Ah! I love the smell of minty shoe powder and musty gym bags that filled El Talar, my club, at practice last night.
When I arrived, the team was congregated in a circle, everyone in loud and unorganized discussion. Some of the girls acknowledged my arrival with nods, but the general chatter was thick. Practice usually begins with a brief team chat, but today there were more important matters at hand.
“Okay, here is the deal,” Cate said, raising her voice and trying to put down some order, “I know Vanessa’s email brought up some issues, but we have to be realistic. Signing up for both ABA (Asociación de Básquetbol Amateur) and MaxiBasquet, might not-”
Karina A. cut in. “We know it isn’t going to work: The games are on Sundays between 3 and 5pm. And the Maxi games start up around 8pm. What if our game is in Lanus! How are we going to pull that off?”
La Russa spoke next. “Personally, I am ready to leave my girls at home with an ibupirac* and my husband, if that is what I have to do. I’m okay with that…”
While the commotion went on, I unzipped my bag and pulled out my ball shoes and a pair of clean socks. I sat on the floor, tying my laces and listening.
Cate tried to regain control. “I won’t be able to personally coach you for some of the games, but-”
She was interrupted by La Russa, again. “Playing in ABA will be more competitive, but I know we are ready for that challenge. I think we are beyond the level of MaxiBasket…”
There were general sounds of agreement.
I remember, at the beginning, this form of chaotic decision making stressed me out a bit. Now, I’ve grown used to it. I went to grab a ball a couple of meters away and returned to my space between Carla and Marcela.
Again, Cate was able to get some of the floor. “Okay, so ABA it is. Bring in the money next week.” She paused. “Our first game is in a month.”
A month. I thought. I started twirling the ball in my hand. I felt excitement and nervousness tie up in my stomach.
Everyone hushed a bit, as if holding their breath, but it was only a moment because La Russa yelled out, “We are going to be the champions!”
The team’s uproar response made me laugh and the talking picked up where it had left off, louder than ever.
“Okay,” Cate pronounced, obviously defeated with the general chatter, “Let’s start with a shooting drill. Everyone pair up and do 20 each.”
As I lightly jogged to the other end of the court, I wondered: What will this season bring to a team of 17 or so women, between the ages of 21-40, most of them mothers? Do we have what it takes to go up against younger teams? Or does experience and maturity override all that?
All I know is the energy in the gym was electrifying and happiness filled me as I shot my first free-throw of the night.
* Anti-inflammatory drug, like Advil.