Player Perspectives: How Basketball Shaped Me

Senior Anna Walther is in her last season as a Hawk. In her exclusive first-person piece, she reflects on how the sport of basketball shaped her, and the many teachings and lessons she got along the way.

Anna Walther, Senior, Women's Basketball

Throughout the years, chaotic schedules, early morning workouts, long bus rides to games, athletic training room needs, team bonding days, and practices have filled my schedule. Consequently, basketball has shaped me into the person I am today.

Growing up, basketball courts and teams provided me a sanctuary to escape the real world. As a result, the court was a place of solace; it was somewhere that I could, as Coach Thompson would say, “leave my day at the door,” and leave all the stresses of the world and just play.

Being a college athlete has afforded me the opportunity to form heartfelt relationships with both my coaches and my teammates — thus, leading to the current journey of five seniors.

We embarked on the road toward the championship, a banner hunt, from the second week we arrived on campus during the fall of 2014. From the beginning, we all realized that it takes a special type of person to be cut out for the commitment it takes to be a N.C.A.A. Division III athlete.

Throughout the years, we’ve experienced an emotional rollercoaster: injuries, coach’s newborn children, family deaths, wins, losses, good times, and tough times. These events have not only helped us to grow into resilient individuals, but also taught us not to give up no matter how hard or how bleak situations can possibly get. Due to the numerous circumstances and challenges we have been presented, I have consequently forged bonds with all my teammates and coaches, which I know will last a lifetime.

Over the summer and upon arrival back to RWU this year, my two other co-captains, along with myself and our coaching staff, our two other returning seniors, and our sophomores strived to ensure that our team was reliant on winning this season’s games using our team values: passion, character, and selflessness.

Coming into the season, we were predicted in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll to be the runner-up in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC). Although I don’t take standings for much worth, this poll certainly lit a fire under myself and my team. With such a young and small team (both in numbers and height), not many people — except ourselves and our families — expected us to do as well as we have this season.

Setting school records was never on our radar as we’ve maintained a “one game, one practice, one play at a time” mentality. For us returners, spreading the want for a CCC championship victory across the whole team and making sure new players bought into our team culture was pertinent.

Thankfully, this process of buy-in was easy for us as our three freshmen and one transfer student jumped right on board.

From day one, whether it is the seniors’ day one back in 2014 or the freshmen’s day one only a few months ago, we have all continued to exude that necessary hunger, drive, determination, and resilience in the quest to have the best season that RWU women’s basketball has ever had.

Knowing that this year is the culminating mark of the basketball process I started when I was just a little kid — and continued to work at alongside my teammates and coaches — I keep in the back of my mind how much I would love to win a championship alongside the very people who I now consider to be my family.

At the same time, I also acknowledge the importance of realizing that my being on this team, no matter what the bittersweet ending turns out to be, provided me with an experience that nobody outside of my 10 other teammates and three coaches will get to have.

At the end of the day, being a part of this team was a defining moment of my college career and helped me to grow into the person I am today. As cliché as it may sound, basketball helped me to grow into a leader and to believe in myself, and playing the sport made me confident, yet humble.

For me, basketball goes far beyond just the X’s and O’s, and winning and losing; basketball provides a plethora of real-life experiences such as failure, bouncing back from setbacks, sacrifice, sportsmanship, and much more.

Looking back, I was fortunate to be blessed with amazing coaches who have invested an interest in me and my teammates in all aspects of life, and I want to continue that legacy and one day be that type of coach for my players.

As I move on to these next weeks and begin coping with no longer being a college athlete, and now having to cope with the realities of being a “NARP” (otherwise known as a non-athlete regular person) — the joke of former college athletes — I will reflect on not only these cherished past four years, but also look back on how much I have grown as a person through these past 14 years since that very first day I stepped onto the court.