When those two big metal doors swing open, there is a pleasant aroma that escapes into the air that only a “has been” high school athlete would fully appreciate. It’s an acquired smell that you grow to love, because of the hours invested inside those walls.
But there isn’t just one smell, it’s a mixture of a few different things. That may be why some people think the scent isn’t that appealing. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about the local high school gymnasium.
Sweaty practice jerseys, socks that have been left in a locker for a few days, mixed with fresh varnish from the newly coated floors make for a heavenly scent.
Not many people agree, but from a sub-par athlete who played the game, not because he was going to the NBA, but because he enjoyed the game, this smell takes you back to years that former athletes would give their right pinky finger to revisit.
My oldest son is playing for a local recreational league team in the town that we live in. Their games are played at the high school gym. The same gym where many teams have played important games, thousands of practices, and uncountable lessons have been learned.
On this Saturday morning, Landon’s team is playing a team from another small local town. The excitement is in the air and you can see it on the children’s faces. The players have been practicing hard and they can’t wait to take what they’ve learned out on that court against someone besides their own team.
The game starts and it’s a slow go to start with. If you are looking for an offensive shoot out, then a 10u basketball game may not be your cup of tea. The score is irrelevant, but at halftime the teams were only separated by one basket.
As the second half started, there was more of the same, a lot of turnovers, some missed shots and very few points scored.
During the fourth quarter, the game remained close. The kids are pouring their hearts into the game in hopes of a victory. At this point every shot matters, every call from the referee matters, and you can tell that tension is starting to build. Coaches argue every call, parents are screaming from the stands and the kids play the game.
The game goes down to the last second. The home town team is down by one point. There has only been twenty nine points scored by both teams in almost four full quarters. So with only four seconds left in the game, the chance of our team winning doesn’t look too promising. The ball is inbounded, it’s passed and after what seemed like an eternity the ball is thrust towards the basket. As the shot is released, the final buzzer sounds.
One side of the gym erupts in celebration along with the coaches and players, as the other team settles for a good game and hope that they will win the next one. The kid who took the shot has tears running down his face as his team embraces him, but these are tears of joy. Because the shot rolled around the rim and fell through the net to propel the home team to the big victory.
Sometimes we forget that the game is supposed to be fun, we also forget the coaches aren’t getting paid, and finally that the referees are human. No college coaches are attending a rec. league game in South Alabama unless their kids are playing.
Those walls of that gym could tell you many stories of agonizing defeats and net cutting wins. But today kids enjoyed the game, no matter the result. They will remember the smells of that old gym, much like I do and it will take them back to the joys of just playing the game.