To The Coach Who Tried To Kill My Passion

To The Coach Who Tried To Kill My Passion, I Don't Let Bullies Win

I thought people were supposed to improve over time. Five years later and you are just as much of a bully.

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Growing up, I tried out so many different sports. Basketball. Baseball. Soccer. Track. I liked them, I truly did, but I did not love any of them. It was not until the 6th grade that I found my true passion, volleyball, all because my friends invited me to a YMCA open gym thing. From then until senior year of high school, I lived and breathed volleyball. Instead of dividing my year up by the four seasons, I divided it up by the volleyball seasons — school season, club season, and camp season. Every night I would be practicing or playing until 9 or 10 in the evening and would stay up into the middle of the night to finish my homework.

It was tiring, but it was so worth it.

Every time that I stepped onto the court, it was like I was an entirely different person. All of the thoughts rushing through my head stopped and I just played. I raced around the court diving after ever spike, jumping up to the net to block a hit, and chasing after shanked balls. One time, I had one of my teachers come up to me after the game telling me that, while I was kind of quiet in the classroom, I became an absolute animal on the court.

I was a good player. I was not the best player ever, but I was a very talented player. I worked hard and, well, it paid off. Volleyball was a giant sector of my life.

I have had numerous coaches throughout my years of playing volleyball — school coaches, club coaches, and private coaches. Many of the coaches I had helped further my passion for the game. They would spend their time improving our techniques, focusing both on improving us as players as well as an entire team. These coaches focused on the positive aspects of a player and saw mess-ups as room for improvement instead of as a lack of talent. I still remember one of my very first varsity practices during my sophomore year of high school where, in front of the entire team after practice, my coach told me that I had the most passion and hustle on the entire team.

With the good always comes the bad, that is just the balance of the world. However, there is one coach in particular who almost ruined the entire sport for me. To them, I want to say this:

You tried to ruin me. You tried so hard. You played favorites and I was never one of them. Even when I was co-captain my senior year, you gave me no rights, not respect, and no opinion. Instead, you listened to your favorites who were more focused on partying and less focused on the workouts I was trying to run. Every time we had a game, I would have players and people in the stands asking me why I was sitting on the sidelines instead of playing. I would come home after practices and games crying why I was never the chosen one; why I was never good enough.
You tried to strip me of my self-worth.
You tried to make me think I was useless.
Just because I was trying to be a player and not have a friendship, you automatically hated me. I am not saying friendships are a bad thing, but the ones you formed were inappropriate. After the school season ended junior year, I thought I was broken. I was dreading going to my club tryouts, all because of you. Luckily, I met two amazing coaches who re-lit my passion for the game. The passion you tried to eliminate.
Your absolute goal was to drive me down; their absolute goal was to build me back up again. I prayed that you would get better, but you have not. You still bully my sister the same way that you bullied me. I am trying to teach her that her self-worth and abilities do not depend on what you say, the very same thing that my parents and other coaches had to teach me five years ago. It is one thing to treat me poorly, but it is another thing to treat my little sister poorly. I wish I could tell you in person everything I am thinking, but I hope instead you get a chance to read this. I am not thankful for the pain that you put me and others through, but I am thankful that I learned that your opinion does not define me.

Sports should not be a "political" game. They should not be about playing favorites. Sports should be about improving each individual player and optimizing upon their abilities. They should be about playing the players correctly in order to have winning games and, thus, a winning season. Sports should be fun, they should not be dreaded.

If you have a coach who is draining you of your passion, just remember this: your abilities and your self-worth does not depend on what other people think of you. It especially does not depend on what a bully thinks of you.

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11 Things Fastpitch Softball Players Know To Be True

You'll never remember your Facebook password, but you'll remember softball cheers for the rest of your life.
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There comes a time in every little girl's life when she must come to terms with the fact that she will never play Major League Baseball. So, she turns to softball. From tee-ball to coach-pitch to travel ball, to playing on your school team, softball has played a crucial role in your life. It taught you the value of teamwork, the importance of sunscreen, and introduced you to your best friends. For former and current fastpitch players alike, these truths are universal.

1. The rays of a thousand suns couldn't even out your tan lines.

Tan arms and a V-neck tan line is the unofficial uniform of the softball player. Years after you stop playing softball, at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of every month when the sun is shining through your bathroom window at a 90-degree angle, you'll swear you can still see the slightest hint of a racerback tan line between your shoulders. Good luck finding a flattering sundress!

2. Pitchers are a different breed of human.

It's a tale as old as time: You saw that the pitchers got to skip all of the intense drills at practice so they can go off to the side with the catcher to chat and have a catch for an hour and you said, "I gotta get in on that." So, your dad paid for your pitching lessons, you mimicked Jennie Finch as best as you could, and three years later, you're contemplating changing your name just to forget about that time you spent as a pitcher. Successful pitchers must have no other interests, future career goals, or a family who loves them because pitching just destroys everything you believe in. If you do survive being a pitcher, congratulations, because you are now fully equipped with nerves of steel that will allow you to conquer the worst that life has to throw at you.

3. An 8 a.m. game on Sunday means you had a really bad Saturday.

Where is the most tranquil and somber place that people often go to on Sunday mornings to reflect on their wrongdoings? No, not church. It's the softball field. When you have to be at the field before the sun, you start thinking irrationally, like "Maybe if I used the Demarini instead of the Stealth in the third inning of the second game yesterday we would've only lost by six runs instead of seven which would have put us in the winner's bracket!" Have fun running a lap for every error you made the day before.

