Drum Corps And Overcoming Myself

Drum Corps And Overcoming Myself

Sometimes, you truly are your own worst enemy.

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Late afternoons in Millbrook, Alabama were terrible. I learned that very quickly. The heat, the bugs, and the humidity were such a terrible mix. Dense grass and burnt, blistered hands made for grueling rehearsals. Surely through all this suffering I would be able to conquer anything, it seemed.

I was wrong. The biggest obstacle I'd ever face turned out, as cliché as it sounds, to be me.

My biggest obstacle - myself.Photo by Ruth Marek

I joined Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2017 season, and my rookie year would definitely showcase the impact of these negative thoughts. We were not even a week into tour when I first "broke." I had survived all-days, but once we hit the road, it seemed that I couldn't continue. That day, the pressures were particularly immense. I had been newly promoted to the marimba line, been given only nine days to learn the full show, and now we were on tour. Competition would start that very day. Needless to say, the odds were stacked against me. The grass on the field was extremely, almost unnaturally thick, making for a hellish and painful push. I'm already a small person, and of course only being a week or so into my rookie season, I didn't have the muscles for it yet. The sun was beating down on us; the temperature came close to 100 degrees. The marimba itself - yeah, the big thing I have to push around a field all day - was actually at least twice if not three times my size. On top of it all, we were under a time limit which, if violated, resulted in a penalty for the whole corps.

I could continue on for ages about all the external factors that made my experience difficult, but I would be completely ignoring the point. Those external factors made my experience difficult, not impossible. The factors weren't the problem itself. I was the problem. I didn't believe in myself. Negative thoughts thrive in negative environments. As such, the aforementioned circumstances resulted in a copious quantity of self-doubt, self-loathing, regret, and other wonderful feelings. My own negative thinking patterns created the problem.

How does one overcome oneself? It's almost paradoxical. In retrospect, I've struggled with myself for far longer than just in drum corps, and I still struggle today. But that sweltering day, in the middle of Millbrook, Alabama, I was given something that has helped me tremendously in my fight to extinguish my negative thinking patterns. That day, in the middle of my push onto the field, my legs locked up. My thighs were screaming, and I was pretty close to doing the same if I hadn't been biting down on my lip. I was leading the whole line of front ensemble onto the field, so I had to keep going. I tried to. But I couldn't.

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

I heard my section called out from the press box: "That's two minutes already! Front ensemble has thirty seconds to get set!"

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

The pain of pushing the board mixed with the pain of the humiliation I'd caused myself and my section. I began to cry. My technician, Kirstyn (whom you may remember from my previous article), ran to my side. Tears were streaming down my face, probably leaving streaks of sunscreen washed away. I thought she'd help me push. She didn't.

All she did was stare at me. I still remember her eyes, icy blue and filled with confidence, like she was willing it with everything she had to transfer to me. I remember sobbing. At this point, I'm still pushing, but barely. She said two words to me, and those two words changed my entire life: "Keep pushing."

I'd love to say that something clicked into place. I'd love to say that those two words filled me with strength and my speed skyrocketed, bringing me and my section to our place in time. It didn't happen like that, of course, but the fact that it didn't have some magical effect on me speaks to me. It shows that overcoming oneself has always been and will always be a long process, filled with successes and failures just like any other.

More than anything, those words fill me with hope. Hope that I can get through whatever obstacle I'm facing. Those words have become a sort of mantra for me, and I am immensely glad to have received that advice. I've taken on so much more in my life than ever before thanks to the hope it brings me.

If you're ever facing an obstacle, be it yourself or otherwise, keep pushing. You'll thank yourself after the fact.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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10 Life Lessons I Learned In The Saddle I Wouldn't Have Got Anywhere Else

From my first fall to my last lesson, I learned more in that arena than any classroom could ever teach me.

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My trainers taught me so much in and out of the arena and even though I no longer ride, the lessons that I learned will stick with me forever.

