Allison Thornton | Tuesday, November 19, 2019
It’s match point. The whole room is roaring because of your team’s incredible come back in the fifth set. Your mom and grandparents are in the stands biting their nails, your dad is keeping score at the official’s table and your sister is sitting on the bench praying you don’t mess up. You go back behind the service line. The gym goes quiet as you focus all your energy on the ball and your job at hand. To your left are the opponent’s fans trying to get in your head. They are yelling things to distract you, but they aren’t successful.
You bounce the ball on the floor one time, you tell yourself, “Just make it over.” You bounce the ball on the floor a second time, you tell yourself, “Just make it in.” You bounce the ball on the floor a third time, you tell yourself, “Just breathe.” When you look up, the bright lights hanging over you are so bright you squint to just see the ball. You twirl the ball in your hands.
You started playing in fifth grade and never thought that you would be where you are right now. The feeling of being out of breath and getting the block that tied up the game is an energy you will never experience anywhere else but on the court. When you were younger, you couldn’t even do an underhand serve and make it all the way over the net. Now, overhand serving is like writing your name.
As you twirl the ball in your hands, you look to see where your coach wants you to serve it. You take a deep breath. You can hear your heartbeat. You tell yourself, “Just focus, one point at a time, this is a mental game.” The referee takes a breath in and blows into his whistle, moving his arm to signal you to begin. You place one foot forward and tell yourself, “Don’t let your teammates down.” You raise your left arm, holding the ball in front of you. Your right hand is shaking from all the adrenaline running through it. You take another deep breath and key into where you are supposed to serve it. You have to serve it to zone five as the coach signaled to you. You place your left foot in the direction of zone five without moving your eyes to that zone, so the opposing team doesn’t know where you are going to serve it. You take one more deep breath and slightly toss the ball in the air. Your weight shifts forward, and your right hand makes firm contact in the center of the ball. The room suddenly is no longer quiet. After making contact, you run into position and start another job.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.