Like many young children, my parents signed my siblings and me up for sports at an early age. I started with cheerleading.
I was the smallest girl and was immediately told I would become a flyer. In this position, you are told not to look down, so I would always look ahead. When we would cheer towards the football field, I couldn’t take my eyes off the game.
Soon after, I decided to stop cheerleading. I wanted to be in the game; I wanted to be on the field or the court. My older sister, Melissa, played volleyball for years. She taught me the essentials, and I would attend her matches to cheer her on with our family. It wasn’t long before I began playing.
I played volleyball for eight years. I began with an early bird league in the fifth grade. I would wake up at 6 a.m. and go to my elementary school to play games set up by my physical education teacher. For the next couple of years, I participated in camps, clubs and clinics to hone my skills. I loved to play.
Unfortunately, a nerve injury sidelined me during my senior year of high school. I was in so much pain I could not laugh without cringing. I am much better now, but I did not want the repetitive movements of lunging and diving to hinder my health.
I no longer play competitively, but I appreciate all I learned while playing an organized team sport. I found so much value in volleyball.
Athletics teaches you lessons that you will carry with you throughout your life. I would hope athletes attribute much of their character to the lessons learned while playing a sport. Some of the lessons I learned were the following:
1. Attitude is half the battle. Your habits, negative or positive, have an effect on others. For example, if you are with your coach, teammate or referee, the attitude you exude can translate from an individual norm to a team norm. No matter the sport, attitude is always revealed within minutes of the start of the game.
2. Practice makes perfect. Take practices seriously and respect this time because winning is not guaranteed.
3. Being an athlete means staying committed and dedicated to your coach, team and sport. I believe that once I start something, I need to finish it. That’s why I stuck with volleyball for such a long time. There were many times I wanted to quit, but I never gave up – it’s not who I am.
4. You may not be fond of everyone on your team, but you need to work together. All efforts should be cohesive as you work to achieve a common goal.
5. Life isn’t fair. We must overcome all sorts of adversity and temporary failures – you can’t let these aspects hold you back. You will become mentally stronger, and learning how to do so will help you the rest of your life.
6. While you may not see eye-to-eye with them, respect your coaches, captains and anyone in a position of power.
7. Defeat is self-imposed. Pick your head up and focus on the next play.
Thank you, volleyball, for teaching me these lessons that I will translate into the real world for the rest of my life.