4. If the other team is wearing shorts, you know you're going to win.

There's just so much leg! Shorts and softball go together like ketchup and strawberry jelly, as in, that's what your knees are going to look like if you even attempt to slide wearing a pair of shorts. Don't even get me started on the tan line from mid thigh to mid shin. You know the one. This is the big leagues, ladies, put on some pants.

5. If you aren't dirty after a game, you didn't play hard enough.

If you don't come home from a tournament, look in the mirror, and go, "Wow I got a good tan today!" only to take a shower and find out that it was all just dirt, then you probably missed that slide sign from the third base coach when you were rounding second.

6. Cheers are a necessary evil.

Cheering in softball is like having a dead-end job that you hate; it's unfulfilling, robs you of your dignity, and tires you out, but you have to do it anyway. You'll never remember your Facebook password, your parents' anniversary, or that you left your laundry in the washer, but you'll remember softball cheers for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you fall into the water and bump your little head like that damn froggy.

7. Pre-wrap is a hot commodity in the dugout.

"I'll trade you a bag of Ranch sunflower seeds for your light blue pre wrap."

"No way, I had to get my mom to drive me to three different Sports Authority's last night just to find this color!"

8. You may get along with other teams between games, but they are not your friends on the field.

It's perfectly normal to meet another player in line for the bathroom at a tournament, compliment her on her cheetah print hair ribbon, and then trash talk her on the field half an hour later. You can make it up to her by giving her a high five and a poignant smile in the handshake line after the game.

9. If you get hit by a pitch and there aren't lace marks in your skin, it's really just a waste of time.

You love being able to showcase your bruises at school on Monday when all of your non-softball friends ask, "Does it hurt to get hit with a fastball?" and you can coolly and calmly answer, "Nah." Bruises up your street cred, and lace marks are just bonus points. So, when you don't have any stitching embedded in your skin, you wish you could just have the chance to bat. Take your base.

10. When the bat meets the ball juuuuuust right, it is the most powerful feeling in the world.

Your dad was right when he told you to keep your head down when you swing. You always thought that the "sweet spot" of the bat was just a myth until you hit your first home run. The rush of adrenaline will make you feel so powerful that you'll try to see if you can pick up a car in the parking lot with your bare hands after the game, but you still can't.

11. You will always consider your team to be your best friends.

After spending every weekend together, you and your team create a bond so close that it borders on uncomfortable. You may take out your frustrations on each other from time to time like when someone steps on the freshly chalked line before the game, or when you all fight over the ball with the best, most prominent laces for your warm up toss. But at the end of the day, your team will always be the biggest bunch of weirdos you know, and that is irreplaceable.

Cover Image Credit: Art Mad

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Andy Ruiz Jr. May Not Look Like The Typical Boxer, But It Doesn't Make His Victory Any Less Deserved

Andy Ruiz Jr. just proved that dreams can come true.

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On June 1, boxing fans witnessed something special as Andy 'Destroyer' Ruiz Jr. defeated Anthony Joshua via TKO after going seven rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion of the world. Ruiz Jr. (33-1) was a heavy underdog (+1100) heading into the match-up with Joshua (22-1) but ultimately flipped the script to hand the British fighter his first professional loss ever. Surely the fight will go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Some members of the media and fans have been quick to label the fight as a 'fluke' and 'rigged' which in the end is no surprise to me. That always happens in the sports world. Many did not believe we would get this result yet failed to remember the one rule of sports -- expect the unexpected. Over the past week, I've been coming to the defense of Ruiz Jr. in the wake of others choosing to call him a joke.

I was shocked and surprised to hear two of my favorite sports analysts, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe, make fun of Ruiz Jr. and frame him as just a guy that looked like 'Butterbean.' When I viewed their tweets on social media it honestly made me upset. Sure, Ruiz Jr. may not have fit the mold of what a professional boxer should look like, but they simply should not have just judged a book by its cover.

Personally, I thought it was disrespectful for Smith and Sharpe to throw shade at Ruiz Jr. in the way they did. I felt like they should have done a better job of acknowledging the winner considering the result of the match. Yet choosing to bash someone because of their physical composition appeared like a low blow. The very foundation of sports allows people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds to compete -- that's why most people follow them in the first place.

Smith was open behind his reasoning for his tweets in which I'd like to shed some light on. Smith was upset about how boxing time after time contains elements of corruption with fans having to wait years until promoters schedule big fights. He along with other followers of the sport were looking forward to the highly anticipated yet potential future match-up between Joshua and fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder. Smith believes that by Ruiz Jr. beating Joshua it essentially diminished the chances of that fight ever happening with the same amount of buildup, but that still doesn't provide any excuse for mocking the new heavyweight champ.

Ruiz Jr. was there for a reason and ultimately seized the opportunity that was right in front of him -- that's not his fault for getting the job done. Just because someone doesn't look like the part doesn't mean they don't possess the same qualities and characteristics as their counterparts. The following pair of videos display the amount of talent Ruiz Jr. does have in the ring. Even fellow boxer Canelo Alvarez and former UFC lightweight/featherweight champion Conor McGregor acknowledge that and have come out to say something on their behalf.

Unfortunately, I don't expect much to change because most will stand their ground and continue to behave the same way. All I'm saying is I did not enjoy some of the top figures within sports media stereotyping Ruiz Jr. based on his looks. I would think that we would be better than that and recognize that anyone can accomplish something great in this world. It all just starts with a simple dream.

I understand and respect other people's takes on this subject, maybe I'm looking into things deeper than what they are, but it struck a chord with me and I felt the need to say something about it.

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