When I was 17 years old, I made the biggest decision of my life thus far. I might consider it my biggest decision to this day, even at 24.
At 17, I decided to play college basketball at a small NCAA Division II school in northwestern Minnesota.
This was a big decision for a couple of reasons:
#1. Choosing where you go to college is a big decision as it is. For me, there was the added layer of signing a letter of intent – basically, a contract – to play basketball at this school for four years. Although they are yearly contracts – meaning they can let you go whenever – this rarely happens, and in signing, in my head I knew I was signing to four years. My parents played college basketball and they made this very clear – you just don’t quit. You don’t give up on something after you made a promise to do it.
So, this meant four years – through the good, the bad, and the ugly, the ups and the downs, the late nights and early mornings, the long bus rides, the red eye flights, practices, lifting, rehab sessions, injuries, treatment, film sessions, etc. I could go on and on.
#2. This school was eight hours away from home. Eight. That’s quite a ways for an 18 year old kid. I had no family there. No long lost friends in the area. I was alone, with the promise of 12 built-in friends (teammates), which could be for better or for worse.
After the long, grueling recruiting process through the summer of 2014, I had a decision to make. I basically had three options. I had to choose between two schools, or waiting for another school to recruit me throughout my senior season. The benefit of choosing a school beforehand would not only be the security in having somewhere sure to go, but if I were to get injured throughout my senior year, the team I was committed to would honor my committal, where if I only had people recruiting me, they would most likely just drop me due to the injury.
I went back and forth on this for about two weeks, which is the time I had to decide. Everyday, I would convince myself the opposite of the day before. I had recently gone on a visit, and I remember I left never wanting to come back. I didn’t feel like it was “right” per say.
At the time of my needing to make a decision, there were two well-known families in the school district, one of whom I knew very personally, that were diagnosed with some serious health issues. Although I haven’t told these people this, their situations impacted my decisions a lot. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that I loved basketball dearly. I thought about these people, who had many things they loved on the line due do something that randomly showed up. What would they tell me to do? Would they tell me to take all the chances you can? I asked myself many questions. How often would I see my family? What if I hate it? What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not tough enough? Would I play? Would I make friends?
During all of these questions, I also remember coming across a quote that I ended up posting on Instagram after my decision. The quote read: “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.” I love this.
My parents assured me with this: “If you go, and you jump two feet in, and you give this everything you have, and you STILL hate it, you can transfer and/or quit playing. But, if you go halfway, of course you’re going to hate it – that’s what you’re expecting. You have to give it everything first.”
I finally made my decision. I called my coach back and I told him I would be coming to play for him that year.
He was overjoyed. I hung up the phone and cried.
I laid in my bed and cried.
Eventually, I went upstairs to tell my mom and the rest of my family.
I had relief, but I’ll be honest, if I told you I was sure I made the right decision, I’d be lying through my teeth.
Fast forward about 10 months, I cried the majority of the eight hours there. I remember my mom offering to buy me anything to make me stop. I was extremely crabby on move in day and I still remember my mom and sister leaving for good, clear as day. It still makes my stomach go tight. I was the oldest child, the first to take this step. All we had known so far was togetherness.
I heard what my parents said though, and I did jump two feet in. I gave this everything I could. I made friends with the other freshman players (my roommates), friends with people in my classes, I went to parties, gatherings, school events, ate at the dining center, went to football games, volleyball games, made traditions, shot at the gym, etc., etc.
My time at this school ended up being the best five years of my life; a story far too long to share in one post. And, it wasn’t because I was sure of it, or even that it was the “right decision”. It was because I made a decision and I chose to make the very, very most of it.
love always, caitlin