“It’s not the end of the world, you know.”
Mr. Stoll, one of my favorite high school teachers, patted me on the shoulder as I tried to hide my emotions. He knew something was wrong when I walked into class and had taken a moment to talk with me in private.
“Did you make the team?”
Less than a day earlier, the varsity baseball coaches told me I wouldn’t be a member of the 2011 varsity roster. The news devastated me. I’d never missed a practice. I always showed up early and stayed late for extra reps. I believed I was as talented as any other player trying to make the varsity team. However, the coaches told me my work ethic wasn’t the issue. I had Tommy John surgery almost fifteen months earlier and hadn’t started a game in the field in over a year. Even though I could now play at 100 percent health, the coaching staff believed I’d be better off getting reps on the junior varsity.
As I sat in class the next day, Mr. Stoll tried to console me with a proper perspective. It’s not the end of the world.
But to me, in high school, baseball was my world. I dreamed of playing college baseball and knew I needed to play varsity in order to accomplish my goals. Fifteen months earlier, doctors told me I would never play college ball if I didn’t have elbow surgery. I chose surgery and did rehabilitation for over twelve months to rebuild my arm strength. The thought of making varsity helped me push through moments of discouragement on my road to full recovery. I worked harder than I’d thought possible with the goal of making varsity my junior year. Now I’d been cut from varsity. I thought this ruined my chances of playing beyond high school.
I’d been told once by doctors I’d never play college baseball without surgery. Now it felt like my coaches had told me something similar. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to embrace bitterness. I doubted whether or not I was meant to play college baseball.
However, I couldn’t stop thinking about my dream. With each set-back and failure, I wanted to achieve my goals more and more. In the days following, I had a choice to make. Do I wallow in self pity and develop an attitude of bitterness? Or, do I accept my role with humility and continue to work hard?
I opted to choose the latter approach. I knew if I wanted to achieve my dream, bitterness and self-pity would serve as roadblocks on my path to college baseball. Mr. Stoll’s words inspired me to acquire an attitude of humility and gratitude for the opportunities I’d been given. I decided I’d do my best on junior varsity and continue to work hard. After a successful junior varsity season, I pursued college baseball programs the following summer.
My hard work started producing results the fall of my senior year when I signed with a college program on scholarship. During the spring of my high school senior year, I made varsity and my team won the state championship.
However, even when my dream of playing college baseball become a reality, I wanted to continue improving. By the senior year of my college season, my team won the conference title. I earned Conference Player of the year and All-American.
At the lowest moment in high school athletic career, I learned an important lesson. Hard work doesn’t always yield the results we want. However, without hard work, dedication, and commitment to the process, we will never realize our dreams.
If I could go back and share advice with my high school self, I would say this:
A thousand solitary moments working on your craft set the foundation for the moment you achieve your dreams. When you fail, you aren’t defeated. Set-backs don’t define you. They serve as a means for you to learn from mistakes and motivate you to work harder. No matter what obstacle or challenge you face, you can only control your attitude and effort.
Now each time I fail or fall-short of my ambitions, I hear Mr. Stoll say it’s not the end of the world and I get back to work.