I hate basketball, and I hate 6th grade,” she yelled at her father.
“Honey, you are good at basketball, your team has only lost two games this year, it is not a big deal” he replied.
“Yes it is a big deal!” Chiara stormed off to her room.
“You have another game in two days,” her father said talking to her through the bedroom door.
“Harumph!” Was her reaction, she picked up her horse magazine and plopped on her bed.
“I was the reason we lost that game today. There is only one more game to decide who plays in the finals. If I wasn’t so afraid of shooting,” she thought to herself. “It is the fouling that bothers me most. When I stand on the free throw line with everyone watching, my stomach feels upset like I am going to throw -up.”
Knock knock “Chiara?” Mom said as she opened the door.
Her Mom held out the phone. “It’s your coach.”
Chiara flopped back on the bed. “No” she whispered, raising her hand.
Her mother looked at her sternly, she handed her the phone.
“Hi Chiara. How are you feeling? I couldn’t help but notice you were very upset after today’s game.”
“I lost the game for the team. Wouldn’t you feel badly?”
“Yes, if I felt I lost the game for the team I would feel awful! Chiara, I hate to break it to you, but you didn’t lose the game for the team. Yes, you missed a shot and there were a few shots you should have taken. There were others team members that played their part in losing the game. Don’t take all the credit, the coach laughed. Really Chiara you are an amazing player, sometimes I wonder why you don’t take shots that are right in front of you.”
“Chiara are you there?”
“Yes, I am here. There are shots I don’t take because I am afraid of being fouled. I hate standing on that free throw line with everyone watching me. I hate it!!”
“Oh, I see. The coach said. Well I tell you what. I talked to Coach Stanley, we agreed both our teams need some more work. We are going to play against them tomorrow after school. I will work on some special plays for you. Does that sound like a plan?”
“Yes, I guess so,” Chiara said.
“Great, See you tomorrow.”
The bell rang. It was time for the practice game against Coach Stanley’s team.
Chiara walked up to the coach “My stomach is in knots Coach, I am not sure I can play today.”
“Come here Chiara, I will show you the plays, then you can decide.” They walked over to the corner of the Gym.
“Have a seat. Chiara you are a great player, you make more baskets than anyone else on our team.”
Chiara began to squirm. “That is nice of her to say, but I think I miss too many baskets.” She thought to herself.
“You are being too hard on yourself. When I heard your dilemma I made up some special plays to keep everyone away from you. This way you have a chance to shoot without being fouled; you won’t go to the free throw line and feel uncomfortable. Deal?”
“Deal,” Chiara said unsure, but this was a practice game.
“Okay, let’s tell the team about the new plays.”
The coach called the team over and began explaining the new plays.
Rachel said in a huff, “Why are you making plays for her? She misses all her shots, or doesn’t take them.”
Chiara felt that big lump in her stomach again. Tears filled her eyes.
“Rachel, the coach said sternly, when you are the coach you can make the decision. As coach I have been watching Chiara and I feel she has a lot to offer the team. We are a team, and I am expecting you to follow the plays, or sit on the bench. It is your choice.
OH, Chiara thought, Rachel is going to be really mad at me now!
“Okay Team, the game is starting in 1 minute. Any questions? Great, let’s get over to the bench. Here we go, all hands in the center. ‘1-2-3 MCKINLEY BULLDOGS let’s go!’”
The first 5 players ran to their positions.
The whistle blew.
The McKinley center tapped the ball to Lindsey.
Chiara ran to the basket, backed up, saw Lindsey throw the ball toward her, Chiara grabbed it, shot, and it went in. The crowd cheered.
Chiara felt her confidence coming back. It was only one shot, but it was the one she feared the most.
Rachel ran up to her. “Good job Chiara!”
Chiara smiled, “it was going to be a great game, win or lose.”