Pushing through the self doubt: how a DV freshman earned her spot on Varsity Basketball


Shalini Rajkumar

Freshmen Shalini Rajkumar had to prove herself on DVHS’s Varsity basketball Team.

Shalini Rajkumar, a freshman on the women’s varsity basketball team, reflects on her past season and first year at DV, both as a player and as a student. 

Rajkumar started playing basketball when she was in third grade because she saw her friend play it. “I just copied her. I was just such a very unoriginal kid,” Rajkumar said. “From then on, I thought, ‘Hey, this is cool,’ and I just continued.”

Basketball soon became not just a fun activity for her, but an active hobby. However, despite her love for this sport, Rajkumar never thought about trying out for the high school team. 

“I never really thought straight-on that I should try out. I went to open gyms over the summer, and then I decided to try out and see where it [would take me,” Rajkumar said. 

As one thing led to another, Rajkumar found herself at the gym doors for the women’s basketball tryouts. Rajkumar was “just utterly terrified” and even sat on her couch three hours before tryouts to process what she was getting herself into. 

Having been pushed past her limits, Rajkumar was exhausted after tryouts. But it all paid off; on the third day of tryouts each girl was pulled aside one-on-one with the coaches to hear their results. Even with what her teammates described as an outstanding individual performance, she was unsure of where this would place her among the other players. 

“All the other nine players right here were called in before me, so it could swing either way, whether I was varsity or JV,” Rajkumar commented.

The cards played out in Rajkumar’s favor as she was selected for varsity. But it also came with a catch: she was to be given a two-week trial to see if this was the team for her or if JV would be a better fit. Hoping not to “psych herself out,” Rajkumar asked around the team only to find out that she would be the only one on the team to be tested to this extent. It was alarming to hear, but she knew that if she wanted to be a school athlete, she’d have to work for it.

Pushing the self doubt out of her mind, it finally seemed as though everything was falling into place. She was getting comfortable playing on the court, and she got to know teammates and her coaches a little more. But on the sixth day of her trial, she sprained her ankle. Not one that could heal with a good night’s sleep, but a sprain that kept Rajkumar off the court for eight days.

As someone who was quite literally playing to prove her spot on the team, this news was “heartbreaking” and “devastating.” She was unable to play, and that just planted seeds of self doubt in her own mind.

“So this was terrifying because my trial was over. I mean, I psyched myself out so much. I thought, ‘I’m not gonna be able to do this.’ It was terrifying, and then fast forward and [the coaches] both told me one day,  ‘We’ve decided to keep you on the varsity team,’” said Rajkumar.

Even with an ankle that wasn’t back to perfect, the long consistent effort that went into Rajkumar’s preparation for the season permanently gave her the position she wanted. Regardless, whether it’s being in a room or a basketball court full of people who are older than you, it’s intimidating.

“When it’s all upperclassmen, it’s nerve wracking,” said Rajkumar. As the season progressed, Rajkumar found that her first instinct wasn’t to characterize everyone by their grade level as she once did, but rather treat them like regular friends.

Every player’s goal has been evidently to win or make it to the playoffs. But Rajkumar’s personal goal was to improve her confidence on the court. After a startling beginning of the season, Rajkumar’s confidence heavily relied on relationships with her teammates. 

Now that the season is over, Rajkumar reflects on the team altogether: “after winning and losing games together, we all bonded and [my teammates] and the coaches really helped me a lot and I’m so thankful for it.”

While first starting off the season with an injury and a place to prove herself, Rajkumar found that the supportive teammates was all she really needed to excel.