The best way to learn is by trying. Sitting on the sidelines and observing from afar doesn’t teach you new life-long skills; the only way for one to succeed is by trying again and again. As a small-framed fifth-grader, who’d only played one sport since birth I was excited to try a new sport.
Due to the fact that I was tall for my age, my parents suggested that I try to play volleyball, basketball, and/or track. My older sister ran track in high school, but it wasn’t something I was interested in. In gym class, my class played basketball during the winter months because it was too cold to go outside. While I liked the concept of the sport, I often jammed my fingers against the hard ball. My last option was volleyball. At my elementary school, only fifth and sixth graders were allowed to play volleyball. I thought that this would be a great time to learn. All of my friends were just starting volleyball too so we’d all be at the same level, or so I thought. After I signed up, my mom took me to a sporting goods store to get shorts, knee pads, tank tops, and gym shoes. My mom was the captain of her high school volleyball team so I thought she would be a great person to help me.
As our first practice approached, I was very excited. All of my friends were on my team, and I was glad to be starting a new journey with them. It was the day of our first practice and our teacher, Mr. Miller, was one of our coaches. All of the other sixth-graders were a lot better than I anticipated, and it was only their second year of the sport. Everyone in my family is generally athletic, and I assumed I would pick up the sport quickly. The first drill my team did was a passing drill. As our coach went down the line, everyone’s passes were not the best but, at least the ball was going forwards. As my coach threw the ball to my friends, their passes went back towards our coach. When it was my turn, I slightly bent my knees and crouched over a bit in a ready stance, which my mom taught me previously. I then moved to pass the ball back to my coach, but to my surprise, my ball didn’t go forward. Unlike everyone else, my ball went skyrocketing behind me in the complete opposite direction of my intended target. All around me I heard faint giggles. I felt my face turning hot and my palms starting to sweat. It was so embarrassing.
After the first practice was over, I never wanted to return. I couldn’t even do the simple task of passing a ball. Passing was the biggest fundamental skill in the sport and it was something that was going to be essential for me to learn. Right then and there I wanted to give up, but deep down I knew that wasn’t an option. While my coaches and parents said that this was normal, it still didn’t ease my embarrassment. In the days following, I finally mustered up the courage to go back. As in our first practice, my team did the same passing drill. My coach, Mr. Miller, went down the line one by one tossing the ball to each player. This time we all called the ball out saying “mine” over and over again. The sixth-grade girls passed the ball back to Mr. Miller with ease and looked very comfortable doing it. As my turn approached, I felt my palms starting to sweat again and a nervous feeling in my stomach. I pushed through these feelings and went on. This time my pass was even worse than before. Not only did the ball go sky-rocking behind me, but it also hit the top of the ceiling and came ricocheting down with great force. I heard those same giggles as before. The light soft voices of gossip wisped by my ears. This time I didn’t feel embarrassed, but rather outraged.
When I went home that evening, I knew I wanted something to change. Rather than feeling bad for myself, I felt a new fire. I didn’t want this to be the moment where I gave up, I wanted it to be the moment where I persevered. I knew I would need help if I wanted to get better. Putting my ego aside, I enlisted help. My mom worked with me after school in our backyard almost every day. She would toss me the ball time and time again. She did try to give me suggestions to help improve my passing, but I wasn’t necessarily listening to her. Each time the ball would go sprawling in different directions. Just like clockwork, after I passed the ball in the wrong direction, my mom would make me run after it. This made me dread practicing with my mom. After a while of this, I got really tired of passing and running. So then, resentfully, I started to listen to her. What she was saying was right. When I actually took the time to listen to my mom’s suggestions, my passes were right on target.
After weeks of practicing with my mom, I finally felt confident in my passing. As my team did every practice, we all lined up in a straight line as our coach threw us the ball. All of the other girls passed very nicely as usual. As I stepped up for my turn, I heard that same whisper of gossip. I hadn’t even passed the ball yet and they were already talking about me. I closed my eyes and worked to ignore them. I went up and passed the ball right back to my coach’s arms. As I turned around to walk back to my spot, I saw the look of astonishment across all of their faces. Not only did I surprise them, but I also surprised myself.
Not only did I try something new, but I also persisted when my journey got tough. I learned truly what it means to go above and beyond and work for something that doesn’t come naturally. I put myself out there and learned new things about myself. Life is full of challenges, and without grit and persistence, you won’t get very far in life.