Many of the stories I write come from athletes who overcome one of the greatest challenges one can face in this life: overcoming personal fears.
But to understand fear is to know courage, or more to the point, how both intersecting emotions connect with one another. Courage is acknowledging fear, but still deciding to overcome the giant obstacle.
For instance, Emerald Ridge High girls basketball.
“It was hard thinking that I might not play basketball again,” senior Anyae Douglas said about her thoughts after tearing her ACL a few years back.
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Many athletes face fear before each game. It’s that icy feel that glaciers down the spine and into the pit of a player’s stomach. But it’s the ability to not let it overwhelm you that matters.
“I just worked hard to get back,” Douglas said.
With a devastating injury like the one Douglas went through, it’s hard not to be afraid of the future. It’s like standing at the doorway of a dark abyss knowing you have to walk down that path, but not knowing how things would turn out.
It’s a lonely feeling that one has growing inside their head.
Yet, Douglas overcame that fear and walked into the darkness and came out a champion in conquering her injury. It’s something new Emerald Ridge coach Roland Sydney understands.
“(Douglas) really helped me communicate with the team in better ways,” Sydney said. “I didn’t have the time the other teams in our league had in getting to know the girls, and for the girls (ER basketball) to know how I operate.”
Emerald Ridge was thrown into a pinch over the summer having to find a new girls basketball coach. When other teams were coming together to prepare for the season, the Jaguars were stuck in limbo with their coaching vacancy.
Then Sydney was hired on — a dream job for him; he always wanted to become a head coach.
“It was my dream to be a head basketball coach, and when I saw it as an opportunity to join (Emerald Ridge), I took it,” Sydney said. “These chances don’t come around all that often.”
The offer was Syndey’s doorway moment. Here, he stood looking out into that abyss — that unknown future — not knowing how things were going to go. Other schools were ahead of the curve while Sydney faced a tough task ahead of him.
How to take months of practices and turn them into weeks. Impossible, many may think.
“I saw it as a challenge ... something not to turn back on once I was given the offer,” Sydney said. “I felt there was a strong group of seniors that could help me provide leadership for the younger girls, and they have.”
It was more than not looking back once his decision was made. It was envisioning a goal and seeing that no matter what, those goals can be achieved in any situation. All there needs to be is the courage to embrace the abyss.
“One of my main goals is to create a culture at the school (Emerald Ridge) that girls basketball can sustain a strong program,” Sydney said. “I believe we have the right attitude in place to do that, and I feel the school is hungry for both programs (boys and girls) to do that. I think this program is something the community can become proud to be a part of.”
Fear and courage go hand in hand throughout life. One does not exist without the other, and most athletes know that fact. But it’s those who choose to embrace their fear is when truly courageous actions can be made.