I leaned against my locker, preparing for another tough day at practice during my freshman football season. Earlier in the season, I had already been chased around by a half-naked senior near this same locker, but I had hoped things would change. Five minutes later, I was in a fetal position crammed inside a varsity locker, trying to laugh along with the crowd of seniors staring at me. Still, inside that rectangular purple locker, I was just trying my best not to cry.
After middle school, I was certain that over the next four years of my life, one variable would remain constant: football. However, my freshman football season was, to say the least, rough. At 5 feet 5 inches and a whopping 95 pounds, I was an easy target for the humongous football seniors to pick on. I convinced myself that the treatment I received was completely normal, and I continued to go to practice every day. But it wasn’t. By the end of my freshman season, I was exhausted and flat-out depressed.
Once the season came to a close, I had more time to focus on my classes. I had spent much more time and effort in one class, in particular, Writing for Publications — captured my interest. This class was an introduction to the field of journalism, where we were taught the fundamentals of being a journalist.
One of our assignments was a sports story, where some of us had the opportunity to work alongside members of El Estoque at a basketball game. I was assigned to work with a senior, and as a result of my previous experiences with them, I was terrified of getting picked on yet again.
However, when I reached the gym that game night, I was greeted by a welcoming face, something I wasn’t used to coming from someone three years older than me. Instead of belittling me, this senior coached me through the different aspects of covering a game, like positioning for pictures, how to take detailed notes and how to do post-game interviews. I even got to deal with a source that was angry at El Estoque for the first time, which now seems like a regular occurrence.
That night, taking photos of the players and seeing the passion that they had for the game rekindled my love for sports. I realized that I still felt the same amount of love for sports, whether I was on the court or off it.
I then understood that the only reason I hated football was because of the toxicity the seniors brought to the team, and now that those players were gone, I decided I would keep playing. I figured out that over the past few months I was so invested in trying to become the next Jerry Rice that I forgot my fondest memories as a child were not just on the field. Instead, some of my favorite experiences were reading Sports Illustrated Kids every month or watching SportsCenter on Saturday mornings. I had forgotten that I even had a blog in sixth grade with one of my best friends, where we attempted to predict the outcomes of games and commented on the NFL and NBA.
I fell in love with writing, specifically sports writing. I discovered that I could use my experiences as an athlete to find others that went through the same hardships, using this to help me tell the stories of MVHS athletes. At the end of my freshman year, I applied to be on El Estoque, and after making it on staff I now had two constant variables for the next three years — journalism and football.
I felt like a three-sport athlete in my sophomore and junior years, since I would play football during the fall season and cover almost every basketball game in the winter and volleyball game in the spring. Even though I was extremely busy, I loved it. The feeling of walking into the journalism class every day was equivalent to the feeling of pride resonating in a locker room right after winning a football game. That same adrenaline rush I would get on the football field during practice was identical to the feeling of frantically designing pages during a Friday late night.
At a time when I felt beaten down, journalism provided me with confidence and inspired me to work my ass off. In the two years leading up to senior year, I worked my way up to becoming editor-in-chief for El Estoque and a co-captain for the football team.
So to those seniors who found humor in teasing me three years ago, thank you. Without you, I would’ve never discovered my love for journalism, and I wouldn’t currently be pursuing a career in sports journalism.
And to journalism, thank you for giving me something to love during my time in high school — I can’t wait to make you my life’s work. I’m well aware my story sounds like an episode of Friday Night Lights, but Cupertino, CA is the opposite of Dillon, TX in more ways than one.
So, to end in the words of that I think best describe my life by rapper Aubrey Graham a.k.a. Drake: “started from the bottom, now we’re here.”