I Only Played Football For One Month, But The Passion And Hard Work Changed Me

I Only Played Football For One Month, But The Passion And Hard Work Changed Me

It was just one month of learning how to play a sport I had only ever watched. It was just one month of learning the importance of leadership, inclusiveness, and community.

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A decades-old tradition in my small, beachside town; the annual charity flag football game. The senior girls from my town get to play the senior girls from our rival town on one stressful Saturday morning before Thanksgiving.

When explaining this event to outsiders, it seems like just a fun thing that no one will take seriously. What is unexpected, is the amount of passion and hard work that is put into this event.

Beginning in October, we spent two hours each school night practicing. Senior year is not easy. Taking two hours out of your night to run around in the dark originally seemed like a waste of time to me. Then, we started practicing.

We started each practice in the dark, and we ended each practice in the dark. We ran, we laughed, we fell, we got up. I soon found myself loving the game of football itself, and I was putting all of my efforts into it. What I don't think I was expecting, however, was the friendships I was soon to make.

By senior year, you've most likely changed who your close friends are tons of times. There were also some girls that I have seen in passing in the halls for years, but I've never gotten to know. When we were all put on a team together, it didn't matter what "clique" you were in or what you're hobbies were, we were a team.

I began rekindling friendships with people that I use to be close with. I finally talked to that shy girl from my homeroom. I was depended on to block girls that I had only ever shared a smile with.

We became a team.

So the night before our game, we knew we had worked the hardest we could have, and we knew how badly we wanted that win. We were prepped that the other girls may play rough, they may break some rules and make us furious. But we were told to keep our heads up, stay classy, and play as a team.

The game came and our coaches sure had been right. We gave that game everything we had, so when we lost in overtime you can imagine the heartbreak we felt.

Sure, winning was the ultimate goal, and it stung for a little while to feel as if all our efforts hadn't paid off. But, the upsides sure outweighed the downsides.

We raised over $15,000 for our charity.

We brought a huge portion of the town out to spend the morning together.

We became a team.

It was just one month of learning how to play a sport I had only ever watched. It was just one month of learning the importance of leadership, inclusiveness, and community.

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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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Figure Skating Is A Mental Game

Being a competitive athlete, there's many downs but there are moments where it's worth while.

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I feel so anxious that it feels like someone is constantly breathing down my neck. My heart is beating at 100 mph. My insides are tightening up and my palms are sweaty. My legs are frozen to a point where they are numb. The smell of hairspray and the taste of red lipstick lingers. The feeling of the ice against my blades is music to my ears. I tied my skates multiple times so it feels perfect. I keep moving to keep warm.

"Am I supposed to feel this way?".

"It's okay to feel this way, it's normal. I would be concerned if you didn't. Nevertheless, I believe in you. You have worked so hard for this".

"I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, right now. If I don't do well, I failed everyone even myself".

"Don't think like that, you have prepared yourself well and you should have faith in yourself also. No matter what happens today, you should be proud of what you have accomplished in over the years you have skated. This is a lesson in life. If something knocks you down seven times, you get up eight times. That's what this sport has taught you. You are stronger than you think. This is your passion so let go of all of reality now and skate for yourself. Show everyone what you can do, this is your moment".

"Thank you, for everything".

She's right, you are stronger than you think. This is a mental game. If you tear yourself down, you're going to go down. Focus, you have to focus. As she said, you love this sport, the adrenaline and the feeling of being powerful. For once, you actually feel beautiful. Never mind that, but you are beautiful. Outside and in, and beautiful to watch. Skating is my escape from reality which is everything that I don't want, what I don't need. The pressure of being perfect, the mental breakdowns, the fear of failure, and the fear of getting hurt. Anything can happen within any moment but it's a risk that's worth taking.

Just forget it, there's no need to keep dwelling on the things that you can't change. This, right now, is all about you. This is your moment. Take it and never let go.

"And our next skater representing the Summit Figure Skating Club of North Carolina, Jessica Tran".

"Alright, do it to it".

I went out with a smile, the crowd cheering me on as I am getting ready to start my program.

"Breathe, take a deep breath. You got this, trust yourself".

As soon as I stood right in front of the judges, I was ready. The music began, filling the rink with a sudden shock. I turned on my character, my determination, and my love for skating.

Once the music stopped, everything stopped. It went by so fast that all I could really remember was the moment I finished. The heavy breathing, the sore arms, and weak legs. With a huge smile, I bowed to the judges and then to the crowd. I did it. I didn't care about the small mistakes that I did. I didn't care that I landed a difficult element. I didn't care that I fell on the easiest thing that I could do. All that mattered was the fact that I kept going. At the end of the day, medal or not, I'm still a winner.

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