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Never let them see you sweat: Gracie Restituyo writes letter to freshman self

By Gracie Restituyo
Contributor

To my Freshman self,

After four years of giving it everything you have and riding the wave of wins and losses of each season, especially your final one, you’ll get a shot at finally winning a NEWMAC championship.

But unfortunately, the cards are not in your favor.

Your senior year, and basketball career, won’t end with a NEWMAC Championship.

You might expect endless tears for days after your final game.

But, surprisingly that didn’t happen (still trying to figure that out). I think it’s because you couldn’t have imagined your final season to be so amazing. So, you aren’t looking at the final loss rather you are embracing all of the amazing memories and laughs that you had with this stunning group of women.

You will form friendships that will last a lifetime and you couldn’t be more grateful to have had the opportunity to wear THE jersey over these past 4 years. You have grown in numerous ways mentally, physically, and in leadership. So embrace every moment. It’s going to be a wild ride, but get ready because it truly is going to be the best time of your life.

Just never let them see you sweat.

***

You’ll come in your freshman year to Springfield College quiet, reserved, and somewhat insecure. You pretty much get thrown into an atmosphere of craziness with a group of women who clearly have no problem being the center of attention –one of your biggest fears. Little will you know how important this group of women will be to you and your growth.

Coach Graves warns you from the beginning that playing college ball is a completely different world from high school because everyone is a stud.

But, this doesn’t shake you, you were never the star on your team, nor did you want to be. The little things are what you valued most and this is exactly what you need to bring to your game here at Springfield.
ALWAYS grind it out in the post.

The dirty work has always been your specialty… Never forget that. This will become so valuable to your game and in the end it is what is going to make you stand out here.

To get any sort of playing time you are going to have to work harder than you have ever done before and that’s going to start right from preseason with the 6 a.m. mile test. Never in your life have you been able to run a whole mile straight. But embrace the challenge and don’t quit.

You’re going to be able to do it, and by junior year you’ll even be breaking an 8 minute mile!

Come your sophomore year there will be a starting position open and you could only hope that you have worked hard enough to prove to Coach and yourself that you deserve to have it.

You’ve worked hard all summer on your cardio, got a personal coach to help improve your game, and even somewhat become accustomed to the 6 a.m. workouts (although they never get any easier). All leading up to the practice before our first scrimmage.

Coach calls out the starters.

Your name isn’t called…

You’re going to feel disheartened. It is going to take a little bit of wind out from your wings. Don’t be discouraged though, you know your own worth.

Every day following that it just fuels you to work harder and prove to her that that should be you and you aren’t a second option. As each game goes by and your name still isn’t called, don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged. When you get your moment in those games work your ass off and make an impact on the game when you’re on the court.

Always remember to grind it out in the post.

It won’t be until we get back from break and the unfortunate injury of a teammate to finally get your starting position. Take the opportunity and run with it. But don’t deviate from what got you here in the first place, hardwork and rebounding.

Those two traits right there will become the platform that will drive the rest of your career.

Junior year is where the rollercoaster ride really starts.

This year is going to test you in many ways, but don’t stray from the path. It is your time now to step up and be a leader. Something very much outside your comfort zone because, like I said before, being the center of attention is not your forte. But, accept the opportunity and go outside your comfort zone. There is a bigger picture in the end, that needs you to be bigger and better than who you were before and you’re going to need to focus on that in order to grow for not only yourself, but for your team.

Before you even get to school, you’re going to see an orthopedic surgeon to figure out what is going on in your shoulder that has been bothering you for a while now. He’s going to tell you that you have a torn your rotator cuff.

So, you’ll have a choice to make… have the surgery right now and miss the season or fight through and have surgery after the season.

You think to yourself, we’ve pushed through for this long, what’s one more season and put the surgery off till March.

But just wait, this is only the beginning.

