A couple of days ago, I blogged that in my twenty years of adult league basketball experience, I had seen just about everything. Today, I learned something about basketball that I didn't realize or understand.
A couple of weeks ago, I had planned some activities with my friends. Alas, the plans had to get adjusted to later due to logistical issues. With my original plans changed, I made new plans.
As I was suddenly free this morning, I made plans to visit a young high school basketball player I knew. Even though I had officiated her games quite a bit, I had actually never just watched her play as a spectator. As it turned out, she was playing in a tournament this morning at a gym close by to my house.
For some backstory on why I was visiting this player, read this blog entry:
Behind The Whistle: Encouraging Players As An Official
The main plan was just to watch her play. However, I wasn't going to just watch and leaveI. Knowing the tournament structure, I knew there was some down time between her team's games. I figured we would have some time to talk as well. I wanted to know more about her struggles during the high school basketball season as we had not discussed in detail the last time.
So after the young lady's first game, we took a few minutes to talk a bit. In sharing her story, she opened my eyes to her experience as the last player on the bench of a high school basketball team. It definitely WASN'T what I was expecting.
While I have played years of adult league basketball, I never played high school basketball. I just never really good enough to make my school team. I've known plenty of people who have played high school basketball but only really talked to one person about their experience. That one person was a guy friend who played one year of JV ball and was a bench warmer throughout.
For the young lady I visited today, her experience sounded like a combination of politics and poor communication. I won't share her whole experience as that is for her to share. However, it really opened my eyes to the high school players WHO DON'T get to play a lot.
There are kids who are good enough to make teams but aren't good enough to play regularly. In this young lady's case, she is a talented and skilled player but yet somehow got buried on the bench for reasons not entirely clear. In many ways, this is almost the same problem Jeremy Lin had, except the young lady didn't get much of a chance to show she could play this past high school season.
As someone who didn't play basketball in high school, I always wondered how that experience would be. I did play other sports but none were as high profile as basketball (or football or baseball). This young lady's experience shows that just being on the team isn't always glamourous and can be a frustrating experience rather than a rewarding one.
It is unfortunate that the young lady had to go through the experience she did. However, she has a good head on her shoulders, has great parents and goes to a good school overall. She has a lot of support and other basketball activities (via her club teams) to fall back on so she will be fine.
However, I did tell her that if she never needed anything, she could always reach out to me. I know that I lean on friends quite a bit and having extra support is never a bad thing.