WILDCAT WEDNESDAY – What’s the most common dream a former athlete has years, even decades, after his or her career is over? It’s the dream where you are told by someone at school that they counted your years incorrectly. It’s my academic advisor or my assistant coach coming into a classroom or my work or the bathroom at my YMCA and saying, “Mo, you still have eligibility left. They counted wrong!” (Note here that I redshirt my freshman year at Northwestern due to an ACL reconstruction, so I was there for five years. Yet in my dream, they still forgot a year.)
The next thing I hear is Coach Perrelli’s voice booming, “MO! Hurry up!” He’s calling me into the gym and I cannot get there fast enough. I then feel so guilty and winded as I scramble. I’m not in shape. I’m not ready, but I’m still going because that’s what warriors do, right? I rush to grab my sneakers and just get there so I don’t let down the team or my coach.
When I was fresh out of college, I sometimes woke up as if it was true and I had only minutes to report to practice. My sister even said that she often jumped out of bed, looking for her sneakers, freaking out because she was late for practice and Coach Price would not forgive her for it. You go to that practice in your dream, and at some point the dream is deferred to an alarm clock that wakes you up and you have minutes to get in the shower and get into real work clothes and not a sweatsuit or issues. Some athletes are really good in their dream, or at least that is what former WNBA great Katie Smith told me. It makes sense considering how good she was, and how she converted pressure into passion for the game.
I, on the other hand, am the worst player in the gym. I can’t catch the ball. Coach Perrelli is screaming at me in Welsh Ryan Arena. I can see the purple seats behind him. I can’t get out of my own way, but I’m trying and tripping and flailing around. I feel so embarrassed, more than anything, to not be prepared.
The dreams don’t happen now as often as they used to. My sister says she’ll get her most common dream the night after coaching hoops or after shooting around. My best friend, Shimmy Gray Miller, says that it’s her #1 dream, too. I think they both said that they’re not any good in their dream either, but I can’t say for sure. I just know I am so bad. I wonder what a shrink would say about my self-image issues right now.
I wake up and thank the basketball gods that my eligibility as a five-year redshirt athlete has in fact passed. It’s as if the mind is stuck cherishing the positive memory of what it meant to be so young, wild, skilled and tough, while battling the reality that we cannot be what we used to be. You wake up remembering what you once were, and accepting that it’s okay now – even a relief – to be somebody else.