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.