Hoops and Ladders

By Caitlin Stover

As I walk in, my heart is racing. Over and over again, I remind myself of the early mornings, the late nights, the exhaustion. I remember the dreams, the fears and the passion behind today.

In my anxious state, the doubts creep in. Do I belong here?

Looking around, I see that talent surrounds me: It hangs in the air as a palpable reminder of the hours and hours of preparation that these individuals have put in. I picture the blood, the sweat, the tears and the sacrifices that have been made to be here today.

“Do I belong here?” I ask myself.

Taking a deep breath, I smile. Of course I belong here. I worked harder than I ever thought possible, day in and day out, to be sure there would be no doubt of that.

Comforted by the presence of those beside me, I embrace the strength of my team — my community. We have struggled together and grown together. We belong here.

Shaking off the anxiety, I begin to relax and refocus as the familiar flood of adrenaline arrives: It’s game time.

I imagine that walking into finals at the end of the semester will feel a lot like the situation I just described, one which, as a former collegiate athlete, I am very familiar with.

Sitting here in the law library, feelings of disbelief are setting in. Exactly one year ago today, law school and a career in the legal profession first crossed my mind. At the time, I was three years into a career in the investment industry and longing to fill a void left by a (fairly) recent breakup with basketball. Searching for a challenge that would give me purpose, provide me with a sense of community and push me out of my comfort zone as basketball had done for so many years, I found my answer here within the halls of Colorado Law.

While I knew this path would be a rewarding and challenging new chapter, I wasn’t prepared for how much it would mirror the best parts of being an athlete. Allow me to explain.

My first year of college basketball was humbling. I was no longer the best player every time I stepped on the court; to my chagrin, sometimes I wasn’t even the best player on the bench. My lack of agility and athleticism often meant I was a liability on defense.

Surrounded by talent that far surpassed my own, I decided that I would do nothing during the offseason but get better, faster and stronger. My teammates’ abilities inspired me to push past my own barriers and, returning to the start of my sophomore year of college, I broke every single conditioning record the team had. Later, I was awarded “Most Valuable Defensive Player,” an honor given to the quickest, most aggressive defensive player. With nothing more than determination and a community of motivated individuals, I transformed from a liability into the best defender on the court.

My experience at law school feels a lot like that first year of college basketball: I am surrounded by individuals who are smarter, sharper and more accomplished than myself. Once again, I am humbled by peers with talents that far surpass my own.

There aren’t words to adequately express how much this realization excites me. If my time as a student–athlete taught me nothing else, I learned the value of being part of something larger — and better — than myself.

Surrounding ourselves with competitive, motivated and highly capable individuals in a common environment has an astounding effect: We inspire each other to work harder, persevere longer and push farther than we would ever think possible individually. Together, we raise the bar for ourselves and for each other.

I have found that type of environment here at Colorado Law. Above all else, the sense of community and camaraderie celebrated within these walls tells me I have found my new team.

Practice and preparation will undoubtedly fill our weeks and months ahead, and I look forward to sharing the experience with my classmates. Hopefully, by the end of this crazy ride they call “1L,” we will have also won some games. D

Caitlin Stover is a 1L at the University of Colorado Law School and can be reached at caitlin.stover@colorado.edu.

Previously published in The Docket.