To Our Basketball Sons, On Senior Night
Well, senior, you made it. Four years have led up to tonight—your senior night. Are you grieving? Relieved? A little numb?
Maybe all three.
Basketball matters, and it’s shaped you. You’ve gotten physically stronger, mentally tougher. You’ve become a better teammate, a better listener, a stronger leader.
There’s a reason the thump-thump of your heartbeat sounds an awful lot like the gym on an early Saturday morning. Basketball is in you, it will always be a part of you—and that includes tonight, as you walk onto the court for a different reason—to say goodbye.
This part matters too. Pay attention.
Your family and friends, the student section, the community—we’re grieving. We love to watch you play, and we want more. Four more years still wouldn’t be enough.
Your coach? Cannot stand to lose you. Every time the two of you went toe-to-toe, every time your coach called your bluff and kept you honest, every time they pushed you to do something bigger, something harder—and you did it—there was a pull, right?
Call it trust, call it tough love, call it what you want, but this sport and this team made you build something that can’t be described with words—not well, at least. Your coach feels that too. It’s real. And it hurts to let you go.
And you? Surely you’ll miss this. Surely you’ll miss the early mornings, staying after to shoot, questionable calls and running after a sloppy game.
You’ll miss the squeak of your sneakers on the court, the way your practice jersey smells by Wednesday, the unique taste of your sweat from the free-throw line.
You’ll miss the bus rides and the gas station snacks, team dinners and locker room banter.
You’ll miss overtimes and breaking out of a team huddle and even sitting the bench.
You’re going to miss this.
But maybe you’re a little relieved, too.
Maybe you’re tired. As much as you want to play just one more game—also, you’ve played dozens and dozens already. You’ve given your team, your school, this sport everything you’ve got. You’re three years older than the baby-faced kid who will probably be starting next year.
You’ve got plans, and none of them include this town. As much as we’re going to miss you, we’re still rooting for you. It’s time for you to get out of here.
Moving on is complicated. It hurts and it’s a relief, numbing and jarring, all at the same time. We start missing the good times while they’re still happening, and at the same time, sometimes miss out on the moments we’re still in, because internally, we’re already moving on.
This doesn’t change as you get older. You’ll feel this again—not the same, of course. There won’t ever be anything exactly like this.
But this complicated concoction of emotions will resurface. Maybe it’ll be a breakup, a promotion, or a birth, a death—all of the above plus a few, probably.
And you’re the kind of person who rises to the occasion, so you’ll do what you’ve always done: remember what you’ve learned.
You’ll think back to tonight, to your senior night. You’ll remember this moment.
You’ll remember that you made it, even though it was hard.
And that you felt it all. That you held your head high and let your eyes fill with tears.
You stood tall as an adult and held tightly to the hands who raised you.
You left your coach’s team and silently decided that you’ll still call them Coach, forever, because that’s who they are.
You grieved and you sighed with relief.
You let it be good and you let it be hard.
Basketball matters, and it’s shaped you. You matter, and you’ve shaped us.
We’re rooting for you.
Rebecca Egger is a portrait photographer. She has self-published two books, Beasts Get Scared Too and Cast Iron Families, and has photographed zero famous people, but hundreds of folks who matter deeply to someone. She likes to fancy herself a runner and a reader, though she takes neither too seriously. Since she’s over 30 now, she’s gotten into both NPR and podcasts, and will likely start listening to audiobooks soon, as one does. She’s married to a coach, duh, and they have three spunky daughters: Charlotte, Georgia, and Birdie.