Jared: Believe it or not, I didn’t like sports at all growing up. I never had a pro athlete idol or favorite sports team. It wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school when the concept of extremely athletic people competing for an intangible prize called “winning” was of interest to me.
I joined Shenendehowa High School’s rowing team in eighth grade, but that was primarily because my parents strongly encouraged me to stop spending my young teenage years sitting on a couch playing “Call of Duty” all day long, so I decided to prove them wrong. The boys’ team chemistry was awful and I was a constant target of verbal harassment by “teammates,” so it’s safe to say I don’t look back on those three years as a rower quite fondly.
So what was my favorite sport that I played as a youngster? Baseball.
My dad, who’s been a sports fanatic since birth, got me into baseball when I was about four years old. I had no clue what I was doing, but it’s safe to say that I was definitely the most mediocre tee ball batter on the purple team. When I moved to Clifton Park, I joined the San Francisco Giants (the real ones, obviously) and proudly wore their classic black and orange uniforms. I mean, who could forget the time I practiced throwing a ball over 10 feet (which also happens to be the only memory I have of my stint with the Giants)?
The reason I view my time in the sport so fondly was the bonding time I had with my father. Sure, I barely cared about the sport, but it was basic fun and engagement. I was so nonchalant about it that it made it enjoyable. My dad truly gave it his all by volunteering to coach me and celebrated my smallest victories. He strived to be the best sports dad he could be during my formative years, despite not bearing any fruits to his labor.
Is this a disappointing answer? Maybe. Heartwarming? 100%.
Emily: Let me start by saying that I wasn’t the most athletic growing up. My parents tried hard to get me involved in sports throughout my childhood, but I always ended up in the same place: picking daisies in the dirt. I tried softball, dance, gymnastics — I even got to take free soccer classes at a facility my dad owned. No sport seemed to excite me, I dreaded going to practices and I never wanted to work on my skills outside of it. I thought I would be on the sidelines forever, until I became a cheerleader.
My younger sister was a cheerleader and I admired the way the girls could energize the crowd at football and basketball games and I decided I wanted to become one myself. So in ninth grade, I decided to get my body in shape to become a cheerleader.
In a few months, I learned how to tumble and fly, and made the JV basketball cheer team for my high school. Finally I had a practice to look forward to. In the cheer world, basketball season is also competition season. In our routine, my bases helped me do a backflip and a frontflip, and the thrill of landing those tricks in front of a crowd is unmatched. I still remember how one judge wrote ‘nice smiles, flyer’ on our scorecard.
I do not cheer anymore but I will always respect the work and dedication that goes into being a cheerleader. It’s a great sport for those who don’t want to participate in the traditional sports, but still want to be active and involved in their school. Plus, cheering for the football and basketball teams is such a bonus.
Jaime: I wasn’t necessarily forced into the sport of basketball but my father definitely wanted me to have a passion for it like he did. I started playing basketball at the age of 5, and from there just fell in love with the sport. Whether it was working on my own game by going out in the backyard and shooting some hoops with my dad or watching hours of NBA and college games, I did whatever I could to learn and absorb the game.
Since I have been short practically my whole life, I was put into the position of point guard and shooting guard, playing in travel teams, recreational teams and highschool basketball. I was never the best player on the court. From an athletic standpoint I simply wasn’t in the same league as my competitors, so I focused on what I could control, which was my ball handling, passing, shooting ability and leadership — whether it would be me diving on the floor for a loose ball, making the right pass to an open teammate, or just giving my teammates encouragement or praise during, before and after the game no matter if we won or lost.
This game has allowed me to make lifelong friends, expand my connections onto more than just the court and taught me a few life lessons as well. When I was in eighth grade I was in a car accident right in the middle of my season. I was out for the rest of the year and rehabilitation didn’t project me being able to even do anything competitive going into my freshman year. My coaches, teammates and most importantly my father gave me the motivation to get back on track, and by November I was able to play again.
Even though I don’t play competitively today, I still will play pickup basketball just to stay in shape and have fun. Looking back on all those weight room training days, sprints in practices and most importantly those big games with my teammates is what I hold most dear. Basketball for me is not all my life, but without basketball a huge chunk of my identity would not be existing today.