Thinking back to the end of my 8th grade year, I could not wait to play for the high school softball team. I thought to myself that if I made the team, this could only help me in the future with college and becoming a better athlete. I could not have been more wrong. My freshman and sophomore year I played for JV, where the coaches were more willing to work one on one with each of us. They seemed to know what they were talking about and genuinely cared about whether we were improving as a person and also as an athlete. It was at the end of my sophomore year when I was pulled up to varsity to experience what it was like to play at a higher level. From the dugout, things looked great. The game was at a much faster pace, their desire to win was on totally new level and they seemed to love playing with each other and for the coaches. It honestly seemed great.
That very next fall when tryouts came around, I was ecstatic! I could not wait to see how this season would go and where I would end up playing. The end of tryout week approached very quickly, and I felt that I had done everything I could do to prove myself to every single one of the coaches. They took each of us into the classroom to talk to us about our strengths and weaknesses individually. Let’s just say that things did not go as I thought they would go. I do not know if this would be called a wake-up call, or a reality check, but the head coach had a long list of negative things about me. He had two good things to say about me, I was fast and I had a decent arm. Of all the things he went on and on about how I failed to show strength in, I could not see past the fact that he only saw two good things about me.
I had played for a high school coach previous to my high school seasons, and he believed in me and saw nothing but potential. My junior year of high school, this was the same man who took his high school team to state and has many successful major league baseball players who had once been under his tutelage. The middle of junior year, my family moved and with all seriousness, I wanted to move into that school district to play for him instead of my high school. I had never played for a coach who did not see potential or have faith in me, and none of those coaches were my dad. When I went home that night, I cried and I cried. This would have been easier to take if this was constructive criticism, but this was not. My parents were there every step of the way to provide me with guidance and advice about how to deal with the situation at hand. They explained that all I could do to change the coach’s mind would be to play my heart out and show that I am more capable than he thought and I cannot stay bitter about what he said. I needed to use that as a motivation rather than a hindrance.
Junior year season is one I do not like talking about. I was given minimal chances to show what I could do. Minimal might even be an understatement when trying to explain the amount of chances that were actually given to me. I played the field in only three games and I had one at bat all season. All season someone hit for me and my hitting was picked apart at practices because he did not like what he saw. He never even gave me a chance to show that it works, he just thought giving me one at bat in the middle of the season in the final inning of a game that we were guaranteed to win, would allow me to have the opportunity to prove myself. I popped up to the pitcher. I had gone more than 10 games without seeing a single pitch, and did see another one after that.
I was not ecstatic for tryouts this next season. I was still bitter and did not even want to tryout. I felt that it was a waste of my time and my energy. Instead, I swallowed my pride and the bitterness of last season and stuck it out. Once again, I felt that I had done everything to prove myself in all the areas the coach told me to improve on. We were called into his classroom like we were the year before, and I was hopeful that I would hear good news but I knew that I couldn’t get my hopes up. This year was worse, he started off with what he likes and it was that my arm was stronger which made him happy to see, but he then proceeded to say, “you are a bit.. Uhh.. bigger than you were last year, which probably is a reason as to why you wasn’t as fast as you were last year”. At that moment, I wanted nothing to do with him, this team, or softball again. I felt ashamed of myself and did not know what I could possibly do now to please him because no matter what I did, this coach would never believe in me.
My senior year season was almost worse than my junior year season simply because some of the girls on the team had terrible attitudes, were able to talk back and still were able to play, while I was able to play the field a little more than last year, but still wasn’t hitting. Once again, my hitting was picked apart and my expectations were greater than they were the previous year. I wasn’t only bitter, I was hurt, angry, and discouraged. I did not think I could play again and have the enjoyment that I once had. I was unsure of myself and did not believe in my abilities. I felt that I was inadequate.
Not everyone has terrible experiences with high school sports, but unfortunately at my school and with my coach, I had a pretty discouraging experience. Looking back on my experience, I have the ability to believe in myself more and not worry so much about what others think of me. Although I do not have the memories I thought I would walk away with, I walked away with a handful of life lessons that I would not have learned until later in life. I played softball when I was little for the love of the game, but once we got older, it became more about the life lessons, rather than becoming a better ballplayer and with high school softball, I learned more about life than I did about the game.