Coming from East St. Louis, "the city where no one makes it" (one of many insulting things that some people say), being successful isn't exactly at the top of the list. East St. Louis has always been known for its negativity. Rarely do you see anything positive come out of East St. Louis.
I'm Yikita Williams, a power forward for East St. Louis Senior High School's girls basketball team. During our season, we faced many obstacles, such as disagreements, a lack of chemistry, some team members quitting and one that almost cost us our entire season where one player had an argument with our freshman coach that was videotaped and covered by the media.
"They're hoodlums. They don't deserve to travel. Their season should be over." These comments were among many of the hurtful things that outsiders began to say about us. They began judging us and they didn't even understand what was going on. After the incident with the player and coach, it created a distraction and we couldn't focus on the main goal, which was to win our games. Everything felt like it was falling apart and that we had no control.
As a team, we were embarrassed, humiliated, and belittled, and many other emotions were racing through our minds. We knew there had to be a change, but we also understood that we must first start with ourselves. We began to think we were stronger than the hatred. We began to say to ourselves, "We will be more than just a statistic and we won't be labeled."
It took dedication, tears, pain, endless nights and prayer to even bring us back afloat. We began bonding more as a team through countless hours at the gym. We did extra suicides (exercise drills that are run on the entire basketball court to increase court speed and agility). We put in more than enough time in defense slides. More importantly, we sat down and talked about everything that had happened this season and then we let it go -- all the animosity, misunderstandings, everything. We understood what the goal was and that became our only focus. What people had to say about us didn't matter. We knew who we were and nobody, not even society, could tell us different.
After putting in the effort that it takes to rebound from all the challenges and obstacles that we faced, on Feb. 20 all of our hard work paid off. We became the Southwestern Regional champions and ended our season with a 16-11 record. We did everything they said we wouldn't be able to do.
Being from East St. Louis shouldn't make you feel as though you have nothing. It should make you want to chase after everything. East St. Louis has always been targeted and attacked, but we are the Flyers, and just like a plane must do, we must fly.