Monday, September 24, 2012

How a 7th Grade Heartbreak Taught Me to Never Give Up

I'll bet you had no idea I was a middle school basketball star when I was in the 7th grade.
I think I was about 4'3."
I had one year of rec center basketball under my belt, where I may or may not have used growling in defense and earned the name, "Pit Bull."

Okay - so, maybe "middle school basketball star" is a stretch.

Here's the back story.
I really wanted to be a cheerleader.
But, after an extensive career as a rec center cheerleader, and even teaching a new girl in my neighborhood how to cheer, I didn't make it.

When I tried out in the gym of Indian River Middle School the Spring of 1992, I messed up.  They started the cassette tape, and I started the little dance routine that I had DOWN, but I had a brain fart about :10 seconds in, and I did the unthinkable: I asked if I could start again.

I remember there were three judges. I could see my pain in their eyes.
They re-started the Casio.
I smiled through tears, and did my little routine, then went back to the other gym with all of the other girls who were also trying out for the squad.
The girls who made the squad would get a phone call that night. The girls who didn't make it, wouldn't get a phone call.

I hoped against hope in my dad's red and white van as he drove me home that evening.  We ate dinner, and me, my mom and my dad all acted like we weren't waiting for the phone to ring, but we were.

And you know what? It rang. My eyes busted out of my head, and I answered it.  It was Cathy Hockman, the cheerleading coach. But, it wasn't a congratulatory call. She said she wasn't calling everyone who didn't make it, she was just calling me, because she thought I was really good - but I didn't make it because I had to re-start, so at the end of tallying up the scores, my score was too low.

Heartbroken is an understatement.
My parents took turns consoling me.

I also got to learn a lesson that Summer about what it's like for your friend to get something that you wanted.  The new girl in the neighborhood who I had befriended who had never cheered before, she made it. I was so jealous, but we were still friends.

But, I was determined to be an Indian River Brave.  Somehow.  Some way.

My school had volleyball, but I didn't try out for that. I had only played that a couple of times, in gym class, that year.

Then, I heard about girls basketball tryouts.
And, something compelled me to put my name on that sign up list.

I think my parents thought I was crazy.
But, they bought me some new basketball shoes.
I practiced with my dad and brother in our driveway.
And, somehow - at the end of the week - my name was still on the list.

I was an Indian River Brave.

I sat and sat on the bench that year, when I played basketball.  I made good friends with the other white girls who also rode the bench. Sometimes, when we had a 20 point lead, our coach would put us in, and we were all terrified we would shoot at the other team's basket. 

The most action I saw was when we first ran out of the locker room, because I was the shortest one - so when we ran out, I carried the ball.

But, when I played the 2:00 I played that whole year, my dad LOVED that the cheerleaders were cheering for ME. 
I didn't care.
I watched the cheerleaders at every game, plotting tryouts the next Spring.

Spring came, I tried out for cheerleading, and I made the squad.
And I was a cheerleader from 8th grade all the way through my Senior year, when I was the Head Captain. 

I learned a lot of life lessons along the way in my five years of cheerleading for the Braves. Maybe I'll tell you about them sometime.

But for now - take it from 12 year old Dana Brown: Don't give up. Sometimes things don't go according to plan.  But, that doesn't mean you have to give up, or that there's only one way to be what you want to be. Try harder. Try something else. Then, rock it out harder than you would have in the first place.


Trang @ Treadmill Runs said...

Aww...hi fellow challenger! :) Your post is so timely for me. I'm training for a new job that I have never done, nor have I ever thought I would be doing. At times, I get discouraged but now I will remember to not give up.

gentrier said...


Robin Rice said...

Love riding the bench with you that year! Great memories!

Dana Brown Ritter said...

I'm so glad it encouraged you! :)

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Robin, I loved riding the bench with you, too! I was wondering if you would read this. I'm glad you did. :) You're right = good times.