A lesson I learned in my first two years of university classes to ease my general first day jitters, was to geographically map out my classes. I walked through the UNY campus and its labyrinth of stone, brick and glass buildings with confidence. I could not help but grin through my mirrored sunglasses at the freshmen’s look of shock and awe while staring into the abyss of people and buildings while double checking their timetable and map on their hand-held devices.
The student union building was nearly bursting at the seams with students greeting each other with open arms and squeals of delight. Undergraduates were flocking to campaigning fraternities and sororities who enticed new recruits with the promise of free beer while other clubs desperately fought for visibility and attention. Every second person had a coffee in one hand and a phone in the other. Corners were full of scholars already nose stuck deep in books and their laptops. I smiled at the madness but sighed as the environment recalled my Canadian university days.
I turned a corner in the building and made my way down a wide ramp and through an underground tunnel to the recreation center. The students soon dispersed and the crowds assembled in the new building appeared to be part of their own faction. Books, courier bags and jeans were traded for shorts, sneakers and water bottles. Men and woman moved back and forth between the dressing rooms and their workout area of choice, all with their music blaring from their headphones securely tucked in their ears.
Ahead there was a row of four sets of open metal doors and even from a distance, I could see the hard wood of the gym on the other side. Inlaid in the tiled floor before the doors was an elaborate tiled UNY mascot, a gold and black feathered hawk grasping a scroll in his talons with the written school latin motto: “Perstare et Praestare” (translate: to persevere and to excel). As I approached the door, I made sure that I stepped around the tiles to enter the gym.
I only took two steps into the gymnasium before I stopped to take in the sight before me. It was cavernous, at least four times larger than any gymnasium I have ever played in. I took a deep breath as my body turned to take in the elaborate facility. The alternating yellow and black bleachers that enveloped the court nearly reach the ceiling. The rafters that continued the color scheme of black and gold were decorated with sectional and regional flags of earlier sport achievement. My eyes immediately found the handful of national banners near the rear of the gym proudly displayed around the American flag and the university pennant. The pride in the school and my sport began to swell in the sight of the beautiful arena, and I personally vowed that I would take ownership in a new title one day.
“Ms. Sullivan,” a voice chimed behind me.
I turned back towards the door and saw a tall slender woman wearing a button-up short-sleeve collared shirt tucked perfectly in high- waist slim fit trousers. Her small heeled pointed shoes clicked with purpose on the hardwood as they strutted towards me.
“Morning Coach,” I said as I took her outstretched hand.
“Welcome to our sanctuary,” she winked. “What do you think?”
“Impressive,” I answered as my eyes scanned the environment, still finding new items catching my eye. “I notice that there is not a female basketball title up there,” I pointed to the banners hanging in the rafters.
“Yeah,” she sighed and turned towards me with a sly grin. “Hoping you can help us out with that.” I smiled back as she continued; “All right. Let’s get this official junk out of the way so we can get you settled into your new digs.”
She guided me back through a side door off of the gym. It led to a hallway with one side of textured glass doors all displaying gold personnel names with their title and associated sport. On the other side of the hallway were professional photos of athletes in various of sports from football to basketball, hockey and soccer. Each poster was split, showing the player wearing the UNY black and gold and the other side highlighted each of their professional photo. I had no idea that the school bred so many professional athletes. I was suddenly deeply humbled to be in company of renown coaches.
When we arrived at her office she opened her door and guided me through. Her office, though full with memorabilia and books, still felt organized and professional. She had a simple desk with its side up against the right wall. It had a laptop, tablet and a stack of papers I assumed was for me. There was a professional photo of her family: herself, her husband and two teenage children, a boy and a girl, taken outside the city using the New York skyline as their backdrop. On the left wall was a large white board, half with a permanent etching of a basketball court with a bottom shelf, aligned with a variety of dry erase colored pens. The back of her office had dark shelving full of plaques, small trophies, medals and pictures of past teams nestled against basketballs that were full of signatures. It was an elaborate and well decorated unit displaying her previous triumphs.
