Barefoot and wearing her practice uniform, Pat padded into the kitchen enticed by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. “That smells really good,” she said when a steaming cup was held out to her.
“It’s a new brand I’m trying,” Sherry explained. She was wearing a set of team sweats with her uniform underneath.
Pat took a sip of the hot liquid. “Mmm,” she murmured walking directly for the fridge, “needs more cream.”
Sherry grinned. “Honey, you put so much cream in your coffee that you have no clue how it really tastes. Laughing, she sat at the kitchen table.
Pat pulled the bottle of flavored creamer off one of the shelves and poured a generous portion into her coffee. Taking a spoon out of the drying rack on the counter, she briskly stirred the contents of her cup then lifted it to her lips. “Perfect,” she declared after swallowing. “Breakfast?”
“I think I’ll skip it until after I see Jillian,” Sherry responded.
“Are you that upset about seeing her?”
“Not upset… more anxious, I guess. Anyway… my stomach is a little queasy.”
“I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about,” Pat attempted to ease her lover’s doubts.
“What if she says I can’t play anymore, Pat?”
“Why would you think that? You’ve had one dizzy spell on the court… it’s not like you’ve been stumbling around off balance since camp started. Besides, what if she does say it— you can always continue coaching,” Pat said returning to the fridge to exchange the creamer for a carton of milk and two containers of yogurt.
“I don’t want to coach,” Sherry snapped.
Pat slowly turned to look at Sherry. “A little late to be telling me that now, isn’t it?”
“Sorry, that came out wrong,” Sherry apologized. She took a deep breath and held it for a moment before slowly releasing the trapped air. “What I meant is if I had to choose between coaching and playing, I would much rather play. Isn’t that what you would say if you had to choose?”
Pat shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
Pat shook her head. “If you had asked me a couple of years ago… yeah, I would have agreed that playing was what I wanted.”
“Now I know what being a coach is like.”
“So, you’d choose coaching?”
“I honestly don’t know… they both have good points and bad,” Pat said moving to the pantry to retrieve a box of Cheerios then grabbing a pair of spoons out of a drawer on her way back. She set the items on the table before opening a cupboard to take out two cereal bowls. “But one thing I do know… you are more important to me than either choice.”
Sherry smiled. “Thanks.”
“And I really doubt you’ll have to make any such decision today,” she said placing the bowls on the table then pulling out a chair to sit. “You need to eat,” she demanded pushing a bowl and spoon in front of Sherry who had yet to make any effort to do so herself.
“You’re awfully bossy today.”
“Do you have a problem with that?” Pat asked pouring cereal into her bowl.
Sherry picked up a spoon. “What if I do?” she asked brandishing the spoon at her smug lover in a threatening manner.
Pat pushed up from her chair just enough to lean over the corner of the table and kiss Sherry. “It’s only because I love you,” she said sitting back down.
Sherry grabbed one of the containers of yogurt and peeled off the foil lid. “You, my love, do not fight fair.”
Pat grinned. “I know.”
“This isn’t enough of a breakfast for you,” Sherry said after finishing off her yogurt. “You’ll burn more calories than this in the first ten minutes of practice.”
“It’ll have to do. Otherwise, we won’t have time for you to drop me off at the arena before you go to Jillian’s.”
“You could always drive yourself.”
Pat gasped. “And miss out riding in your new car?” she asked in mock shock.
Sherry laughed. “You’re impossible. And you need to eat more.”
“This from the woman who was planning to skip breakfast,” Pat groused.
“Only until after my appointment,” Sherry defended. “I figured I’d stop somewhere after I left Jillian’s office.
“Greasy ham and eggs is definitely not allowed on your approved diet.”
Sherry stuck out her tongue.”
“Watch where you point that,” Pat warned. “Seriously, get a good breakfast before you report… okay?
“Yes, dear. But only if you do the same.”
“I’ll forage through the lunch offerings as soon as the caterers drop them off.”
Sherry rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s healthy.”
Pat grinned. “I’m glad you agree.”
A few minutes before her appointed time, Sherry arrived at the medical center and was immediately ushered into the doctor’s private office instead of the anticipated exam room. “Good morning,” she greeted the engrossed woman sitting behind a large and cluttered desk.
Jillian looked up from the magazine she was reading. “Morning,” she replied with a smile. “Sit,” she said motioning to the pair of chairs opposite her desk.
Sherry motioned at the piles of magazines and papers on the doctor’s desk. “You look busy.”
