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I Quit.

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

I laced up my blue and gray sketchers and adjusted my gold tshirt nicely into my black shorts that I had routinely been wearing for my P.E. class. This time wearing the uniform was different than being in class learning to serve a volleyball. I had on the black and gold uniform so that I could tryout for the girls basketball team. All summer long I had fangirled so many WNBA and female college basketball player. My mind was made up. I was a baller.

When dad knew I wanted to play basketball, he took it seriously. Perhaps a bit more seriously than I did. It was just my luck that we had a basketball goal and the paved ground was the court. It was in our backyard that I learned how to do a layup. We ran drills. Being ready for the ball when dad threw it was a must. In a short period of time, my focus and stamina had increased tremendously. I was great at making layups, and I was becoming quite the defender. I wasn’t sure that I’d be the next Sheryl Swoopes, but I was going to make an impact on Wonder Jr. High’s ladies basketball team.

A couple of my friends and I had discussed tryouts that were coming up and we were all ready. This was the moment. We looked at each other, sure that the other was going to make the team and that together we would become the stars: The big three, if you will.

Tryouts started with the blow of the whistle. It sounded a bit more aggressive than I had expected. The coach barked out half explained orders. She looked at us as if we disgusted her. She yelled. She rolled her eyes. The sprinting drill up and down the court was taking me out, one knee bend at a time.

“Come on Brittney!” I encouraged myself through sharp pains to the chest.

“You got this!” I whispered between labored breaths.

Should my seventh grade knee feel this way? I thought to myself. Perhaps a bullet to my knee would feel better than what I was feeling. I wondered if going to hell itself would be better. This practice was going downhill and fast. We couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes into the practice that my mind roamed to what my mom had cooked. What were my siblings doing? Would dad be mad if I didn’t make the team?

The Coach glared at me, but I couldn’t understand her frustration. I was the one running for my life while she sat down eating a bag of chips with a can of Coca Cola. For some reason I thought maybe she would show us how it should be done, maybe a way that wouldn’t blow my knee before my career could even begin.

She never did.

She never left her chair.

She just barked and glared and blew that daggone whistle.

I wished desperately that I could just show her my layup so she could see that I would be an asset to this team. I wanted her to know that I was much better than these sprints made me look. As I decided that I would go home and work on the drills to be better prepared for tomorrow’s tryout; she looked me dead in my eyes, looked at another coach, and said “Reel is not gonna make it.”

I didn’t imagine it.

With my own ears, I heard it. The other coach’s obvious embarrassment to see that I saw the exchange confirmed that I had heard right. The words seemed final, and they were much louder than the pants of my possible future teammates. The sound of rejection soared high above the screeching of sneakers sliding across a gym floor.

My feet were stuck in place. I couldn’t move anymore. My knees felt like they belonged to an 67 year old man. My chest burned so badly that I thought I was threatening a heart attack.

She glared at me and rolled her eyes. I truly understood that she was a coach and being tough was a part of the job, but her malice seemed much more intentional than to just toughen me up. It was deadly, and it killed my confidence for years to come. And if it weren’t for my dad having told me that my tears mean nothing in this world, I would have cried right there.

I had given this moment all that I had, even if it wasn’t much.

So I walked out of the gym, and that was the first time I ever quit.

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