Since third grade, my winters have been predictable. They smell like the dusty, chilled air of school gyms across the state of Connecticut. They sound like the recognizable squeaking of sneakers and the earthquake-like pounding of a Spalding basketball. They feel like riding a bike or slipping into a pair of broken-in, heavily worn shoes: comfortable. Beginning with my days as No. 9 on the Pink Team for Wilton’s Rec league, the events of the four months following Thanksgiving have been a mainstay — Christmas vacation, school work, and February break all secondary to the whirlwind of late-night practices, ever-present washing machine spins, and carbo-loading team dinners. So it’s that time of year again, and my excitement begins. But this year, I need to break in two new pairs of shoes — only one of which is my actual pair of basketball sneakers. They’re my favorite shade of Warrior blue and decorated with slithering snakes — a not-so-subtle ode to my well-known love for Taylor Swift. The other pair of shoes, perhaps more symbolic, is the change I’ll feel this season — a newness I’m hopeful to “break in” along with my Nikes.

For the front-to-back Wilton Bulletin readers out there, you may recall the success of our varsity girls basketball program last year. We won — a lot. Our FCIAC winning streak ended with a hard-fought loss to the Trumbull Eagles in the final game. However, what you probably don’t know is that we shared a tight-knit camaraderie throughout the season — and beyond. Seniors, freshmen, coaches, parents, and everyone in between could not deny our genuine friendship — something I’ve found is not always the case in high school sports. Each of us agrees our success was a direct result of this undeniable team bond. At the helm, was our coach of three years — perhaps a more active supporter of all of us than anyone understood. But as seasons always do, our run came to an end on March 1st, and we turned the page with eyes on next winter.

What I didn’t find, though, in the months that preceded my next (and final) basketball season was a sense of comfort. Our eight seniors, more than half the team, graduated with the Class of 2018. Our always-dependable coach took his dream job at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and subsequently resigned. Thankfully, our new coach is highly experienced and incredibly enthusiastic. But the usual feelings of comfort associated with my winters left Wilton with the cars and planes headed to various colleges across the country. Change, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is unsettling. I’ve come to realize that as scary as it can be, I need to embrace it, and the endless possibilities that may follow. After all, in just a short nine months, my entire world will be filled with unknown faces, places, and dorm room color schemes.

So, I’m breaking in the shoes, and they’re a little different than my old ones. They’re not quite worn in yet, and I’m not sure if they’ll give me blisters. But I’ve hit the ground running, and with each passing defensive slide or three-pointer, the stiffness subsides. I’ve decided that I can fear change but should liken it to the initially challenging, but short-lived period, of breaking in my newest pair of shoes. I’m beginning to think these sneakers could be just as comfortable as the last.


Maddie Burke is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.