The winter prep sports season kicked off this week when practices began Monday. 

For some athletes it’s the beginning of a long season. For others, this week will mark the entirety of theirs. 

In basketball, unfortunately not everyone can make the team. At its core, athletics is simply about competition. That means there are winners and there are losers, and this week the difference between winning and losing mostly means making the team or getting cut. 

For those who do make their respective teams and get to compete in the games they enjoy over the next four months, I say congratulations. You’ve earned it; so don’t waste it. When you’re stuck in a shooting slump or you don’t want to go to 6 a.m. conditioning on a cold Wednesday morning in January, remember your fellow students who weren’t given that opportunity. Not everyone gets to be as fortunate as you.

To those of you who won’t make the team this week, I say I’m sorry. I can understand your disappointment. Just because you don’t make the team, however, doesn’t mean you can’t still participate in the game. 

There is certainly more than one way to be involved in sports. This column is living proof of that. If you don’t make the team there are plenty of ways to continue the dream. If your passion is the game of basketball and you aren’t going to get the opportunity to play it for your high school, play it somewhere else. Maybe you are out of school and your competitive playing days are over. This applies to you also. Intramural leagues and local gyms always have games, and they are often more competitive than anything played at the high school level.

Some of the most intense and best played basketball games I’ve ever been a part of happened long after my high school basketball career had finished. Those games were played in random gyms, parks and back yards. There were no referees, scoreboards or uniforms. The only people watching were the few who were waiting to get into the next game. None of that mattered. What mattered was the game itself.

The beauty of basketball is you can take it with you anywhere. Unlike football or baseball, which both require too much equipment and personnel to play on a frequent basis, basketball can be played with two people, a ball and a hoop. If basketball is your game of choice don’t let not being able to play in a structured setting discourage you from playing entirely.

There are other ways to stay involved. If you want to be a part of your high school’s program, see if you can become a team manager. This person is a valuable member of the team as he or she often has more responsibility than any of the players. You would help keep stats during games and maybe even shoot some video, along with a multitude of other responsibilities.

If those options don’t suit your fancy or you are no longer a student you could always get involved with a local youth basketball league. Youth leagues are always looking for volunteer coaches, officials and other staff positions. As a coach you would get to be in charge of an entire team. You would get to teach the game to a bunch of young children while also learning a thing or two about it yourself. As an official you’d get to become an expert on the rules of the game. That type of knowledge will only help you become a better basketball player in the long run.

All of the previously mentioned options are great ways to stay involved with the game of basketball should you not make your team this year, or if you simply don’t have a team to make. To the students, if none of the options sound that appealing, or if you are just too bummed about not making the team, I understand. Hopefully you will still get out there and cheer on your fellow students during their games. If you really do love the game of basketball you will certainly root for those representing your school. If your roles were reversed, wouldn’t you like it if they were doing the same for you?

I encourage you to keep playing and keep trying to get better. After all, there’s always next year.

— Zach Beehler is a sports reporter for the Hermiston Herald. He can be reached at zbeehler@hermistonherald.com.

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