The other night, I attended a very exciting high school playoff basketball game. A trip to the state tournament was at stake and both teams fought tooth and nail until the end. One the last play of the game, a shot that would have won the game, rolled around the rim and out. The game ended, and along with it, the careers of several seniors on the losing team. I could not help but notice the reaction of the losing team’s players. Many were laying on the floor, heartbroken and disappointed over losing such a close game and a trip to the state tournament. On top of that, many had played in their last career high school game. The end was upon them.
This scenario takes place at the end of every sports season for not only high school athletes, but many college ones as well. The final page of an athlete’s career is written. It may have started in kindergarten when you played in your first organized game. Anybody who had some sort of career in any sport, can fondly remember those days when your mom and dad drove you to those Saturday morning games or picked you up from practice. The game was more about being with your buddies at that time. Everyone got to play and the object was to have a good time and learn some basic fundamentals. Things began to change in junior high. Suddenly, things became a lot more organized and structured. Playing time was no longer guaranteed. Coaches started to yell at the players to play the right way. You probably saw and were inspired by older players and wanted to become as good as they were. The sport became a lot more serious to you. It was not just enough to attend a few practices and games like you did in grade school. Your goal was to make the varsity team as a sophomore and you put in a lot of effort and time into making that goal happen. Once that goal was achieved, you set your sights on making an all conference team in high school and helping your team win the state tournament. While your buddies are sleeping, you got up at 6am to work on your shooting at the gym or hit the weight room. Then suddenly, it all ends. For most athletes, a career usually ends in disappointed. Only a select will win the championship. Most will have their careers suddenly cut short by a disappointing loss or worse yet, a serious injury. But for all, it will end at some point. It is amazing at how quickly those years go by!!
The next step for many high school players is to play in college. But the truth is that a high percentage of players will never be good enough to play in college. Some will try to play in college but a high percentage of athletes will end their careers in high school. The same holds true for college athletes. Less than one percent of all college players make it to the pros.
I would certainly recommend that all players in any sport try to reach the next level if possible. Don’t let anybody tell you that you are not good enough. I never thought that I could go on and play college basketball, but I got much better after my senior year in high school. I was a late bloomer. But playing in high school is far more memorable than playing in college. Sure, it is exciting to play at some big time university if you are good enough, but most players are not even close to being that good. Most go on to play at smaller universities or community colleges like I did.
I certainly wish the best of luck for any high school or college senior who may have played their last career game or participated in their last event. Those memories will always be a part of your life. Someday 30 years from now at your class reunion, you and your buddies can sit down and discuss all those memories from the past like they just happened yesterday. A senior’s career may have ended but the memories will last a lifetime.