I Made the Cut, Now What? Pitchwars '21

The summer before high school I spent every day at the park playing basketball. My jumper came along, my handles not far behind. A growth spurt helped as I put on four or five inches. And if I wasn’t at the park I was in the basement, or the driveway, or the living room, with the ball in my hands. All I did was practice. I went to a basketball camp at the nearby college. Between that and the marathon games at the park, I became decent ball player.


Actually, more than decent. I was pretty good. And I knew I had a shot at achieving my biggest goal: to make the lowly freshman basketball team.

There was just one problem. At the park or playing pickup games, the mood was easy and loose, just get out there to let it rip. But a real team? Tryouts? Well, just thinking about it had my stomach in knots.

But it arrived just the same. Forty or more of us huddled up in the gym after school for basketball tryouts. The frazzled little coach—more of a teacher taking on the grind of coaching freshman basketball—explained to us what he was looking for on his team. It was the usual stuff. Hustle. Defense. Fundamentals.

We lined up and went to work. And… I was on fire.

The first day I played like I belonged there. Second day, same thing. By the time I saw my name on the list and made it through first cuts, I was feeling better about myself.

My confidence grew. I kept on getting it. Second cuts, then final cuts. My name was on that list the whole way.

But the competition was fierce. There were a lot of kids playing well and only twelve would make the team. And really not even that, because a few kids would get cut from the JV team and drop down and there were already a few sure bets to come in after them. So that left what, three spots left?

It came down to me and a classmate. And as we walked up to the list, we knew only one of us would make it.

It was me.

I’d made the list. I was on the freshman basketball team!

Sure, we wore the faded varsity jerseys from ten or twelve years ago. And yeah, only parents showed up to the games. But it was the first time I’d ever made a cut, a list, a team of any kind. I remember the swell of pride that hit and I carried it all the way home to tell my dad. He was happy, we were all happy.

And then the work came.

This wasn’t the park. This was practice. Sprints. Drills. Hustle. Defense. Fundamentals, remember? We went through plays and everyone seemed to catch right on, pick up on things.

Except me. I stunk.

I couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. How just making the team was my peak. I went from superstar to scrub in weeks.

And the coach noticed it too.

We were a few practices in when he pulled me aside for a little talk. And while I’m paraphrasing a bit, it wasn’t pretty.

He looked me over. “What gives?”

I studied my shoes, still tugging on my little shorts, the squeaks of shoes and the bounce of the ball the only sound as a scrimmage waged on the court. Coach wiped his forehead. He was a little guy with massive arms, and he didn’t hold back. “You know, I took you instead of Curtis, thinking you could play. Now I’m regretting it.”

His words stung. And from there it only got worse. I continued to look lost out there, because I was lost. I daydreamed during practice, came off the bench only in games when we were thumping some poor middle school. I scored a few times, put backs and easy layups, but never more than a couple baskets. I couldn’t conquer the nerves. They overtook me, swallowed me whole from the inside out.

So yes. I made the team. Mission accomplished, right? But what good was making the team only to realize how terrible I was once the games started?  

And now, Pitchwars.

I love to write. Love it, love it, love it. But… what if that’s not enough?

Let’s face it, I never outline. Fundamentals. So what if I was on fire? What if I’m nothing more than some first drafter who can whip up a few characters, write some dialogue that shows potential but fail to take it where it needs to be? What if all this structure and discipline only spotlights my shortcomings? What if it was all a fluke, one big mistake?

Or what if I’m just scared of a bigger stage?

Writing is like that, full of self-doubt, comparisons, rejections. And I should be used to it. After five or six books published, I should know I can play. But I still have those nerves, that old freshman fear, the little voice that says I can’t set my books up there with real writers, not before agents and publishers. Better to just run along, go scribble in your blog.

But hang on a second. Imposter syndrome be damned, what I didn't mention was how that freshman coach fixed my jump shot. He taught me how to put in the work and showed me the basics. Hard as it was, those fundamentals made me a better player.

And so will Pitchwars. There’s nothing to win now, I’ve won. All that's left is the work. For now it’s time to listen, learn, and get this book to where it needs to be.

Otherwise, what have I been trying to accomplish?




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