My Fear of Playing College Basketball for the First Time
On the first day of practice in my college career, I was scared shitless. If individual workouts were any indication of what was to come, I was about to get beat down and have my ass handed to me.
On a cold, cloudy Saturday morning on October 15, 2005, it started. Practice officially began at 8:00 AM, about the time most college kids were in dream land, sleeping off their hangovers from the previous night. At 7:00 AM, I woke up and walked around campus looking for a place to get some food. None of the dining halls were open and we had nothing to eat in the room.
As I headed to the main part of campus, I got a text from my dad saying, “Good luck today.”
I appreciated it, but a simple text message wasn’t going to help me play better or relieve my fears. Nearing the food court, I saw Olli, a 6’10” senior on the team.
He said in his deep Finnish-English accent, “You ready for practice today?”
Nervously, I replied, “Yea, as ready as I can be.” I found the only open café on campus, ate, then headed over to the gym.
When I walked into the locker room, most of the guys were already gearing up. I felt like we were all going to war, but a war against each other. For many of these guys, basketball was all they had in life. Getting this Division 1 scholarship provided an out from the town they were in, and they’d do anything they could to keep it and make the most of it. Anybody who got in their way was theirs to destroy. Yes, we were a team, but everybody was out to get theirs as well.
In the locker room, I never said much. The loud ones talked about all the girls they were with or anything else that came to their minds. Like in high school, before practices and games I would be very quiet, trying to stay as focused as possible. Wrapping my ankles in the bulky braces they made us wear, I proceeded to put on my grey shirt, blue shorts, and New Balance shoes. I tied my laces tight and took a deep breath. On the outside, I was ready for practice.
This was my fear of playing college basketball for the first time.