Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sports Talk: Holiday Tournament Memories

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 26, 2012. 
No matter who you are or how old you get, Christmas break is a thrill. Of course, as we get older, the profession we choose oftentimes shrinks the amount of time our “break” consists of and hopefully we at least get the 25th itself!
The break while in school, though, is always such a relief. No studying, no books, no class, or waking up early. However, as a basketball player, it usually meant holiday tournament time.
There are pros and cons to the holiday tournaments. It means your “break” is less of a break than that of many friends. Your schedule is still very much dictated to you: practice times, game times, bus departure times, etc.
I played for the Lady Rebels as a freshman and sophomore, sophomore year being the only season I was a member of the varsity team. As a junior and senior I chose to forgo my hoops career but stayed on as a team manager, so I was still traveling with the team through Christmas break.
There was a part of me that did not like it at all at that time. The Christmas season is full of so many fun traditions: present wrapping, cards, music, baking, shopping—the list goes on and on.
However, I look back now and realize that some of my most prominent high school Christmas break memories come from my tournament traveling.
Christmas is a time for family and tradition, but as a high school athlete, your team does become a family of sorts. The fact I stayed on as a manager for the Lady Rebels proves just that. Giving up the sport was difficult in its own right, but what made the decision hardest was giving up the time investment I’d put into the team: my closest friends and coaches. Wanting to still be a part of that family, I became a manager.
Christmas tournaments were always competitive. We won games and lost games. It was an opportunity to see some competition outside of the normal district and regional teams we played every season, but it was also extra time and fun with most of my closest friends.
The traveling oftentimes meant staying overnight somewhere and eating out. Oftentimes there was down time between games when parents would take us shopping or out for other fun adventures together.
The Lady Rebels competed in Gatlinburg, Tenn. last weekend, a tournament I remember traveling for during my time with the team.  Sure, I loved being home at Christmas time, but looking back the memories from the travel are irreplaceable. Lots of late night laughs in hotel rooms; ice skating, shopping and simply experiencing Gatlinburg at Christmas time.
What I didn’t consider during those years was that my teammates and I were not the only ones giving up our holiday time for the sake of a sport. The coaches and parents were also giving us, the athletes, their time. Because they were willing to spend their breaks on demanding schedules, me and my teammates—my friends—had the opportunity to compete while also creating great memories together.
Family is such an important and meaningful part of this time of year and not just those in blood relation: everyone from your parents and siblings to your coaches and teammates. No matter who you are spending your winter break time with, enjoy it, cherish it, and be grateful for those people.

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