My name is Marcia Deacon. Remember that name, because you’ll be hearing from me very soon. This season I’m playing for one of the biggest teams in NCAA basketball and after that I’m going to be tearing up the WNBA. I’m going to be huge.
I sound really arrogant, don’t I? Good. That’s because I am. My arrogance is the best kind though, the kind that’s based on talent. Oh yeah, a lot of the girls in the game hate me. Well you know what they say about haters, don’t you. I tell people I’m good, because I’m good. Really good. I doubt if you’ve seen a player like me in the women’s game in your whole life.
I didn’t always talk this way. In fact, not so long ago I was pretty different. I guess I’ve come a long way in just a few months. And I have one woman to thank.
* * * *
I was always naturally gifted. I started playing on my driveway. At the age of seven I was the best player in my street. By the age of ten, I was the best in my school and by the age of sixteen, I was the best in the state. The sport has always come naturally to me. I’m 5’8” and kind of gangly and uncoordinated and clumsy too. I’m like one of those creatures that only comes alive in one environment. Put me on a date or working in a restaurant or tidying my room and I’m hopeless. I break things, I fall over, I tread on people’s toes. But get me on a court and I come alive. Dribbling, passing, shooting; I had it all, and I could hold my own in the paint too.
I held the school and state scoring records every year right up to eleventh grade. My form fell off a bit that year, and at the time I didn’t really know why. I was still the best player on the varsity team, but I was missing a few shots and didn’t feel quite right out there. Still, no-one thought it would last and when my senior year rolled round, I was ready to go again.
Senior year. New challenges, new opportunities and a new coach. Coach Kennedy. She was a last minute deal, a replacement for old Coach Connor, who’d retired the previous spring. We’d heard rumors; that she was tough, that she used to beat up her students, that she was totally lesbian, but no-one really took it seriously, that is, until our first session.
We were all gathered in the hall, ready for practice when the door slammed open and Coach Kennedy walked in. Strode in, would be a more accurate assessment. She was tall, tanned with bright blonde hair tied back in a fiercely tight ponytail. Tight was probably the best word to describe her. Tight hair, tight body, tight little shorts, tight tee.
“Right then ladies, let me tell you something about yourselves. I gather you think you’re good. Well let me explain exactly why everything you have achieved so far is worthless.”
And that’s what she did. She stood on the spot, like a cross between a super model and a Marines drill sergeant and told us all how useless we were, how fat, how slow, how lazy, how weak and how pathetic we were. Then she told us that the only way she believed in was total obedience. We were to do exactly what she said, when she said it and anyone who disagreed would be off the team. When she’d finished, she looked at us all and shook her head.
Things didn’t get any better. Training was horrible. Endless, punishing physical endurance work, push-ups and forfeits if we missed a shot and a constant stream of shouting and abuse and more shouting. By the time of the first game, we were on the brink of breaking down.
We lost our first game 85-60. We lost our next two, by increasing margins. By the time we were 0-5 and staring at the worst season in the school’s history, the girls decided that someone had to confront her and they decided that it had to be me.
“No way!” I said.
“But you’re the best player on the team,” said Hannah.
“You have to do it,” said CC. “If you don’t this season is going to be a disaster.”
“It’s already a disaster,” I said. “Confronting her won’t make any difference.”
I looked up. All the other girls were looking at me. I could see the desperation in their eyes. I wasn’t the only one with ambitions, and even those girls who wouldn’t go far in college ball still wanted to end their senior year on a winning team. They would only get one shot at this, after all.
“Okay. I’ll do it.”
The truth was, I was terrified, and I didn’t feel any less terrified when, half an hour later, I stood in Coach Kennedy’s office, waiting for her to finish on her computer.
“Right. Deacon. What do you want?”
“Get on with it, girl, I’m busy.”
“I…me and the girls, the team, we…well we don’t think it’s working and we…”
My voice trailed off as she glared, icily at me. There was a silence, which lasted about thirty seconds. Then she stood up, suddenly and I flinched.
“I’ve finished here today,” she said. “Are you ready to go.”
“Good. I will give you a lift to my house. We can talk more about your concerns there.”
It didn’t really feel right but I kind of felt obliged to go with her. I mean I had started the conversation and anyway she had the tone of voice that you don’t argue with.
She didn’t talk at all as we drove to her house, which was in the wealthy Green Acres suburb. In fact, her house was more of a mansion. She showed me into a huge reception area, and then through the biggest living room your’ve ever seen, through a big kitchen and then opened another door. As I stepped through the door, there was the sound of lights going on and I found myself standing on the edge of a court.
“You have a court in your house?”
I looked around in wonder. It wasn’t as big as the school court, but it was cleaner and professional looking and even had benches along the side.
“I have a reputation for finding young talent and team owners pay me well for it. I work hard, and if you work hard, you get the rewards.”
Back in the living room, still thinking about the court, I sat on one of her leather sofas and tried to compose the speech I was going to make. I was still thinking about it when she thrust a drink into my hand.
“Drink this,” she said, “It’s an energy drink. Replenishes what’s important.”
I looked at the fizzing green juice which didn’t seem particularly wholesome but she was standing over me so I drank it in three gulps.
“Good girl,” she said, smiling.
I didn’t like her smile, mainly because I had never seen it before and it was kind of sinister. I didn’t have long to think about it though because not long after I felt the juice slide down my throat, the room began to spin, and the light faded. My eyelids began to feel incredibly heavy and I wanted nothing more at that moment to lie down, put my head on her cool leather sofa and sleep.
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