“Professional journals and papers; they come so fast it’s hard to keep up with them.” Jillian made a half-hearted effort to clear a space in the middle of her desk before leaning back in her chair. “Let’s talk about concussions,” she got right to the point of her patient’s visit.
Sherry frowned. “If we have to,” she muttered settling back into the padded chair.
“They’re not anything to take lightly,” Jillian emphasized to her reluctant patient. “Tell me what’s going on with you.”
Sherry sighed. “I figured Lizzie would send you a report.”
“She did. But I want to it hear from you.”
Another sigh. “A few times, I’ve gotten dizzy when I’ve bent over.”
“What’s a few?”
“Two… maybe three.”
Sherry shook her head. “I don’t think so. I really don’t remember it happening any other times,” she said truthfully.
“Okay. Any problems with speech…?”
“Changes in your eyesight?”
“No,” Sherry snapped. “What’s with these questions? I got a little dizzy once or twice… it’s not a big deal.”
“It is a big deal, Sherry. Concussions can’t be brushed aside.”
“My concussion happened last year,” Sherry protested. “I haven’t had any problems until about a month ago. How do you even know the dizziness is related to the concussion?” she asked agitatedly.
Jillian smiled. “Are you pregnant?”
Sherry’s eyes narrowed as she glared at the amused doctor. “You know that’s not very likely.”
“Are you not feeling well? Sinus problems?”
“No,” Sherry replied in an annoyed tone.
“Then I think it’s most likely the concussion,” Jillian calmly told her patient. “Let’s take a step back and review what happened to you last year—”
“I fell on my head,” Sherry blurted.
“Yes, and when that happens your brain bounces around inside your skull. The problem with concussions is that they occur inside your head which means we don’t really know how much of an injury you suffered until you start experiencing symptoms. That can happen right away or it might take months, or even years.”
“Can’t you do a brain scan or something?”
“I could refer you to a neurologist who might order a CT scan as well as other tests. We might learn how severe your injury was but those tests won’t tell us what symptoms you might develop. That’s why it’s so important that you’re aware of what the possibilities are and you don’t try to hide it when something does happen.”
“I wasn’t hiding it… I just didn’t think anything about it at the time.”
“But now that you’re more informed, you’re going to be cautious if you experience something unusual… right?” Jillian ruffled through the papers on her desk, withdrawing a sheet from under a stack. “Take a look at this,” she said placing the drawing of a brain where Sherry could see it. “You landed on the back of your head… here,” she said pointing to occipital lobe area. “This area of the brain is where visual information is processed. That’s why I asked if you’ve experienced any problems with your eyesight.”
“When was your last eye exam?”
“Both Pat and I had one in July.”
“Any changes in your vision?”
“Good. But be aware if something does change, it’s important that you get it checked out immediately.”
“You landed on the back your head,” Jillian continued, “but, considering it was a hard impact, your brain most likely whip-lashed against the front of your skull… here.” She pointed to the frontal lobe area. “This is what controls your memory, your problem solving skills, your speech.”
“No problems with those, either,” Sherry said. “What about the dizziness?”
Jillian pointed to the brain area directly below the occipital lobe. “Your cerebellum controls your balance.”
“I’m confused… are you telling me that all of these areas of my brain were injured?”
“I’m trying to inform you of all the possibilities. You may never develop any other problems aside from occasional dizziness. At the same time, there’s a chance you might.”
Sherry studied the brain diagram then looked up at her doctor. “I hope you know that you’ve got me pretty freaked out right now.”
“Sorry about that. But if it wasn’t necessary I wouldn’t be telling you this.”
Sherry pushed the drawing aside then slumped back into the chair. “Now what? Do I get to play or not?”
“You get to play—”
“Great!” Sherry exclaimed bolting up from the chair.
“Whoa… not so fast,” Jillian stopped the impeding celebration. “Sit,” she ordered then waited for Sherry to comply. “I have a couple of conditions you’ll need to meet.”
Sherry frowned. “No doubt.”
Jillian laughed. “Did you have that impertinent attitude before you met Pat or has she rubbed off on you?”
Sherry couldn’t keep a smile from spreading on her face. “I think it’s a little of both,” she admitted. “What are your conditions?”
“First and foremost, your health is your number one priority— nothing comes before that; nothing… especially not basketball. I want you to keep a log. Write down when and where and what you were doing anytime you have a dizzy spell. When they happen, I want you to sit until you’re sure everything is back to normal. The last thing you need is to fall because you’re dizzy. Also, keep track of anything else out of the ordinary that happens. You can fax me a copy of your log every month.”
