I found them while I was looking for something else. They’d been tucked away in a storage bin under my bed along with other relics of their time. Shuffling through papers and old mail and doodles, the hard wood caught my fingers and my attention.
There were two of them, one slightly bigger than the other. A dark wooden plaque with a stone protrusion of a basketball and hoop, each with its own engraving: “Most Improved Player.” “Coaches’ Award.”
I’d nearly forgotten that this part of my life had existed. You have to understand: I am a non-athlete from a family of athletes. All three of my siblings play soccer, and my dad coaches. He also used to coach college basketball, my sister played, and my brother plays.
I am a reader and a writer. I carry around books with dragons and molecules on the covers and I like listening to podcasts. I take art classes, have participated in the theater, and am passionate about science and journalism. Gym class was my least favorite and when forced to play soccer, I was always goalie. My mile run is a number I’m ashamed to type.
I don’t remember what compelled sixth-grade bookish me to sign up for basketball. It wasn’t something I’d ever done. I do remember my dad taking me aside to ask me if this was really what I wanted, and I said yes.
I don’t remember this either, but my dad has told the story enough times. We were well into thee season–a losing team–and he asked me, “Are you enjoying basketball?” I said yes. “Do you think you’re good?”
I laughed. “Oh, dad, I’m the worst.”
All of this came back to me as I looked at the awards this week. It wasn’t that receiving them meant that much–winning “most improved” is easy when you started out as bad as I was–but they sparked a question:
Why don’t I do this anymore?
Not basketball. There’s a good reason I don’t do basketball anymore. But in middle school, I wasn’t afraid to try. I wasn’t afraid of being humiliated, because I was eager to learn. I wasn’t afraid to do something I’d never done before with people who weren’t “my people,” because the point was to do something I’d never done before and all people were my people.
Why don’t I do that anymore?
I don’t have a good answer. But I’m thinking of taking those silly sixth-grade plaques to my college dorm room until I think of one.