My partner Martha is a basketball fanatic. She runs a basketball league for girls and has always coached at some level, these days our school’s junior varsity team. When our daughters were born they got infant basketballs and as soon as they could walk they had hoops.
Needless to say that when our oldest daughter, Beaner, was the tallest kid in her third grade class Martha was thrilled. “You can’t teach height” is what she always said. And Beaner loved basketball. She started playing competitively when she was 8 and played through high school. She almost always played up a level and was always the captain of her teams. She made varsity when she was in 9th grade and started developing a following. By the time she was a junior she had her own cheering section and guys in the front row would hold up signs that said “Marry Me Beaner”, parents would all wish her luck and young players would follow her around like ducklings.
She would say she was not that popular in high school, a designation apparently reserved for cheerleaders, but in the gym, she ruled.
By her senior year college scouts were coming to watch her play but she decided not to play in college, a decision that broke Martha’s heart. Still even a couple of years after graduating people still came up to her when she went to games and treated her like a celebrity.
It has now been 8 years since she’s played and we just went to a high school game together. One parent recognized her and waved. Other than that she was as unknown as I was. She watched the game giving constant critique of the players - “this generation is so lazy”. This generation??? They’re only 8 years younger!
At one point I asked her if she missed it and she said “I miss playing and I miss being part of a team. I do not miss Saturday morning practices and running suicides. But my glory days are over “.
Glory days? She is 26 and her glory days are behind her? That seemed rather sad. Then I realized that I never had any ‘glory days’. I never played competitive sports, never performed in any way, was never recognized, applauded or cheered. As an introvert I am okay with that. It was more than enough to be the mom of two daughters who for brief moments were stars - Peachie having also excelled in her sport and went on to play in college.
Still, I do wonder what it must be like to experience that kind of adulation, even if only in a very small high school pond. And how it must feel when it is over. I guess I will just have to be content to know that I was once on the fringe of their spotlight and can say “I knew them when”.