There will come a time in your life when the final buzzer rings, when battle wounds fade and scars remain, when you no longer have to face that dreaded morning grind. There comes a time in every student athlete’s life when they have to hang up their jerseys for good and retire their well-worn shoes.
On June 12, Menihek High School held their fifth annual athletic banquet. While sitting in the gymnasium that has seen me sweat, cry, bleed and laugh, I realized all the miles each and every athlete has conquered. Sports have been the heart and soul of Menihek, whether it is chasing a ball, swinging a stick, or running a mile — sports have impacted the lives of students forever. From the sports played in high school, students have learned the importance of winning and losing, working together as a team, and the significance of a coach.
In April, the girl’s ball hockey team travelled to Dildo for provincials after a close winning battle with Mealy Mountain at regionals. Menihek girl’s ball hockey has always played exceptional, with this year being their second consecutive win, but during this year’s provincials everyone was floored when the girls went undefeated.
After an astonishing 7-1 win, every coach and team member was blown away at Menihek’s record year. Although the win was an accomplishment to be proud, the graduating team members valued the win as testament to their senior year, as they reflected on all the hard work they put in over the years. Despite the girl’s ball hockey win, the girls’ basketball team was not so lucky. After winning regionals last year for the first time in seven years, the girls team felt they had this year in the bag.
However, five minutes into the first quarter game, they were knocked off their high horses. During their second game, they regained their spark and won the game that has the potential of being the closest game in all of Menihek basketball history. Even though they took the loss in the championships, they realized the newfound fire none of them knew they had. Overall, whether you are on a field, the ice, or a court, it is not about winning or losing, it’s about the love of the game and the lessons learned from it.
In January, the girls’ basketball team started training for regionals. Even though they knew each other through all of their high school years, they have an undeniable chemistry on the court. From the beginning, they hit it off, coming to practice was never a chore and it was always something to look forward to at the end of the day. The girls formed an unconditional bond from a passion for shooting a ball into a net. No matter the sport, every athlete can testify to the connection they made with their teammates because they are the people you cry, laugh and sweat with.
In February, I had to say goodbye to the coach that made me into the person I am today. After my final basketball game, there was no stopping my tears from flowing. It hit me hard that I will never play on my hometown court again, or never have to give up my Saturday evenings for practise, and I will never hear my coach’s voice ringing in my ears.
My coach is living proof that a coach cannot only change a game, but a life. She’s taught me to keep pushing even when all odds are against you, to see that hard work really does pay off, and to always keep improving. Through all the life lessons she taught me, she made me realize the qualities I never knew I had inside. I have never seen myself as a leader. When I started my basketball career I was an introvert, now when I look back, I am no longer the same girl.
My coach shaped me into who I am today and for that I am forever grateful and I cannot thank her enough.
Over the years, we athletes dreaded this time. The time of goodbye, when all of our wins and losses become just memories. A time when teams separate, and when we look into our coach's eyes and see we made them proud. The sports program at Menihek is not just an extracurricular activity, it’s a passion that unites us all.
This year’s athletic banquet is the last time many of us will sit in the gym and honour our peers and our own successes. In saying this I’d like to acknowledge all the coaches and teachers for pulling of this year’s banquet, and a special thanks to the sponsor's Pizza Delight and Northern Industrial Supply for all their donations.
In conclusion, the time has come to say goodbye to the roar of a hometown crowd, sweaty gym bags, and the number on our jerseys, but no matter where we go we will always have the lessons learned and a gym floor to call home.
Rebecca Smith is a Grade 12 student at Menihek high school in Labrador City.