Last night I was given the chance to speak to about 200 youth soccer players and their families, and I ended up telling a story about softball.
Growing up I loved softball.
I started playing at nine and loved everything about it. The uniform. The team. The travel. Even the anxiety.
I played right up until freshman year of high school, when I didn’t make the cut.
I remember getting to school early that day, watching the coach hang the roster, and catching his look that said, “sorry,” before I even got to see my missing name from his paper.
It’s easy for me to judge the girl I was – to trivialize how devastated she felt over something as inconsequenctial as Conant High School softball, but judgement doesn’t help.
In that moment I felt worthless.
The principal found me hunched over, covered in snot and tears and assumed someone had died. When he asked “who?” – I wanted to tell him apart of me, but I’d been warned enough about being melodramatic, so I worked hard to stuff it in as quickly as possible.
Later that day, the track coach noticed my half-life and without asking what happened, he simply offered an invitation.
“Come run with us.”
“I don’t run.”
“But you do.”
And I did. I became a part of track. I puked after nearly every race I lost. He and they still kept cheering. I kept running.
For the next four years, I’d play varsity field hockey in the fall, and run and swim in the off seasons. I didn’t know it then, but the many (many) laps around town (the school didn’t actually have a track) and in the pool (that was actually across state lines) served as conditioning for the only “team” sport left in my repertoire.
Turns out, it was the only I needed.
After high school graduation, I decided to try-out as a walk-on for my college field hockey team. I’d been accepted to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and their athletic program had just turned Division I. It was a long shot.
A long shot, I (and track, and swimming, and being cut from softball) made.
On the field, I talked about how this experience helped me understand how to find the opportunities in the challenges. The good in the stuff that feels just the opposite.
On the ride home, I thought more about it. I thought about finding my place. My team. Even, my routine. I thought about what a long strange trip it continues to be, but how I’m getting better at feeling good about breaking down and being cut from what isn’t mine anymore.