Winning A Game Will Never Be Worth Losing Love For The Sport

Winning A Game Will Never Be Worth Losing Your Love Of The Sport

I hate to break it to you, coaches, but this isn't the Olympics or the MLB.

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Growing up, being a softball and volleyball player was part of my identity and playing these sports was what I loved to do most. I began playing because the idea of devoting my time to a hobby with a large number of my friends was extremely intriguing. The time commitment was unproblematic because there was truly nothing else I would rather do.

I loved attending practices and games and would even become disheartened if I had to miss one. Practices were the time of day where I could release all of my built up stress because they were always filled with laughter and smiles.

Playing sports as a child, it didn't matter to me or my teammates if we won or lost. We played because we loved the sport and doing it together. We used losses as a learning experience to address our downfalls, but wouldn't let it affect us.

Being the worst team in the league wouldn't make us want to quit because it was actually humorous to us. Teammates formed incredible friendships no matter what level of playing they were at because nobody felt the need to compare themselves to another member of the group. We were all there to assist one another, not to tear each other down.

It's a shame to me that the nature of sports has changed so drastically to the extent that sports-related memories were once my fondest and could now be considered my worst.

As a child, almost every kid in my grade played a sport no matter what it may be, but as time went on, fewer and fewer kids would sign up because it was no longer about the fun of the game. The pressure was much too intense for many kids to handle to the point that I've even seen a girl have a panic attack on the field.

People no longer cared if the team tried their very hardest if they didn't come out superior. Even when games were won, players would still get yelled at afterward by the coach or other teammates for making simple mistakes such as missing a serve or striking out. Laughing in a practice and having fun with teammates suddenly became frowned upon because every second was meant to be devoted to making the team "perfect."

The people most to blame for this repulsive reformation of sports is without a doubt coaches. Coaches are meant to be the person that you feel most comfortable asking for help relating to a sport, but today, many coaches see that as weakness. As soon as a player makes one mistake, they are immediately replaced in the game as if coaches aren't aware that second chances exist.

Not every player was treated equally by the coach depending on their skill level; the best players on the team were granted the most amount of attention and kindness. Instead of providing criticism constructively, coaches would insult players for their wrongdoings. Instead of having a loving bond with their coaches, players would fear them.

I've witnessed way too many children cry throughout or after a game because they were disappointed in their performance. Many girls on my teams over the years, including myself, had suffered a huge loss of confidence after coaches verbally abused them about their execution in games. The standards are set much too high by coaches to the point where it feels as though we aren't allowed to make any mistakes. Kids begin feeling as though they are not talented enough to play with their teammates and feel bullied into quitting the sport.

In a variety of sports, so many children sit on the sidelines anxiously awaiting their opportunity to play, which is never granted. Of course, players are at a spectrum of different playing levels, but that doesn't mean that the least talented player shouldn't be given the chance to shine.

The best way to learn is through experience, which children aren't given the ability to do if coaches only allow them to sit on the bench. Sports are extremely time-consuming, and if children aren't given the chance to play like they signed up for, it feels like a waste of precious time. Coaches not playing some players is also a huge degradation of their self-confidence and makes them feel useless on the team.

The most disgusting concept to me is that this aggressive style of sports has even extended to leagues that were created for the purpose of learning and having fun. The recreational teams which are coached by parent volunteers and even the Catholic Youth Organization league have become almost equally competitive as varsity sports.

Coaches at these particular levels use varsity coaches as their guide even though they couldn't possibly be worse role models. Winning is also their only concern and not every child is given the same opportunities. I hate to break it to you, coaches, but this isn't the Olympics or the MLB.

As a college student, I no longer play sports. I prefer other activities such as acting, writing, and painting because they do what hobbies are intended to do, reduce stress and provide enjoyment. I know a multitude of other people my age who have acted similarly because they no longer possessed the love of sports that they used to.

Coaches have forced children to lose their fondness of playing their favorite sport because winning had become much too important. Terminating my relationship with sports and blossoming other interests was one of the best things I've ever done because it eliminated a huge amount of unneeded stress in my life.

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn't sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It's obvious your calling wasn't coaching and you weren't meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn't have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn't your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that's how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “It's not what you say, its how you say it."

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won't even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don't hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That's the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she's the reason I continued to play."

I don't blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn't working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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I Wouldn't Trade My DII Experience To Play DI Athletics Any Day

I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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As a high school athlete, the only goal is to play your varsity sport at the Division 1 level in college.

No one in high school talks about going to a Division 2 or 3 school, it's as if the only chance you have at playing college athletics is at the DI level. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to play a varsity sport at the DII and DIII level that are equally fun and competitive as playing for a division 1 team.

As a college athlete at the DII level, I hear so many DI athletes wishing they had played at the DII or DIII level. Because the fact of the matter is this: the division you play in really doesn't matter.

The problem is that DII and DIII sports aren't as celebrated as Division 1 athletics. You don't see the National Championships of Division 2 and 3 teams being broadcasted or followed by the entire country. It's sad because the highest levels of competition at the DII and DIII level are competing against some of the Division 1 teams widely celebrated across the country. Yet DII and DIII teams don't receive the recognition that DI athletics do.

Not everyone can be a DI athlete but that doesn't mean it's easy to be a DII or DIII athlete. The competition is just as tough as it is at the top for DII and DIII athletes. Maybe the stakes are higher for these athletes because they have to prove they are just as good as DI athletes. Division 2 and 3 athletes have just as much grit and determination as Division 1 athletes, without the glorified title of being "a division 1 athlete."

Also, playing at the DII or DIII level grants more opportunities to make your college experience your own, not your coach's.

I have heard countless horror stories in athletics over the course of my four-year journey however, the most heartbreaking come from athletes who lose their drive to compete because of the increased pressure from coaches or program. Division 1 athletics are historically tougher programs than Division 2 or 3 programs, making an athlete's college experience from one division to another significantly different.

The best part of not going to a division 1 school is knowing that even though my team doesn't have "DI" attached to it, we still have the opportunity to do something unique every time we arrive at an event. Just because we aren't "DI" athletes, we still have the drive and competitive spirit to go to an event and win. We are great players, and we have broken countless records as a team.

That's something we all have done together, and it's something we can take with us for the rest of our lives.

We each have our own mission when it comes to our college athletic careers, however together we prove to be resilient in the fight for the title. Giving it all when we practice and play is important, but the memories we have made behind the scenes as a team makes it all worth it, too.

The best part of being apart of college athletics is being able to be passionate about your sport with teammates that embody that same mindset. It's an added benefit to having teammates who become your best friends because it makes your victories even more victorious, and your defeats easier to bare.

No matter what level an athlete is playing at in college, it's important that all the hours spent at practice and on the road should be enjoyed with teammates that make the ride worthwhile. The experiences athletes have at any level are going to vary, but the teammates I have and the success we've had together is something I cherish and will take with me forever. I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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