1. Keep your heels down, and your eyes up

My trainer always told me to keep my eyes fixed on where I want to go, and unless where I wanted to go was the ground I better keep my eyes up. Just like in riding, I always remind myself that unless I want to end up on the bottom I need to keep my focus on where I want to go in life.

2. Sometimes less is more

There are times when riding a horse when less is more, as riders, we sometimes think we need to go faster or pull on the reins more but ultimately that can cause more harm than good. There are moments in life when we assume we need to go all out in order for something to work when we really just need to find the right balance.

3. If you fall down get back up

The first time I fell off my trainer asked if I was ok and when I said yes she said: "ok good, get back on". I was confused assuming I would just stop for the day considering I just fell off a horse, but she made me get back on to finish my lesson. I honestly think that if she wouldn't have made me get back on and finish I wouldn't have become the rider or person I am today. Just because something goes wrong doesn't mean you give up, it means you try again and fix the mistakes you made the first time.

4. Practice makes perfect

When I started riding I was by no means talented. There were multiple times I wanted to quit because why would I do something I'm not great at? For some reason, I continued to ride, and when I say there was blood, sweat, and TEARS I mean it. There were times I would be on the horses back for 3 hours bawling my eyes out, but my trainers refused to let me quit. I started practicing more and more and it began to pay off, I started winning more and more 1st place ribbons.

5. There is always something new to learn

When I first started riding I thought "How hard could it be? All you gotta do is stay on the horse", but boy was I wrong. Even after years of riding thought, I had learned all I needed to know. I figured from that point all I had to do was perfect what I knew, and you bet I was shook when my trainer started talking about techniques that I had never even heard of before.

6. Life isn't fair

Sometimes life sucks and there's nothing you can do about it. There were multiple times when I rode to the best of my ability with completely clear rounds and still got 2nd or 3rd place. I had to learn that my placing didn't always mean I rode bad, it just meant that someone was simply better than me, or there was a fancier pony or something out of my control that I just had to accept.

7. Sometimes you need to let go

Something I heard a lot while riding was "let go" it was usually referring to someone who was holding the reins too tight. When you're holding the reins too tight it is hard for the horse to do it's job and makes it difficult to get where you need to go. When you let go and give the horse a little freedom it makes both you and the horses lives easier. It's the same way with people. sometimes it's better to let go.

8. Respect

My parents always taught me to respect the people around me, but when I started riding I gained a whole new meaning of the word. I had always correlated the word respect with adults, " respect your elders" or "Show your mom/dad some respect", but riding taught me it extends so much further than that. When you're riding a 2,000lbs animal there needs to be a certain level of respect towards it. At any point that horse could throw you off and do some serious damage.

9. Tough Love

There was a point in my riding career when I was so scared to fall off I would literally be curled up in a ball on the horses back. My trainer would beg me to do something and I would literally ignore her because I thought my way was better. It got to the point where she was so fed up with begging me that she got the other scary trainer to try and teach me. Now I'm a hard-headed person, but I have nothing on him. He would have me in tears every lesson (which sometimes lasted hours). At some point during the yelling and tears, he managed to make a decent rider out of me and I realized that sometimes a little tough love is all someone needs to breakthrough.

10. Let the sunshine in

Something I will never forget is the song Open Up Your Heart. My trainer used to play it as a joke to remind us to sit up and "open up (our) hearts and let the sunshine in". Most of the time he played this song and it meant that we had to drop our stirrups (if you're a rider then understand the torture) so it was only ironic that the next lyric of the song is "face it with a grin, smilers never lose, and frowners never win". Even though we were doing something most of us despised it was something we needed to learn and sure enough learning to ride without stirrups saved my butt so many times.

P.S. If you are looking for a hunter/jumper barn in the New Orleans area I recommend Tavia Equine Center they offer lessons for all ages and abilities.

To all my TEC friends past and present, I love and miss all of you. You all taught me so much throughout the years and I'm so thankful for each of you.

With love,

Thoody

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