I love March Madness. I really do. While I don't follow basketball much anymore or watch many games, when March rolls around every year, I excitedly find myself tuning in for more Sports Center and staying up a bit later to see the conclusion of a possible upset. I especially love that Sports Center is usually on when I get up for Elijah's three a.m. feed!
Truthfully I watch more Men's basketball than I do Women's Mostly because they are on the prime time stations and they get more coverage on Sports Center. And also because, well, the games are more exciting. I may be a woman, but it's the truth.
I betcha there are quite a few blog readers that don't know that I was a basketball player once upon a time. Actually I was a basketball and volleyball player in high school. I was on travelling teams and state teams and the whole caboodle. I wanted to play both in college, but playing any sport with basketball is very difficult due to the length of the basketball season. In the end, I chose to be a basketball player in college.
After a very lengthy recruiting process I ended up at Western Kentucky University playing Division I basketball on a full scholarship. People ask me often if I liked it or if I miss it. Those are difficult questions. Playing big-time basketball is not an easy thing to do. It is, truly a full-time job. Practices and games are only the tip of the iceberg. Add in individual work-outs, weightlifting, media and press appearances, film, and I truly lived in Diddle Arena .
I miss the locker room. I miss the relationships with my teammates. I miss practical joke and road trips. I miss living in the dorm with Kristi. I miss staying in such good shape.
I do not miss your life not being your own.
Tennessee women's basketball players were reminded this week that their lives do not belong to themselves. Seriously. Check out this video featuring Head Coach Pat Head Summitt forcing her players to practice the day after their season ended! I kid you not.
A bit of background: ever since I was being recruited, Tennessee women's basketball has been at the pinnacle of the sport. Led by Coach Summitt, they are consistently ranked in the top few spots in all polls and have won more NCAA tournaments then I care to discuss. We played them one time, and were pretty happy when we only lost by twenty.
This year they lost in the first round for the first time in the school's history. This means that their season is over. Mind you, they started working out for this season in August! Now it is March! They have lost. And they are practicing.
This is the reason that the NCAA has so many rules regarding player-athletes. There are rules about when practices can start (you can't practice after April 15th.) There are rules about how many hours a week you can practice. There are rules about how many hours a day. There are rules about anything and everything. Teams loosely follow these rules. There are always sneaky ways to get around things. Penalties for breaking these rules are severe. But these rules exist because coaches do things like this. I cannot imagine having had to practice the day after eight months of basketball comes to an end in an unfortunate way! The day after eight months of basketball came to an end for me at WKU, I would sleep in for the first time in nearly a year. Geesh.
Anyways, sorry, I needed to vent about this. I know it is just a practice, but I think it is so important to remember that a basketball is just air pumped into a rubber ball. While I am amazingly grateful for the athletic talent I was blessed with and the wonderful people and coaches I had the opportunity to work with over the years, I do think it is important that we keep a sport in perspective. It is just a sport. It is just a game. It is not life. It should not be the most important thing in your life.
I think my father, who was my coach in all my sports in high school, instilled in me a healthy outlook. I never felt pressure to play the sports I loved. I remember telling him during the recruiting process how frustrated I was and that maybe I just wanted to go to a little po-dunk college somewhere and play for fun. I know that was probably difficult for my Dad to hear, but he told me that if that is what I wanted to do, he was okay with that. (In the end, I obviously didn't do that -- but it sounded like a good idea when the pressure got to be too much.)
I have to be honest. I will support whatever my boys want to do. But I would be totally fine if they wanted to play the trumpet or be a boy scout. They don't have to play sports. I think any activity, when kept in the right balance, is healthy for a child, teenager, and young adult. It's when that balance gets out of whack that I start having a problem.
Obviously Tennessee is good for a reason. Probably reasons like practices after season over. It's just that I really felt for her players when I read this. It's okay if you disagree. It's just my opinion. It's just my opinion that after an eight month season, it is time for some down-time. I think the down-time can be just as good for you as a practice seven months before your next game.
So there you go. A quick return to a topic that dominated my entire existence for a decade of my life. Truth be told, I have not touched a basketball since I quit coaching in 2004. And I have only played in about three scrimmage games since I ended my college career in 1999. I know this probably brings tears to some people's eyes (like Hans), but it is just the truth. I burned out big-time on basketball, and therefore much enjoy volleyball over the bball now-a-days.
Okay, time for some more March Madness . . .
P.S. You have to make sure to read the comments to this post. My teammate Katie W. from WKU (one of my favorite gals during my time there) left a great comment. I agree with everything she said 100%. Sports are a FANTASTIC opportunity to learn, grow-up, meet wonderful people, and have opportunities galore. I don't want anyone to think I didn't love that about my time at WKU. I was given fantastic opportunities and met wonderful, awesome, amazing people. Honestly, everyone who helped me there was awesome! I don't have a bad story for you. I think my overall point though is that we do need to remember that basketball is just a game and that we have to keep things in perspective. I also think that I did get a little burnt out on the sport during college -- just ready for it to come to an end and do some new things with my life. Katie is a coach now herself and definitely knows what she is talking about so make sure you read what she has to say.