To all the sports I’ve done before: Basketball

How I learned to pour my heart into the game

Sophia Chen

As I numbly watched the seconds count down on the shot clock, I could feel the fight in me peter out, knowing that there was nothing that I could do to affect the outcome of the game. Besides knowing that my team could have won the game, the emotions behind ripping off my hair tie while walking off the court went beyond just the disappointment of losing during CCS Quarterfinals once again, just one game away from going to States. It was the pain of knowing that that would be the last time I would ever play high school basketball.

I never would have thought that I would care so much about basketball — I just stuck with it after trying out in sixth grade after learning how to do a lay-up in P.E. the day before. Don’t get me wrong — I worked hard at every practice and tried my best at every game. But until sophomore year, I decided that making the emotional investment in caring about winning wasn’t worth it. After all, even if I didn’t experience the thrill of winning, I didn’t have to experience the disappointment of losing.

Sophomore Sophia Chen scores a lay-up during a junior varsity game against Santa Clara High School on Jan. 28, 2020. Photo by Lance Tong

It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It taught me how to keep my head down and keep playing no matter what was on the scoreboard. But partway through my sophomore season on the JV team, once I actively decided to take that emotional risk, once I decided to pour my heart into the game, there was a shift in how I played. All the games no longer just blended together — even two years later I can still remember specific moments from the games that season, like the intense determination that fueled me to steal ball after ball on defense, which eventually led to our first league game win against Milpitas High School. 

Like I thought, it was a two-sided coin. I still carry the disappointment and sadness of losing the last game of that season in overtime. I was constantly frustrated with myself for not always playing my best and for letting down my team.

But during my junior and senior year seasons, being a part of a team of people who were as emotionally invested as I was made it all the more worth it. Constantly watching my teammates put all of their talent and hard work on the court and knowing I contributed to that meant so much to me — I could partake in the ecstasy and joy of winning knowing that I was a part of it. 

During the second round of CCS playoffs against North Salinas High School, the penultimate game of the 2021-22 season, being able to run onto the court and jump around screaming with the rest of my team after watching them keep fighting well into overtime and stepping up when they needed to and being able to finish it and win … even though I only played for two minutes, I hadn’t ever felt that raw happiness and sense of accomplishment from anything else I’ve done.

And even with the games we didn’t win that we could have, even with our off days at practice, still working together and pushing each other to make the team as a whole better nonetheless … I’m not sure if I’m ever going to find that again.

So even with losing CCS Quarterfinals with a team with so much potential, even if my last game didn’t go as I wished, even if I’m still grieving over the loss of a team that I decided to care so much about, I wouldn’t trade my emotional investment for the world. I don’t regret the moment I decided to step onto that emotional rollercoaster and take the risk of pouring my heart into the game. After all, you don’t mourn if you didn’t lose something you love.