She gestured to me to sit and, as I did so she fell into her professional mesh desk chair. She pulled it up to the desk and began, “Piper, we are very happy that you have made the decision to be a part of the UNY basketball team. We have had our eye on you for years and I am so glad that we checked in on you again.”
“Checked in on me?” I asked, curious of her statement.
“Yes, even though I wanted you during your freshman year, our staff felt that you were not quite ready for the American circuit. But, after watching you grow through your first two seasons up north, we watch as you developed your ball handling skills, your court awareness and your physical strength. I knew you were ready.” She leaned forward, “I pushed the recruiters to check on you and we were thrilled when we found out you were looking into other schools. I, we, simply could not give you up this time.”
“Well thank you for having such faith in me,” I said digesting the steps that it took to get me here.
We spend the next half hour or so going through the do’s and don’ts of being part of the team. How we had to keep our grades up, reporting to every practice, how to dress for game day and noting that there would be various public obligations throughout the year that I must attend. She then explained our associated team of physiotherapists, nutritionists, trainers, sport psychologists and strongly suggested that I should schedule
a meeting to meet each one of them to start on my own individual program.
“Our first game is in the beginning of November, which is roughly in eight weeks. We start practices in October.” I nodded as I mentally sifted through the large amount information and held the stack of papers that once was on the corner of her desk which now resided in my lap.
“Any questions?” Coach asked as she folded her hands over the desk.
“No, not right now,” I replied as I carefully placed the papers into my bag.
“Great, remember my door is always open,” she added as she stood up and came around her desk. She outstretched her hand and I accepted the formal farewell. “Welcome to the Hawks, Piper.”
“Thank you, coach,” I answered as a young blonde woman came into the office. If I had not known any better I could have been staring into a mirror. The young woman was nearly my twin. The only stark difference was her taste in clothing, more business casual with her dress pants, blazer, high heels and hair flowing onto her broad shoulders. It was a drastic change compared to my runners, jeans and my hair pulled back into a pony tail.
“Ah Kit, nice timing,” Coach added as she motioned for her to come in. “Piper meet another sophomore and hawk: Kit Stephenson. She has volunteered to show you the ropes around the recreation center. Thanks again Kit.”
“No problem coach,” she said with a smile and then looked at me. “All good to go?”
“You bet,” I replied as I stood up. “Thanks again coach.”
“See you at practice,” she said as she sat back in her chair.
Kit’s tour included a formal introduction to the building, locker room etiquette and whom I had to speak to for passes. Not much personally was discussed, as it soon felt like she had somewhere better to be. I followed and listened to the best of my ability to avoid asking any questions.
Just as it seems like we were finishing the tour I stated, “Thanks for showing me around. I really appreciate it.”
“No worries, I was kind of coerced to do it.” “Volunten-told?” I asked.
“I drew the short stick,” she simply answered.
“Pity,” I grinned trying to get her to soften up. “Hopefully my demeanor was not too much to handle.”
“Dreadful,” she laughed.
“Well, can I thank you by buying you a coffee?”
“Oh honey, I’m sorry but I do not swing that way,” she quickly replied.
“Oh wait, no, not what I meant,” I stumbled on my words as I could feel the heat from my cheeks ignite.
“I am just playing with you Pip,” she replied with a wink as I sighed in relief. “Pip, yeah that will not work on the court.” She shook her head. “Pip?” she tried again, like taking a second bite of a new food to really get the proper taste. “Oh God if that’s it, I will have to say it with an English accent. Pip pip cheerio!”
I grinned through the joke and sarcastically added, “Cute, what’s your name short for? Kitty?”
“No, but my twin sister is called Kat. I think it was a dare that my father put my mother up to.”
I stepped back, “Seriously?”
“You kidding? Of course not,” she laughed, “just playing with you.”
“Oh, so that was some sort of hazing?”
She placed her arm over my shoulders. “Tell yah what, I know it’s hard to be in a new city, how about I get a couple of the girls together and this weekend to get to know a bit of the team.”
Continue to Chapter Three