Pain and Joy: My last season coaching girls basketball.
After 8 years of pain and joy, I finally hung up my coach's whistle for good. The story begins in 2010, I woke up unable to move my back and legs. If I attempted to stand, the pain was so bad I can only describe it as giving birth. I never had children but I've heard the stories. After the initial diagnosis of a herniated disk, my condition continued to deteriorate. The final diagnosis, fractures, and a herniated disk poking on the nerve in the L5-S1 lumbar region of my spine. June 26, 2012, I had bone fusion surgery but the pain persisted. I have been in a relationship with pain for a decade and counting. How I survived was coaching and mentoring middle and high school girls in basketball at a private school in northwest DC. Coaching basketball and mentoring young women - priceless.
The journey was painful and frustrating at times. I couldn't believe I was still in a lot of pain post-surgery. The healing process has been a full-time job for the last ten years. I began to take a holistic approach early in my recovery. Learning to walk and keep my balance was like learning to ride a bike. I was determined not to take any narcotics after my addiction to Tylox in 1995 after reconstructive knee surgery. In addition, I have been seeing a psychologist since 2014. I began working through the five stages of grieve and adjusting to my new normal. It was also recommended I see my psychologist indefinitely.
I played basketball and softball throughout my junior and high school years. I played two years in college. My freshman year in high school all the upperclassmen quit. We were fast and scrappy. I was the lead trash talker. We played aggressive every game no matter the opponent. Throughout the years, the middle and high school teams I coached never relented but hated the contact. Eventually, they would embrace the contact in order to compete and play their game. Unfortunately, over the last two seasons the girls varsity team won six games. The in-fighting and the disrespect spilled onto the court. By 2017, I weened off my cane and I celebrated the accomplishment as if I had hit the DC lottery.
Every day for 2 1/2 months in the winter, 2 hours a day and six days a week for 8 years, I struggled to get to practice. After practice, I would arrive home and literally pass out the first few years of coaching. However, the past two winters were unusually warm and mild. Unfortunately, the metal in my back doesn't give me bionic woman strength. I grew an inch but it hates the cold and rain. At times, the barometric pressure makes me feel as if I have a weight hanging from my back.
In 2019, the season started off rocky. I watched these little girls who knew nothing about basketball grow into amazing young women. Three of the seniors this year played for 7 years of my tenure. The season flew by so fast. Sprained ankles and the seasonal flu was a recurring theme. We lost game after game. Day one of the season, I told the girls our motto was going to be team, family, together win or lose. We lost every game including our rivalry Blackout and Senior night games. But, the girls kept playing and supporting each other everyday. They finally built a team culture that future squads can continue to build upon. Moreover, I know a championship banner is in their future.