It was a beautiful August day--the kind of afternoon with the sky spanning benevolently overhead, colored a perfect, crystalline blue, brimming with golden sunlight. The kind of day where the freshly-mown grass of the soccer field felt so familiar and buoyant beneath the soles of my cleats.
On this day, a single, fervent prayer ran through my head. Please, please, please, please.
Please let me make varsity.
I had switched high schools midway through my freshman year, meaning I was ineligible for any varsity sport at my new school until midway through my sophomore year. The varsity soccer coach, whom I will refer to as "Coach," encouraged me to appeal this eligibility policy because he believed I deserved a spot on the varsity team in the fall of my sophomore year. Ultimately, the policy was upheld. My family consoled me, saying, “You’ll for sure get a spot next year.”
I didn’t, partly because of contracting mono less than a week before tryouts started, and developing tendonitis in my left ankle, knee, and hip. Yet again, my family, friends, and Coach told me, “Next year.”
This was my year. Today was the day. All the hours of training with my club team, all the workouts I had pushed myself to do outside of usual practices/games, and all the passion I had for this beautiful sport would finally get me that varsity spot.
So when, on that perfect summer day, Coach told me I had not made varsity, I crumbled into a mess of despair and shame.
“Please,” I croaked, voice breaking. “Please, Coach. I’ll do whatever it takes. I will go out and run another two-mile. I will come an hour--or two hours--early to every practice to work on foot skills. You don’t even have to put me into the games--just please let me be on varsity.”
But the decision was final. I walked off the pitch that day and never went back. I called my dad, tears streaming down my face, and he drove up after work to give me a hug and tell me that I was enough and that things would be ok.
A few weeks later, I stumbled upon an advertisement for a sprint triathlon. Half a mile of swimming, fourteen miles of biking, and a 5K run. I thought, Well, I’m capable of doing each part of that race. I want to try it.
Less than a week after signing up, I crossed the finish line, smiling broadly, breathing hard, and feeling triumphant. It didn’t matter to me that I had to breaststroke the swim. It didn’t matter to me that I couldn’t figure out how to change gears on my mom’s road bike for the cycling portion. It didn’t matter to me that I ran one of the slowest 5Ks of my life.
All that mattered to me was that I hadn’t given up--on my fitness or on myself.
Now, about nine months later, I am about to do my second sprint triathlon, this time with my dad. I’ve trained with him throughout the fall, winter, and spring. We have sweated, laughed, and cried our way through so many swims, runs, and rides. We have analyzed maximally-efficient swim strokes, scoffed at the absurd behavior of egotistical gym-goers who stand around admiring themselves, and encouraged one another in times of mid-run despair. We are ready.
I am still sad and disappointed with the ending of my soccer career. I continue to ask myself, What could I have done differently? I am still wrestling with feelings of inadequacy. I am still nervous every time I pull on my swim cap, buckle my helmet, or tie my Asics.
But I am ready for this race. And I hope that anyone else out there facing some sort of rejection realizes that the loss of opportunity therein begets another opportunity elsewhere. I hope they can do what I, out of stubbornness and pride, chose to do--tri, tri again.