The season is going to start off strong and you’re going start putting up some big numbers in the stat lines. Numbers that are going to start turning heads and before you know it you’re going to be averaging a double-double! You’ll even put up 31 points in a single game, just nine shy of the school record set in 1989!!

You’ll start getting recognition like NEWMAC offensive player of the week, NEWMAC defensive player of the week, and NEWBA accolades as well.

Don’t let this get to your head though. Even though it won’t because that’s just not who you are, but watch out because the higher you climb the greater there is to fall.

And oh boy do we fall.

Remember what got you to this point though, hardwork and rebounding. Keep these close. Keep on grinding it out in the post. When you feel the pressure getting to you take a deep breath. Stick to your core, don’t stray. We don’t play for the stats, we don’t play for the recognition, we play for the love of the game and the joy of winning. That’s what drives you to work harder and keep getting you and your teammates better each day.
You’re going to have bad days though, days where you’re shot isn’t going to fall, days where your body is so tired, days where it seems like you can’t do anything right and that all Coach is going to do is yell at you.

Oh yeah, there are definitely going to be a lot of those days. Know that those days are going to prepare you to be great, and mentally test you to perform in high stress situations so that when the time comes, you’ll be more than ready to handle it.

Lead your team and lead them with a strong will and strong mind. Coach is going to yell, but you can’t let it get to you.

And you definitely cannot let your teammates or Coach see you struggling.

You and Coach have a very honest and open relationship (emphasis on the honest part). She is going to tell you how it is, which is exactly what you want because you hate when people bullshit you. But, the truth is definitely going to hurt. This honesty between the two of you though is going to make your relationship strong, but let me tell you, SO many tears are going to be shed. Like, more than you thought possible.

This is good for you. You need to build more open relationships with people, this is going to help you grow. She is going to tell you things that you definitely don’t want to hear but you have to adapt to what she wants. She always wants the best for you, and knows that you have a lot of potential to unlock. She wants you to go grind it out and work hard to let them know your name and just how good you can be. She has been in the game way longer than you have, you aren’t the expert in this situation.

You’re going to call your Dad — and you’re going to start calling him often — A majority of the time in tears. He will be your saving grace and comfort. You’re going to be ready to walk out and throw in the towel, but he’ll bring you back to reality and provide some major words of wisdom. A phrase that is going to resonate with you each time that you want to be done and think it’s not worth it anymore.

“Never let them see you sweat.”

Never let them see you sweat. Never let them see you sweat.

This will pretty much become your catch phrase. In a game where things just aren’t going your way, you’ll look to the stands, see your Dad, and remember to stay calm and move onto the next play. And trust me, that is going to happen frequently and often.

Remember how I said there was going to be a fall…well it comes.

The NEWMAC quarterfinal game against MIT. This game is going to stick with you for a while. We were the higher seed and had beaten them previously during the year. I wouldn’t say that we were going into the game cocky, but we were definitely confident in our abilities and chances at winning.

But, not everyone can have a Cinderella story, and your book is going to be cut short.

Thankfully, though you’re going to get a second opportunity your junior year. Coach put you into the ECAC tournament, so it’s a chance at redemption and try to end the season how it should be.

The conversation that happens with Coach before the first practice before ECAC’s is going to make you question a lot about yourself. Yeah, she’s going to be really, really honest in that conversation. She’ll say many things that confuse you, some things that don’t really make sense to you, but in the end you’re left with a choice.

Hang up the shoes or lace them up.

You’ll be standing outside of Dana and you’ll have to put on a brave face, lace your shoes up, and walk into the gym and work. It’s important that you walk into that gym. Prove her wrong, find it in yourself to run and hustle through every drill like you weren’t just bawling your eyes out in the hallway.

Never let them see you sweat.

You’ll learn another valuable lesson from this moment. You’ll learn to always make the choice that no matter how tough it gets to lace up your shoes, put on a smile, and grind it out in the post.

Always choose to walk back into the gym because you have never been a quitter and you’re not going to start that now.

