The Cut

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.





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