At the end of my sophomore year at OU, I moved to Osage Beach, Missouri the summer of 2011 to see if it would work out with a fella I met at Evangel who was from Camdenton. It quickly became obvious that it would never workout, but I was already moved into a condo for the summer and had a job working at Nike in the mall.
So I lined up a tryout at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, (about an hour and a half away from the lake) to get myself back on a team.
The tryouts were held on a beautiful sunny day and I felt good going into them. I instantly clicked with a point guard, Kayla, and I already knew a shooting guard, Tanis, much to my surprise. Her sister, Taber, and I were high school rivals, despite her being much, much better than me (like four-year, full-ride to Tennessee better than me). The three of us ended up on the same scrimmage team and dominated the court.
The team was in a transitional state, the longtime coach had left, leaving five players with torn ACLs and in post-surgery physical therapy. The new guy was from Iowa and had big plans for the team. I wasn't offered a scholarship, but was offered a walk-on spot with the chance for a scholarship down the road.
I accepted and was welcomed with open arms.
Kayla, the point guard I had meshed with so well, told me on our first official day of summer workouts that she was glad they picked me and that she didn't really want to play without me. I told her that at our tryout, I had so much fun playing with her and was thrilled that they picked her too. We didn't get to be roommates and she was actually working on her master's degree, but we ended up being thick as thieves for my time there.
My mom and I worked with the NCAA to straighten out my eligibility, since I was transferring from a DI to a DII school. Our case worker was very confident that there wouldn't be any problems since SBU had my desired degree, athletic training, and I hadn't played at OU. I just had to get the papers signed and turned back in.
I turned in my packet on the first day of summer workouts. The lady who needed to sign it smiled and said she'd take care of everything. I nodded and headed to my team meeting.
Coach had us all sit around a table and he told us that we were all enrolled in a required class at SBU, New Testament studies. He gave us our summer workout books, our summer league schedule and told us what he expected of us. Nothing too crazy and it looked like it would be an amazing season.
We made it through the summer and all passed our class with flying colors.
Pre-season practices were great, we'd get up at 5 a.m. and do cardio on the football field, run with the cross country teams and then head to our classes. I had switched my major to communications when it became apparent that I would have to restart my college career to become an athletic trainer. I loved my classes and was soaking it all up like a sponge.
As we drew closer to season, we upped our workouts and added in swimming and heavier weights. No big deal, we were strong and lean. The five who had been through ACL surgery were lifting and practicing and the season was promising.
We only had one pre-season scrimmage on the schedule and it was coming up fast. The best part about the scrimmage was who we were playing... Evangel University. I was eager to show my old coaches that they had made a mistake and that I was now playing on a higher level with a better team. I threw myself into my workouts and was completely pumped.
The day before the scrimmage, coach called me into his office. This office was a very nice one compared to the ones at Evangel. The couch wasn't ripped, it was lit by a big window, had adequate lighting and was neat and tidy. To get called in wasn't unusual as coach was involved with us and regularly talked with us about school and had we were adjusting. I didn't suspect anything at all until he started talking.
Coach told me that my paperwork hadn't gone through and I had to be red-shirted until next semester.
I wouldn't get to play until January.
I wouldn't get to play Evangel.
I wouldn't get to play.
I was back where I had started and was slipped back down the steep slope of anger. I had my suspicions about what had really happened to my paperwork, which was shortly confirmed by an in-person confrontation. The lady hadn't signed them, nor turned them back in.
The next day I told my coach of my intention to quit. He said if that's the case I had to read a letter to my teammates explaining why I was letting them down. To this day I'm not sure if he meant to guilt me into staying on the team or if it was to make sure that I really meant it, but I read my letter through tears. My teammates cried with me and surrounded me with hugs and love. They understood and didn't judge me a bit for it.
In the following weeks, I cheered them on as they outplayed and outscored Evangel, I asked my roommates about practices and how they were going. They offered to sneak my beautiful purple hyper dunks out of the locker room for me, to which I had to tell them no for moral reasons.
Surprisingly, it wasn't them telling me how much they missed me at practice or how much things had changed or the huge hole my absence had left that made me feel better. No, I was still a little lost, but I had a major that I loved and was good at. I loved to film and edit, I loved to read a teleprompter. I was good at it.
I left SBU at the end of the 2011 fall semester and finished up my education at UCO in Edmond, where the liberal arts parking lot was a whooping one mile from my parents' house.
I learned I didn't need sports to survive, but I did need to grow academically. I've never stopped working out and my athletic ability and competitiveness still scares my husband and my friends, but I know who I am with or without sports.
The love I have to athletic competition will never leave those of us who have it in our blood, but we may find ways to incorporate it into our daily lives without wearing a jersey.
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.