New girl on the court feels at home with South squad

By Jocie Collins
Published: February 2010

Pacing around my new room, having left everything that I knew and loved, comfortable with 468.93 miles behind me, I took the courageous step to email Sam Doner, the Girls’ Varsity Basketball coach.

I introduced myself and made sure it was not too tedious of a message, re-reading and changing things a few times before sending it.

He responded back by giving me a single number to call.

“This kid will help you out. Her name is Sophie Bikofsky, he wrote.

My excitement soon swallowed my nerves, and I gave Sophie a call later that evening. We made small talk.

I knew a little about her, and she knew a little about me, but the real test would face me on the court the next day.

She invited me to one of the summer basketball clinics that Sam ran.

My anticipation had an insomniac effect on me; I simply could not wait to see what the next day had in store.

The following afternoon, Sophie and her mom picked me up outside of my house.

Considering I could not direct myself to the nearest grocery store, I was thankful for the gesture.

Basketball bag in hand, hair tied up and fidgety, I left my house.

It was in Sophie’s mom’s SUV that I met a two more members of the team: Chloe Rothman and Kendall Burton.

On the way there, we talked about basketball, life, and all that good stuff. I got to play 21 questions and enjoyed it.

“Where’d you move from?

“Was your team good?

“What have you been up to all summer?

“Why’d you move to Newton?

Burrito in hand, Chloe then proceeds to tell me “honestly, we all thought you were going to be a 6 foot tall black girl just as we pulled up to the outdoor court.

Upon arrival, I was introduced to Sam Doner.

Tan skinned, short, and donning casual basketball attire, he walked up to me and shook my hand.

His welcoming smile gave me comfort.

It was apparent that he wanted to see my game just as badly as Sophie and the other girls did.

Sam walked over to his black pick-up truck, a massive car that failed to describe his height. I soon got a glimpse of his personality.

Positioning his car as close as possible, he blasted music across the court.

He sucessfully obliterated any previous ideas that I had about him.

In Leesburg, Virginia, my coach knew the game of basketball inside and out, but he was a bit extreme.

He was the infamous Coach Reed; he kicked chairs, threw clipboards, stomped on the floor, held 4 am workouts, and yelled like a maniac; however, the results were outstanding so I guess you can’t argue with the methods.

That season we went 22-2, winning the ’09 Virginia State Championship by a landslide.

Sam, this relaxed, young coach, was the polar opposite of what I had come from, but immediately I felt at ease. I knew that it was going to be an incredible season.

On this warm August afternoon, I met an assortment of kids that I would struggle to call by the correct name over the next couple weeks.

We played lively pick-up games to Sam’s eclectic selection of hip-hop and reggae tunes.

When the New England sky began turning it’s array of citrus colors, everyone took off their sneakers, wiped off their sweat, and rounded up their bags.

After what already seemed like a flurry of first-times for one day, Sophie asks me if I would be interested in going out with them that night.

“Yeah, I would love to, I responded without hesitation.

I quickly showered, gobbled down my dinner, and headed out.

Since moving in, it was not until that warm August night that my life in this new town began. I grabbed my phone and the address to Sophie’s house. I had left my lonely summer days behind.

Before I knew it, the summer had turned to fall and tryouts were right around the corner.

Once again, anxiety filled me, but this time I went into the stressful situation with a group of friends that were in the same boat.

After the third day of tryouts, I was officially a part of the girl’s basketball squad; a group of 10 unique girls with one thing in common, love for the game.

Since that day, every afternoon has been spent with what is now my goofy extended family.

Pressing through the dreaded defensive slides, listening to Sam’s mini spurts of inspiration, giving hi-fives to let each other know in a silent fashion, “I’m freeking dying man, but I’m there for you.

Battling the opposing teams one-by-one, we now stand tall with 13 wins and 2 losses.

As I pass through the hallways wearing some ridiculous spirit gear (onezy, gangster clothes, etc.) and bear-hug my teammates, I know that my family is there for me, both on and off the court.

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