“No head doctor?”
“Based on what you’ve told me, I don’t think that’s necessary at this time. However, that may change if the dizzy spells increase or if new symptoms develop. But let’s not buy any problems.”
“And I want you to keep Elizabeth in the loop. If she sees a pattern developing, she’ll make sure you come back in to see me.”
“I could do that myself,” Sherry grumbled.
“She’s a good set of eyes and she’s trained in what to look for… you’re not.”
“Alright. Anything else?”
“Yes, if you become dizzy, even just a little bit, while you’re playing, you take yourself off the court. And you stay off until Elizabeth clears you to return.”
“Ah, come one, Jillian.”
“There’s no debate on this. You either do as I say or I tell Mac you are not cleared to play. The last thing you need to happen is to take another blow to your head.”
“Sheesh. That’s not going to happen.”
“Just do us both a favor and make sure you write down everything… no matter how insignificant you think it might be.”
Sherry stood. “I will... I promise,” she quickly added noting the dubious look she was receiving.
Jillian smiled then stood up. “Even if it wasn’t for the best of reasons, it was good to see you. Give my best to your grumpier half.”
Sherry chuckled. “I will,” she said then turned for the door.
“One thing to keep in mind,” Jillian stopped her. “They say that it’s the second concussion that kills you… so, please, if you’re dizzy… sit. No more head bouncing; but if it should happen, get to the closest emergency room pronto.”
“Oh, boy… I didn’t need to hear that.”
“Yes, you did.”
After entering the building from the parking area, Sherry trotted down the long corridor and into the arena. She immediately saw that Pat was working on rebounding with the forwards and post players at the near end of the court while, at the far end, Kelley was working with the guards on double teaming skills. She wasn’t surprised when Pat’s, Kelley’s, and many of the players’ heads turned in her direction with questioning looks on their faces. Without breaking stride, she flashed a smile and double thumbs up gesture at them.
Pat smiled then pointed down the court. “Coach Stockley, I need you up here,” she called to Kelley.
“Everything good?” Kelley asked when she and Sherry met at mid-court.
“Yeppers,” Sherry replied cheerfully. “Thanks for filling in for me.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Kelley responded before hurrying down the court to her impatiently waiting head coach.
Pete met Sherry at the three point arc. “So?” she asked anxiously.
“I’m cleared to play.”
“Good to hear,” Pete said after blowing out a relieved breath.
“How are we doing here?” Sherry asked. The guards had been split into groups of three; as one dribbled from the end line to mid-court and back, the other two kept up a pressing defense attempting to hinder her progress.
“It’s going as well as can be expected,” Pete replied.
“I don’t know about you but most of us haven’t played a lot of full court press for a full game. I mean, sure at the end of a half, or trying to break a run but not for a full game. It’s only noon and we’re exhausted.”
Sherry patted her friend on the arm. “Well, three things to consider, Boston is at sea level so the oxygen won’t be so thin. And, two, you won’t be playing the full game. You, me, and the rest of the guards will be trading off.”
“You forgot number three.”
“Coach wants it done.”
Pete grinned. “And that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?”
“You got that right.”
A sharp whistle blast interrupted them.
“Let’s break for lunch,” Pat called out.
Pete looked up at the arena clock. “Wow, she’s twenty minutes early,” Pete observed with a grin. “I can’t imagine why,” she teased her friend.
Pat led Sherry and Kelley into her office, each carrying plates of food and bottles of cold water. None of them were surprised to find Lizzie leaning against the coach’s desk when they entered.
“Hungry, Lizzie?” Pat asked moving around the trainer to drop into her chair. “There’s a lot of yummie stuff today.”
Pushing off the desk, Lizzie shifted to face the trio of coaches. “Isn’t this your second time through?” she asked checking out the food on their plates.
“Yes,” Pat mumbled around a bite of salad. “And it may not be my last,” she added. “What’s up? Sherry was cleared to play, wasn’t she?”
“With conditions,” Lizzie replied.
“Oh?” Pat glanced at Sherry in concern.
“I was getting around to telling you,” Sherry said.
“Not fast enough,” Pat complained. “What’s the problem?” she asked Lizzie.
“Don’t panic. It’s not as serious as you’re thinking. She needs to keep a written record of anytime she has a problem—”
“What a pain,” Sherry grumbled.
“But you’ll do it, won’t you?” Lizzie asked.
“Yeah, I’ll do but it’s still a pain.”
“What’s the second?” Pat asked apprehensively.
