With confidence, you can reach truly amazing heights. Without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond your grasp. – Jim Loehr
I entered the cafeteria and took my place in line. I curiously gazed around the room at the unfamiliar faces. It was my first day of junior high and I was nervous. Laughter came from the blond-haired girl in front of me as she joked with her friends about a cute guy in class. While excitedly moving about, she accidentally bumped into me. She turned to me and in a surprised voice exclaimed, “You’re so tiny!”
I had never noticed my small stature before that day, but it would definitely not be the last time my size came into play.
“It’s really not my thing,” I told Angela as she coaxed me about the upcoming basketball tryouts. Angela was full of life and undoubtedly full of energy as she dribbled the basketball against the asphalt then proceeded to twirl it around her waist.
“Victoria! You have to play.”
Her mother’s car pulled alongside the street. Angela grabbed her backpack and began to walk away.
“Why do I have to play!?” I yelled as she opened the car door.
“Because I said so! See you at tryouts!”
I entered the gymnasium and headed straight for the locker room. I sat down on a bench and began to suit up. I felt out of place as I slipped on the used shoes I had washed the night before at an attempt to make them look new. Every girl looked as if she were about to attend NBA tryouts. I playfully punched Angela on the shoulder, “I can’t believe you talked me into this crap.”
As we walked onto the gym floor, Coach Andrews marched in and immediately demanded we run ten laps. In my mind, I scolded myself for even being there. I hated how easily I would succumb to peer pressure. I was winded and exhausted after completing my laps. The actual basketball tryouts themselves hadn’t even begun.
We spent the first half of the day participating in rigorous exercises. The weak quickly got weeded out and the strong remained. Truth be told, I considered myself among the weak. I hardly had an interest in basketball and I simply was not in the proper shape for the coach’s mini-boot camp. However, I was not the type of girl to be easily outdone by others. No, I would rather die trying before being labeled a loser.
Finally, it was time to play some ball. We were divided into two separate groups and pitted against each other. There was definitely room for improvement and I was by no means a star athlete, yet I managed to hold my own against the other players. A few moments could have easily been helped had I been a few inches taller, but that thought process could be applied to anything. I’m sure being faster would have helped too, but being the speed that I was did not mean I could not try my hardest and keep up with the crowd. I had little interest in making the team, but it sort of just happened. I began to warm-up to the idea of playing the sport.
Still beaming from my tryout, I awaited the first game of the season with great anticipation. We were playing a well known team with a reputation to be feared. Being the rambunctious individual that I was, I welcomed the challenge. I planned to enter the situation with the same determination that I’d acquired during tryouts and expected I’d come out a shining star.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, my coach unexpectedly put me with the starting lineup. I walked onto the court and laid eyes upon the girl I was to be guarding. She towered over me. In fact, all of the opposing teams’ players vastly outsized our team. Being the shortest one on my own team, this meant disaster. I tried to play well, but intimidation got the best of me and my first game earned me immediate dismissal from the starting five.
I quickly lost confidence in my basketball playing abilities and it conveyed onto the court. Eventually, I became just another benchwarmer for the team. I hated being grouped with the losers who were only given a minute of game play in the last quarter.
I continued attending practice, but the frustration of being unappreciated began to get to me. I never wanted to be a quitter, but I wanted to be a doormat even less. So I decided to quit the team.
Coach Andrews was a tough coach and an even tougher woman. She was the most unapproachable person I knew and I dreaded going to her and admitting failure. But at that point, I simply saw no future with the team. One day after another disappointing practice, I timidly approached her and said I needed to talk.
I hoped a simple “I don’t want to play anymore” would be sufficient enough reason, but it simply was not. She insisted on knowing the reasons behind my sudden withdrawal from the team. I reluctantly expressed my feelings of being unappreciated as a player and feeling like an inefficient asset to the team. With that being said, I grabbed my bag and began to walk away.
I stopped and turned around.
“Do you know why I put you on the bench?”
I nodded my head.
“I watched you completely give up after a single game. You were out-played ONE stupid game and you lost all your heart.”
I looked at my coach, “It’s not about heart. It’s about being the smallest girl on the court. It’s about being completely out-powered and no matter what I do or how hard I try, I will never come out ahead.”
She then approached me and spoke what would eventually become my most cherished words of wisdom, “Today you go out on that court and see you are the smallest one, then you give up. Tomorrow you feel inferior in another way and give up again. If you continue with that ‘woe is me’ attitude, you will never win. Not on the court, not in life. I will not let you simply walk away.” She then told me to go home and think about what she had said. If I still wanted to quit the next day, then she would allow me to.
I started to walk away, then suddenly turned around and angrily proclaimed, “Fine, then I’ll quit tomorrow.”
I was fuming by the time I arrived at home. How dare she not let me quit the team. If I didn’t want to play, then I didn’t want to play and that’s final! As I was lying on my floor listening to music, Coach Andrews’ words began running through my head. What did she mean, “I’d never get ahead in life?” I wasn’t a quitter, I just didn’t want to play basketball. The more her words went through my mind, the more weight they began to carry. I began to question my desire to leave the team. Was I just being a sore loser?
“No,” I told myself. “I hate basketball.” I suddenly let out a giggle. How ironic. I had been tossing a basketball in the air the entire time.
I walked into practice the next day and without speaking a word to the coach, I walked onto the court.
“What are you doing,” she asked?
“With all due respect Mrs. Andrews, I am no benchwarmer.”