Senior year is supposed to be the best year of high school.
It's supposed to be full of memory making moments, academic success, excitement for the future and the feeling that the entire world is at your feet. It's a time to start finding out who you are as a young adult and take baby steps towards who you will be as a member of society.
The students across the globe are unable to have what we would call a 'normal' senior year. Despite these students longing for normalcy and what they have come to expect from a senior year, they are living in what will become a defining moment in history. This moment will pass and you will be able to continue your journeys in athletics or outside of them, but know that my heart is broken for all of you.
At the tail end of my junior year, I had been offered a full ride to Redlands Junior College if I would graduate early. I declined because my head coach had made such a difference in the team's success and I would be able to get a head start on college by taking a few concurrent classes.
I did not start my senior year. The team was assigned a new coach and the he had a vendetta against me for not dating his son. However, I always came in and gave valuable minutes in the little time I had. It was enough to get a half-ride to an NAIA D1 school and that was what I wanted.
My team was in the midst of a tournament near Shawnee, almost two hours away, and I was at the University of Central Oklahoma for a morning audition for the concert band next semester. The time was flying and I was running out of time to make the game on time. Once my audition was done, I raced home and my dad, a retired fireman, drove in true emergency style (minus the siren and flashing lights) to ensure that I arrived in time for the game. We arrived in the middle of warmups, but I was greeted warmly as I had informed the team and my coaches of the situation in advance.
Again, I didn't start, but I knew that my tardiness was the reason that day. When I was sent in, it was already an eventful and emotional game. I don't remember who we played. I don't remember the score. But I do remember several details clearly:
• I remember hitting an ugly three, calling 'bank' and laughing as I returned to defense.
• I remember playing a match-up 3-2 defense and the ball being in the opposite corner.
• I remember hearing my girl coming across the baseline.
• I remember stepping into her path.
• I remember turning my head.
• I remember the instant pain and the crunch of my nose on her head.
• I remember the non-stop, non-crying tears from the injury.
• I remember the ref getting mad at me and saying "why are you crying? you're winning"
• I remember my teammate inbounding the ball to me.
• I remember dribbling up the court with blurry eyes.
• I remember getting waylaid into the bleachers at half-court.
• I remember the hearing clock buzz well after I hit the stands.
• I remember repeatedly asking for my technical shots.
• I remember leaving the locker room and sliding down a wall in the gym with my bag, crying because the pain was kicking in.
• I remember that I finally got up, dried my tears as best I could and went to find my parents who were out in the car.
• I remember telling them that my nose was broken.
While they took some convincing, they eventually believed me. I guess being able to pick up a section of your nasal bone and move it was enough proof. Somehow I avoided the coon eye bruising, which a teammate had suffered in season past.
I continued to play and in each of the ensuing three games I was hit in the nose, causing more tears of pain. My parents took me to the local doc who panicked when he saw the x-ray. Apparently the portion of my nasal bone was enough so that if it had been smashed into my head deeper it might have killed me. He told me I needed to see a specialist and that my season was most likely over.
This was my senior year. I had already decided that if I had to go to college, I wanted to keep playing. This was literally my meal ticket. How could I quit playing?
After pulling myself back together, I composed a semi-dramatic, but factually correct, message to my team stating the situation and said that my return to the team would depend on what the specialist said.
During the ensuing time, I wasn't sure what to do. Without basketball, who was I? A highly competitive kid who played the saxophone and liked to sing? Maybe. Was I a studious kid who liked to read? Maybe.
When I was finally able to see the specialist, it was like a light at the end of the tunnel. He told me that it was as broken as it could get, but that I wasn't in danger and that I could keep playing. He also told me that I didn't have to wear what was then dubbed 'Rip Hamilton mask', which was named for the NBA player who had suffered a broken nose about the same time.
At the time I returned to practice, I had only missed a week, but it felt like forever. The assistant coach, who was horrible to me to begin with due to her daughter's friend being my sub, greeted me with, "I thought you quit". I kindly informed her that my message said pending the specialist's recommendation. Her cruel words only served to make me work harder.
I finished the season starting at the National Homeschool Basketball Tournament, won the Christian Character Award for my team, earned my scholarship and never again took my playing time for granted.
But this would only be the first time the game was ripped away from me...
Chloe Goff is a former college basketball player and a former Branson performer who enjoys a plethora of activities, most of which make her sound like a walking oxymoron.