Opinion: My last farewell to the Big Gym

Matthew Fogarty, Author

It has been exactly 21 days since I last exited the locker room of the Big Gym in a Palo Alto High School uniform and walked onto the court for what could be the last basketball game of my life.

Many young children dream of playing professional sports, but my dream was different.

My dream was to play basketball for Paly in the same gym that hosted countless numbers of students and players before me.

Being raised in Palo Alto my entire life, the one thing I wanted to do before I left for college was to make that walk.  The first time I ever stepped foot onto the Big Gym floor, I was an elementary school student playing for a National Junior Basketball team.  The last time I ever stepped, and will ever step, on that floor was as a senior starter who had already been admitted to college.

I mention this because the Paly gym has played such a crucial role in my development not only as a basketball player, but also as a person.

Playing basketball in the gym hasn’t just been about winning games.  It’s been about building character and learning determination.

I had my fair share of moments when I wanted to quit playing, but every time I had a doubt in my mind I thought back to the day when I first shot a basketball into the south-facing hoop and dreamed of the day I would get to do it again in a varsity uniform.  Whether it was barely making the freshman team in ninth grade and doubting I could earn playing time or sitting on the bench my entire junior season, the dream of playing in the gym gave me the mental toughness that I needed to succeed not only on the hardwood, but in life.

The seemingly endless practices and film sessions my junior year preparing for games that I wouldn’t play in taught me to be patient, trust in the process and wait for my time.

It took me awhile to realize that I had achieved my childhood dream.

I walked out to a gymnasium full of people and we beat our crosstown rival, Gunn High School.

I was a Viking, representing my school and community, every time I stepped foot on the court.

The night before my last home game, I sat in bed unable to sleep and thought about everything that the gym had given me: It gave me a space to clear my mind when I was having a bad day, it gave me something to look forward to, and it fostered friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

When the gym comes down in May, I will be losing a building that holds a special place in my heart, but I will never lose the memories, friendships and values that came with my time playing for Paly under its roof.

I would like to thank the Big Gym for everything it provided, and all of the people who supported me in my last four years at Paly.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity I had to play in front of my fellow students and community members.