Why We Play: Ariella Rosenthal, Basketball

Senior guard/forward Ariella Rosenthal drives to the hoop in one of last season’s games against Skidmore College. She is looking forward to beginning her senior campaign. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Vassar is fortunate to have so many talented and dedicated student-athletes on campus. This year, The Miscellany News would like to highlight the voices and stories of these athletes. “Why We Play” will be a weekly installment in the Sports section where Vassar players will have the opportunity to speak about what their chosen sport means to them. This week, we are excited to have senior women’s basketball captain Ariella Rosenthal write about how she fell in love with the game and the little moments that make it all worth it.

I was an eighth grader sitting in my advisory class when my teacher asked us to write down a short-term and a long-term goal we had for ourselves. I jotted down two things: 1) I want to make varsity basketball as a freshman and 2) I want to play basketball in college.

The only thing that was on my mind was basketball. The only thing I was certain of back then was basketball. The only thing I am certain of now is basketball.

For me, the future is a wild frenzy of ideas that intimidates and stresses me out, and while it is an uneasy thing for me, athletics and basketball have allowed me to be present in this very moment every time I step onto the court.

I remember the day I sold my soul to basketball and never looked back. I was a fifth grader who enjoyed juggling soccer, basketball and ballet classes all within the same week. But eventually, my mom sat me down and told me I either needed to drop basketball or quit ballet. I am not a quitter (and I hate making decisions), so having to make that choice pained me to my core. But I knew what I needed to do for myself.

I had—and will always have—basketball blood flowing through my veins.

My love for this game goes beyond the glory moments you watch on ESPN’s “30 for 30”, the buzzer-beating shots that riddle your Instagram feeds and the championship moments every player dreams of.

My love for this game is deeper than that. It goes beyond the bright lights and packed-bleacher games. It is about the moments I spend in the gym alone. When all I can hear is the ball going through the net, the dribble of “the rock” and the screech of rubber against wood as I make a hard cut.

I love those moments when it’s me and a basketball, and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to exist.

I would be lying to you, however, if I said the big moments didn’t matter. That’s what every competitive athlete dreams of: cutting down a net, winning a championship and celebrating with your forever friends who are your teammates. But I can tell you, as someone who lost four back-to-back championships from fifth to eighth grade against the same team (can you tell I’m still bitter?) and continued my championship losing streak my senior year of high school on a last-second shot, the little moments count more. I wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t.

I don’t remember the final score of many, or any, of my games, lost or won, but I can recount the ridiculous memories I have with my teammates, the competitive practices that leave me with a smile on my face and the difficult mental blocks I overcame that have shaped me into the person and player I am today.

The question of why I play, why I put my body on the line, why I spend countless hours practicing something so arbitrary as putting a ball in a basket, why I pour my heart and soul into an athletic endeavor, is unexplainable. But I can try to make sense of it.

I play for the moments I share with my dad on a beautiful day as he rebounds the ball for me before telling me he’s “still got it” after drilling shot after shot. I play for the relationships I have with my current and former coaches who have shaped me into the player and person I am today, who have pushed me to my breaking point and who have praised me when they see my hard work pay off. I play for the one-on-one games I have with my brothers for bragging rights at the next family dinner (and to all their friends). I play for the opportunity to grow as a player, leader, friend, coach andpersoneverytimeIplay.Most importantly, I playforthefriendshipsIhaveformedthroughthe shared experiences and camaraderie I hold with my teammates.

Finally, I play for the never-ending, indescribable love I have for the game of basketball.

Ariella Rosenthal wrote her name in the women’s basketball record books last year, as she becomes only the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 points. Ariella and her best friends hope to capitalize on her senior season, and tip-off first against William Patterson on November 15. If you are a student-athlete interested in writing a reflective piece on your sport, please email Sports editors Robert Pinataro and Mack Liederman at rpinataro[a]vassar.edu and mliederman[a]vassar.edu.


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