My heart is pounding as if someone’s beating on a drum. Sweat, lots of sweat. Pouring out of every part of my body. Covering me with the days’ hard work that led me to this very moment. There is anxiety and worry building up in the back of my mind that is being engulfed by a million other thoughts. The calm before the storm. I can feel it now, everything I’ve worked for. Everything we’ve worked for. All those hours of running until I could no longer feel my legs. All the mornings I awoke before the rooster had even thought about crowing, before the sun had even dared to reveal a small glimpse of its radiant light. Every party that I could not attend. The chill of the ﬁrst dreadful seconds of the ice bath, the freezing blaze it sends up my spine, ﬁrst pain and then relief. The days when my body said no, but my coach said yes. The days when I just wanted to quit. Being sleep deprived. The shooting pains of being whipped by my jump rope, leaving behind inerasable marks for hours. The repulsive smell of the track, the 7 minute mile, the earning of my jersey. Collapsing after what seems like an eternity of hell, which was actually only ﬁve minutes of intense physical suffering. The aching of my muscles after lifting. Pushing myself harder than I ever thought imaginable. Conquering the hills. Defeating the stairs. It all came down to this moment.
The ball. Such an innocent shape. Nothing but rubber and air. Seemingly harmless, but could change the entire course of a whole season in one moment. This moment. Exhaustion is close to taking over every muscle in my body. Knocking at my door as if it is an old friend. I ﬁght to stay focused. Focus.
This moment. The moment when a good season, becomes a great season. The moment when a team becomes a family. The ball is tossed. My veins course with anticipation as I watch the innocent shape soar into the air. The next minute is a blur. Silence. Shock. Chaos. I fall on my knees as I watch my teammates surround me in a jubilant celebration unlike any other. The ﬂoor is covered in bodies. The bodies of eleven girls, teammates, best friends, and now sisters. Absolute pandemonium. My mind is racing as it tries to understand. My body feels no pain, no suffering, only pure joy. When we all snap back into reality we kindly greet the opposing team at the net. No eye contact. I see despair become stricken across their faces as the loss sinks in. The realization that their dreams have slipped from their ﬁngertips. No second chances.
Flashing of cameras. Hugging, screaming, and crying surround me. Cloud 9. I embrace my best friend and fellow sophomore in a giant hug. Our last game ending in a well-earned victory. Never again will we play with these girls, on this team, at this level. So bitter-sweet. The referee impartially hands us our trophy, and then our medals. Champions. The best. One by one we breathe a sigh of relief as our coach places the gold medals around our necks. I can’t control myself now. All the emotions that had built up all match, all season, were now unraveling. From behind tearful eyes I watch my sisters receive their medals, I remember everything we went through together to get to where we are right now. One last cheer and an emotional speech from our coach is enough to send even some of the freshmen over the edge. We did it. Repeat. Never been done before by a team from our school. We are the ones.
Anyone who tells you it’s easy is lying. Anyone who tells you it’s worth it is telling the absolute truth.