As my freshman year at Evangel University drew to a close, the time came for the renewal of scholarships.
I had been on a half-ride scholarship up till that point and was hoping that I had proved myself to my coaches to get a slightly bigger one for the coming season. After all, I had good grades, near perfect attendance in my classes, never got in to trouble, always worked hard and was coachable. To top it all off, I loved that school and would have done just about anything to have stayed.
When my coaches called me into the office, I was excited and ready for the good news. The coaches were a couple who had been coaching together for over a decade and had a long list of conference titles and a few NAIA titles to their resumes. They were a great team, if they liked you. He liked me. She, not so much. Unfortunately, she was the post coach.
They had cut my scholarship down by a third, but I was still getting one and was still on the team. It was a little bit of a lump to swallow, but swallow it I did and happily accepted, signing the paper.
The next few days were spent lining up my roommate for the next year. A former player was returning to the school, not to play ball, but because she loved it and we were a good fit. She knew the grind I would be going through and we both loved the game and the school. The prospect of the coming year was exciting for all of us.
Then I was called into my coaches’ office again.
I was a complete bundle of nerves. Everything I had done in the last few days flew through my mind, but I hadn’t done anything wrong to my knowledge.
The coaches sat in their chairs and I sat on the old loveseat that had been there for years. The head coach tapped his fingers and leaned forward. The knot in my gut grew. This was not going to be good.
While I don’t remember the exact words, they had found another post and wanted her more than me. Since they had already offered me my scholarship and I had signed, I could keep it, but they wanted me to stay on as a student trainer.
I have no doubt that the blood drained from my face as they talked.
When they had finished talking, I looked them in the eyes and said I had to think about it. They nodded and said to take a few days.
The tears managed to wait until I had left the gym and I fled to the courtyard between the girls athletic dorm and the boys athletic dorm. I pulled out my trusty flip-phone and called the only person I could think to call, my mama.
As I explained what happened through my tears, I could tell that she was heartbroken for me and that she was trying to compile a list of pros and cons for staying and for leaving. I was gutted, broken and although I somehow looked okay on the outside, I was a hollow shell of a human being.
I didn’t know who I was without the identity I had worked so hard to earn. I was Chloe, a tall girl, with long hair who was nice, really good at school and most importantly, a basketball player.
You see, when I was younger I was a ballerina. But I began to get too tall and it wasn’t easy for me. I pressed on, working harder and harder, but getting more and more frustrated.
Then, when I was 11 years old, my parents sent me to basketball camp. I threw a fit saying I was a ballerina. They said I should just try it, after all it was only a three day camp. That camp completely changed my life. It was the first time in my life being tall was a good thing. People wanted me to be on their team just because I was tall. I wasn’t even good, but it didn’t matter because I was tall.
That is when basketball became my everything.
Who would I be without daily practice, workouts and games? What would get me out of bed in the mornings? What would I do without a number on my shirt? How would anyone know who I was without my name on a roster? What would I do without a gym bag always on my shoulder? What would happen to all these skills I had poured my heart and soul into learning? Had my parents wasted all that time, money and gas on nothing?
I didn’t know and I didn’t want to find out.
As the finals week approached, I went through every motion. I took pictures with my friends, I studied hard, I worked out with my team, I did all the things expected of me. But there was no heart to any of it. It was pure auto pilot.
I told my coaches thank you for the experience and that I truly loved and cherished it, but I would not be returning to Evangel. I took my finals, packed up my dorm room and moved back to Oklahoma. I had no idea what would happen next, but to be honest, without basketball it didn’t matter. I never thought I’d find another passion as deep as the one I held for basketball. I never thought I’d get to walk on a hardwood floor again.
Fortunately I was wrong, but that is a story for another day.
Chloe Goff is a former college basketball player and a former Branson performer who enjoys a plethora of activities, most of which make her sound like a walking oxymoron.