Mt. Spokane’s Emily Nelson writes letter to her younger self: ‘Your love for the game will outshine the doubts’

Emily Nelson graduated from Mt. Spokane High School in June after a stellar high school basketball career. This past season she helped lead the Wildcats to a 3A GSL title and a runner-up finish in the 3A state tournament. She will continue her basketball career in college at Division II Saint Martin’s. Follow Emily on Twitter at @emilynelson34.

Dear 9th grade Emily Nelson,

This is the year when things start to change for your basketball career. 

Prepare yourself for major events, waves of adversity, and the lessons you are bound to learn. Even though you may not know it now, your hard work is soon to pay off. The hours spent shooting in the gym, the sore muscles you get the next day after an intense workout, and the sweat dripping from your forehead after you run a set of lines with your team — it is all going to pay off. 

Many major events will come with this freshman year of basketball. When walking in the first day of high school practice do not be intimidated. Even though you are fresh to the program, you need to look up to the people who take you under their wing. Learn from them how to push yourself, how to be a great teammate, and how to pick people up when they are having a rough day. When learning how to be a better teammate, you are also learning to be a better person. 

A major change will take place when you decide to play for the club team called the Northwest Blazers. When walking into the first six-hour practice, do not compare yourself to the other girls. Even though you are dreading playing with people you do not know, by the end, you will have formed many long-lasting relationships with new teammates and coaches and you will laugh at yourself for being so nervous.

With success comes adversity. 

Others are bound to judge you, and make you feel like you shouldn’t pursue your dream of playing in college. Before you start playing club basketball, do not let your doubts get the best of you. Your love for the game will outshine the doubts, and you will realize basketball is what you want to continue. You will learn how to take people’s criticisms and use them as fuel. Adversity isn’t a bad thing, and this is what you will come to learn. You will also realize how to overcome mistakes, and use them as lessons. When missing a shot, do not let it get the best of you. Even though it may have been a wide open layup, let it roll off your back, and tell yourself ‘you got the next one’. 

Even though it may seem like a silly idea – that mistakes become lessons – think about it the next time you miss a shot or make the wrong pass. Mistakes are bound to happen in the game of basketball, so why let it affect your game? Just tell yourself you are gonna make it up on the next play. 

Finally, your freshman year will end with the greatest lesson of all. 

Your club coach, whom you have yet to meet, will explain to you and your teammates that “all you can control is your attitude and effort”. At first, you will only apply this quote to basketball, but when you grow as a player, you will realize that this idea can be applied outside the realm of sport. In life, you can’t control what people do, how they act, and how much effort they expend. All you can control is your attitude, and how much effort you put forth. You don’t realize it in the moment, but this lesson will impact you for the rest of your life (on and off the court). 

So have fun, work hard and enjoy every moment — it will all be worth it!

— Emily Nelson, age 18

Mt. Spokane's Emily Nelson
Emily Nelson (34) helped lead Mt. Spokane to a runner-up finish to Prairie in the 2019 Washington 3A girls basketball state tournament. (Photo by Kim Fetrow)

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