The memories that you’ll make on this trip are going to be much more valuable and outweigh the problems that occured before. So don’t shut down, your team is going to need you. Embrace this second chance that you have been given and sing along and dance to the songs during the 14 hour bus ride to Washington, Pennsylvania, because there is so much more to the game then the wins and losses.
Senior year.

Wow.

Time flies by a lot quicker than you could imagine.

You’re back from surgery, but not fully ready to be out on the court with everyone yet. Stay patient, in the end this is only going to help you get the proper recovery that you need.

Coach brought in an amazing and crazy group of freshman that are exactly what the team needs. They’re not only going to help you improve on the court, but the energy that they bring off the court is going to help you be more outgoing and be a better leader because it will help you feel more comfortable in the spotlight.

Senior year is also going to come with its own roller coaster of emotions but stay strong and never let them see you sweat.

You’re going to start off the season slow, but that was expected. You just came off of major surgery. It is going to be extremely frustrating and you’re going to be mad at yourself but you have to stay patient. Embrace the fact that you even get the opportunity to be out there and wear the jersey.

You’ll also get a ton of support from your teammates because they believe in you. So again, don’t shut down, stay confident, stay positive and fall back on your teammates because they will always be there to catch you.

And to all of Posse, I thank you for that.

The year will go on and you’ll start finding your stride soon enough. Around mid season you’ll start getting back to producing a double-double again. You’ll even find a way to grab 22 rebounds in one game against Emerson, just two shy from the school record! But don’t worry, you’ll still get a very fair share of bad games in the mix. And when I say bad, I mean like you might be a one or two rebounds shy of your double-double or just a couple points short. Along with a few of the classic pre practice meetings with Coach where you’re going to cry and want to quit. But you already know, you have to always lace up the shoes, go get to work, and never let them see you sweat.

Which definitely won’t be easy, but with some wise words from Sam Spadaro and long time Coach Ben Middleton, you’ll find the strength and courage to get there.

***

I wouldn’t change any part of my story at all though.

It has made me into who I am today. All the tears turned from sadness to joy. I have learned a lot about myself and who I can be if I really set my mind to something, and just let loose in the process.

There is no such thing as a straight, perfect journey. It is the highs and lows that you encounter that build you into the player you become. The lows only make you stronger as long as you are bold enough to take control of the struggles and your own weaknesses and make them into strengths. There are going to be hard days but it is what you choose to do after, that is going to define you as a player and a person.

This is one of the most valuable lessons I could have learned through playing basketball. You don’t always have to start out as a star, just know that you always have all the potential in you to become one though. Always keep an edge or a “chip” with your game, and have an undying passion for your teammates and yourself.

I could only hope that I was able to make even a small impact on the Posse that follow me, to compare to the impact that Posse who preceded me had on me. Being able to call yourself a basketball player at THE Birthplace of Basketball adds an edge to your game and a bragging right that no one else gets.

Being a Women’s basketball player at the Birthplace opens you up to an opportunity to be a part of one of the greatest groups around. Posse.

Posse is something you can always fall back on when you need it most. These women will not only be your teammates but they are going to be your sisters. Posse will be there to give you a shoulder to cry on, a hand to lift you back up, and a joke at just the right time to make you smile. It is going to open up doors for you, such as getting to travel out of the country and go to Europe and experience a culture that you have never been exposed to before.

Better yet, you’re going to be making those memories with your family and it was definitely one of the best times of my life. Any time we get together it’s always a riot and countless laughs no matter what the occasion. There is no such thing as a serious moment outside of the court for Posse. We are too crazy.

But, once we are in between those lines we are always there to compete for our common goal of winning.

I won so much more than just games these past 4 years. I won an unconditional love with a group of women, that mean so much more to me than just a game.

Photo courtesy Jack Margaros

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One comment

  1. Wow! I am blown away by the maturity, honesty and wisdom of the letter you wrote, Gracie! So proud of you and your journey these past 4 years! ❤️

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