It seems that one loss or one win (in early years), can sometimes map out some one's future. I think that's what happened to me during my high school years. I suffered a major loss that set in motion a lot of negativity for me in the years to follow.
Going back to a few years earlier, I can tell you I always felt different. I felt like there was no place for me, where I could fit in. I could speculate as to why that was the case, but opening up this particular can of worms will suffice for now.
I'd always played sports in my youth. My favorites were basketball, baseball, and football. Typical for kids in my hometown. I was pretty good at each one, and divided my time fairly evenly among the three. I played organized baseball from the time I was 7 or 8. Organized football came into my life a bit later at 9 or 10. And organized basketball began in 6th grade. Soon as I tried it I fell in love with the sport, and all but gave up on the others.
Basketball became everything to me. If I wasn't on a court somewhere, I could be found daydreaming about playing. The season itself was too short, so I practiced any time and anywhere I could to ready myself for next season. I'd guess that 80% of my friends liked playing basketball, but I loved it. By the time I reached high school I was secretly dreaming of someday playing in the NBA.
In my town at the time, basketball was probably the most popular sport. Southampton, NY, was known throughout the state and beyond, to be a hotbed for basketball talent and success. The 60's and 70's were the years I'm talking about here. Anyway; to play for the Mariners at that time was an honor that 24 boys enjoyed each year. Making the Varsity or J.V. teams was no easy task.
As a freshman, I went out for the J.V. team, and actually made it! I was thrilled beyond words, and looked forward to putting on a uniform and playing. I did good. In several games I was the 6th or 7th man, and got a chance to start one game. My coach was an odd fellow. He didn't seem able to relate to kids, and always acted unhappy. I tried not to let it bother me, but no matter what I, or other guys on the team did, was never enough. In fact, I'm sure our team only lost 1 game all season.
Here's where the story gets weird. I was close friends with 3 or 4 guys on the team. Beside basketball, we often hung out socially. In the locker room at the end of the last game of the season, one of these guys LOUDLY said "Hey Davy, are we gonna get stoned before practice next year?" I said nothing in reply as the coach had just walked in and surely heard him. As usual the coach said nothing, but gave me an icey stare. The crazy thing is that I didn't even smoke pot at the time!
The following year I went out for the team again. I was a bit nervous but figured if the coach had concerns, hopefully he'd have said something to one or both of us. TryOuts was a 3 day process where the names of the guys who made the team would be posted at the end, on the locker room door. Within I hour of the first day, I sprained my ankle, and spent the next week on crutches. I talked to my friends who assured me that I'd make the team based on the previous year's accomplishment.
When the list of who made the team went up, my name was not on it. I went to the coach's office and asked why. I reminded him of how well I'd done the year before, but he didn't say much. When I was done all he said was "If I put you on the team, who should I take off?" If he expected me to rattle off names of kids I was better than, I wasn't about to. I think he knew that before he even asked me. So that was that. No basketball for me... for that year anyway.
I was very pissed off about not making the team, and began working on my game harder than If I'd made the team. I worked so hard that by the time the next years TryOuts came around I was ready! I had better be. This was for the Varsity! From the first minute of the first day, I was good. Not to blow my horn, but I was great! All throughout I was absolutely one of the best players on the court. I was fast, smart, smooth and stood out. The varsity coach was even using me as an example of how to play the game right. It felt good!
This year at the end of the 3rd day the coach gathered everyone together to sit on the bleachers. He began to speak..." I know that some of you dribble and pass better than others" as he looked directly at me... "but I have to think of the reputation of our school. Not all of you are going to make this team, and thanks for trying out, but I have the reputation to think of first". That was all I needed to hear. Sure enough, my name didn't show up on the door and I was crushed.
Did I take it hard? Damn right I took it extremely hard. Those coaches STOLE MY DREAM! From then on I lost the ability to care too much about anything. I let resentment (bordering on hatred) rule my life for the next 15 or so years. I finally found my way out (slowly) in my early 30's, but the one big regret in life is how I let that experience control me for so many years.