The Picky Athlete

On Saturday, February 18, 2012, I left the basketball court for the final time at Macalester College. That was it – my four years of college basketball were over.

As I walked to the locker room, everything suddenly flashed before me: the recruiting process and my decision to play at Macalester, my unexpected and horrible injury that forced a complete identity crisis, the program’s first ever conference tournament appearance my sophomore year, celebrating in the locker room after making playoffs again the following year,  the ruthless strength and conditioning sessions and more.

Senior Day. Photo Credit: Christoper Mitchell
Senior Day. Photo Credit: Christoper Mitchell
Even though my last game at Macalester marked the end of college basketball, it did not end my picky sporting traditions:

1. Black Sports Bra. As a competitive twelve-year-old with tomboy tendencies, I refused to wear any other color sports bra but black, especially on game day. That’s the way it continued throughout middle school, tri-county, AAU, high school, summer league and college. I always wear black sports bras on game days.

2. White shoes. White is the only option when it comes to basketball shoes. A hint of black or gray is acceptable, but the pair needs to be predominately white. I am particularly picky about my competitive footwear and no one can change my mind about it.*

3. Pre-game meals. At summer AAU tournaments I routinely ate one banana and ants on a log (extra ants). In high school, I always had a small macaroni and cheese from Noodles and Company and I switched to a turkey sandwich in college.

Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell
Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell
Thinking about all these absurdly picky demands that ultimately had no impact on my athletic performance (or did they?) reminded me of a definitive moment in my life as a picky eater:

After an excruciating four-week pre-season, we were ready for our first game. We huddled together to end practice and Coach announced that we must fill out our pre-game meal order before we left the gym. Sandwiches. There were check boxes for five different kinds of bread and meat alongside countless options for toppings and sauces. Of the 26 boxes listed, I was only looking for two: white bread and turkey.

My phone rang on my walk back to the freshman dorms. It was coach. What could she want? I answered to find out that the call had nothing to do with basketball.

“You didn’t finish your sandwich order. I only have turkey and white bread. What else do you want on it?” she questioned.

“Nothing, Coach. That’s it,” I responded.

“Oh, you’re a picky eater,” she said in a noticeably displeased tone, “well, that will change by your senior year. We need to get more meat on your bones,” she replied before we hung up.

That was the first of nearly 55 turkey and white bread sandwiches I ate during my collegiate basketball career. I never changed my order, something my coach was sure would happen.

From the start, Coach was aware that picky eaters are plain but she did not realize that picky eaters are also stubborn.

Picky eaters like cheese pizza, hotdogs with ketchup only and hamburgers with nothing on top; we typically hate sauces or condiments whose sole purpose is to give a meal more flavor. We avoid green garnishes that only have aesthetic value and other misplaced spices and toppings.  When it comes to salads, potatoes or nachos, using minimal ingredients is always the best motto. According to picky eaters, plain is the only way to eat and if we receive anything else, we don’t hesitate. We are dedicated and determined people and will not budge when anything more than what we requested is presented. Picky eaters eat certain things in certain ways and no one can change our minds about it.

Much like my attitude towards sports bras, shoes and pre-game meals as a basketball player, picky eaters have a simply stubborn approach towards food, also.

-MW

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*Except my freshman season at Macalester when I was practically forced to wear blue shoes. I developed compartment syndrome later that season, a painful and incurable condition that restricts proper circulation and movement of the calf muscles and ruins athletic careers in the process. I swore I would never stray from wearing white shoes ever again.