“She gets dizzy, she sits.”
“You mean sit as in sit?” Pat asked gesturing at the chair beneath her.
“Yes, until the dizziness clears. And if it happens during a game, she comes out… immediately.”
Pat looked at Sherry. “Don’t get dizzy during games,” she commanded waving her fork at her.
“I mean it, Pat,” Lizzie insisted. “No fooling around.”
Pat leaned back in her chair. “If that’s what she needs to do, then she’ll do it. Game or not. Anything else?”
Lizzie shook her head then turned for the door. “Enjoy your lunches,” she said walking out of the office.
“Well, that could present a problem if we’re in a tight game,” Kelley noted after Lizzie left.
“No, it won’t,” Sherry countered.
“Listen up,” Pat interrupted her assistant coaches. “We’re going to do exactly what Lizzie said and I don’t want to hear any arguments. You get dizzy during practice or a game,” she said sternly, “you’re going off the court.”
“Ah, come on, Pat—”
“No, Sherry. If it happens during a game, we’ll deal with the consequences but I don’t want you on the court if you’re dizzy. If I can’t trust you to let us know if it happens, I’ll bench you right now. Got me?” Pat demanded.
Sherry sighed. “Yeah, I got you, Coach.”
After lunch, Pat had divided the players into two squads for a full court scrimmage.
“That’s it,” Pat called out to the players on the court. “Great put back, Dimchek,” she praised the rookie after she jumped for a rebound, tipping the ball into the basket without returning to the floor first. “That’s how I want to see it happen.”
“Rotate,” Kelley shouted. During the scrimmage, she had been continually substituting players. Normally, the Cougars rarely played more than seven or eight players a game so it was important for the others to be able to adjust quickly to sharing the court with different teammates.
Sherry, Pete, and Amie ran to the far end line.
“Go,” Pat yelled.
Sherry started her dribble. She feigned a cut to the right but Pete and Amie stayed right on her. She stutter-stepped to her left, dribbling the ball between her legs to change hands. A quick step back to the right forced Amie to backpedal to avoid fouling. Sherry changed directions again creating a gap between herself and Amie, she charged upcourt.
Pete quickened her steps to get in front of Sherry and allow Amie to get back into position.
Sherry grinned. “Not today,” she said spinning to her left to leave Pete a half step behind her. She angled toward mid-court forcing her defenders to run further to catch her.
Karam left her position at the top of the key to run toward Sherry.
Seeing that Jackson had failed to follow Karam, Sherry passed her the ball.
Karam spun around to find Pat had slid over to guard her. She quickly scanned the court between herself and the basket.
Jade was running a crossing pattern at the bottom of the key with Latesha guarded her.
Val shuffled to her left and blocked Latesha’s path.
Karam fired the ball to the momentarily unguarded Jade.
Pushing up from the floor, Jade caught the ball, twisted in mid-air and shot a perfect twelve foot jumper.
Pat’s whistle blew. “Good work,” she told Karam standing in front of her. “You found your open teammate. Nice shot, Jade.” The coach turned to Pete and Amie. “You’re going to have to do better than that against Stephens.”
“We know, Coach,” Pete replied dolefully.
Pat nodded then turned to her troublesome rookie. “They were able to make that shot, Jackson, because you were slow to follow your player. But you recovered well and shifted over to guard Hudson. That’s good work.”
Surprised by the compliment when she had expected the opposite, Jackson smiled. “Thanks, Coach.”
“Okay,” Pat addressed the team, “that’s it for today. Hold on,” she called out when some of the players started for the locker room. “Tomorrow, we start practice at the same time. We’ll run until lunch. Our bus will pick us up at one to take us to the airport. We’ll get in late to Boston and won’t be able to practice until Thursday morning— we’ll have to make sure that time counts. The Boston game starts at five and we’ll be flying directly to New York after the game. I don’t like the timing,” she said when a few players protested, “but I don’t make up the schedules so we’ll deal with it. Okay, hit the showers, go home, and get some sleep.”
“Can I interest you in a steak dinner?” Sherry asked Pat. The pair was sitting in the head coach’s office reviewing player stats and scouting reports for Boston and New York.
Pat looked up from the pages spread out on her desk. “It’s late.”
“And I’m starving,” Sherry said then stood up and dropped a stack of papers on Pat’s desk. “Come on. I’m too tired to cook tonight so let’s go someplace where we can sit and be served. And you can leave one of your famous big tips and make a waitress very happy.”
To Be Continued...
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