for Brad again. The next season I tried out for the traveling club team and made it… as a forward. Later that year, Brad was a referee in one of our club games and I scored a goal. I didn’t celebrate or say anything to the other team. I just glared at the condescending coach who didn’t believe in me.
Losing and Losing:
My middle school basketball teams never seemed to come out on top. In 5th grade, we lost in the championship game to St. Margaret’s. The next year, we overcame St. Margaret’s, but lost to a new team in the league Sacred Heart, an all black school.
In 7th grade, I broke my arm a month before the season started. The team went on without me. We had new coaches who didn’t really know me. I practiced by myself everyday with my left arm in a broken hard cast. Until midway through the season, when I told the coaches I could play.
Coach Eric was a skeptic at first, but within a week, I was starting. I started the rest of the season and carried the team. There’s even a ridiculous video I have to this day of an almost full court shot I made. Then at the end of the season, it was Sacred Heart again. I couldn’t beat them on my own. No matter how good I had gotten that year. It just wasn’t enough. I remember sitting next to the ditches outside of St. Louis high school crying my eyes out.
Coach Eric came and consoled me and to this day I don’t remember what he said, but I remember needing to hear someone believed in me. Thankfully, I was good enough in 7th grade to play for the 8th grade team as well, so I got some revenge against Sacred Heart by beating them in the 8th grade final. One of my teammates on that team ended up playing point guard for LSU and another ended up playing baseball for Alabama.
We dominated from start to finish. However, the next year when the burden was again on my shoulders, I couldn’t beat Sacred Heart. With 5 minutes left in the game, my coach (not Eric) pulled all the starters except for me. I scored 8 points in a row. Pulled the game with 6. He subbed me out and didn’t let us try to win that game with a couple minutes left.
Losing three years in a row to the same team was awful. I put almost all of that burden on myself. It wasn’t until a couple years later when I really thought about it that I learned I couldn’t succeed alone when it takes a team to win.
One on One:
After being a big fish in a small private school pond, when I got to high school, I didn’t really enjoy coaches doubting me. I was used to coaches being tough on me, but simultaneously giving me a chance.
The first day of basketball practice after I made the team freshmen year, the head coach walked into the locker room and sat us all down. He told us that this was our last time to play basketball. We would never played higher than high school. He pointed out a couple guys who might play college and that was it. He said that this was the end of the road and we had to make the most of it.
I had played AAU the previous two summers with the best players in the state and against a couple guys who are still in the NBA. I thought I deserved better. I did not take the lecture well. In Louisiana basketball and soccer are both winter sports. I split my freshmen year playing soccer and basketball.
I never felt like I got a fair shake from the basketball coaches, so I started letting go of basketball. They were harsh on us for almost no reason. It was only later that I found out the freshmen/JV coach was basically living out of his car and our head coach was going through a divorce. There was so much turmoil in the program that seniors who were being scouted kept quitting the varsity squad.
Yet there’s this one moment from that wretched season I won’t forget. There were two guys on the team that the coaches put higher than everyone else. They were also the only two guys given a chance to practice regularly with the JV team. One was Joey who was 6’2" at 14 years old and seemed still be growing. The other was our point guard Roshown.
I wasn’t a big fan of Roshown because I thought he was flash and little substance. So finally one day, the coaches had Roshown and I play one on one to end practice. He had the ball first and after 20 crossovers and 3 pump fakes, he missed his shot. I snag the rebound, take it from the top of the key, crossed left then crossed right, took contact, and laid it in as I was falling to the floor to finish practice.
I pumped my fist and let out a yell. To this day I remember my thought that went through my mind as I laid on that floor. “Fuck all of them. I don’t deserve to be treated like shit.”
Worst Two Years of My Life:
Before putting on some weight the summer before my senior year in high school, I could run.
The first day of track freshman year, the coaches took all the basketball players and all the football players and put us on the football field. We had to run full lap around the field and how we did determined basically what we would do.
I broke away from the entire pack of guys. I was two strides ahead of everyone all the way around the field until the last corner, where I slipped. I ended up finishing 4th after falling down on the last corner 10 yards from the finish.
I smoked everyone on the basketball team and football team for the first 300+ yards and thought I warranted practicing as a sprinter. I was wrong. The coaches thought I should run the 800m and 2 mile. They figured if I could sustain sprint speed for a full lap, I could do it for 2 laps. They also figured since I played soccer as well I could pump out two miles.
For the next two track and cross country seasons, I hated my life. I hated running distance. I was just too easily distracted. We would sneak away from our coaches all the time and just give up. At the JV meet of my sophomore year, I was up for the 2 mile. I didn’t want to be at the meet. I didn’t want to run. I felt like crap. What made it worse was this kid who I hate could not stand at all was running for another high school.
I had tormented that kid through middle school in every single sport we played and in the gifted classes we had together once a week. It turned out the one thing he was definitely better than me was distance running. I dragged my heels throughout the race and kept with the pack, but this kid was just far ahead of everyone. I was on my second to last lap on the track, and he was on his last. I remember looking up, being exhausted, and thinking to myself I better sprint as hard as I can to avoid being lapped.
I have never ran so hard in my life. Thankfully, he didn’t lap me, but he definitely taught me a lesson. If you don’t love what you’re doing and don’t give 100%, you’re gonna get embarrassed in the worst way possible.