In high school, I hated you. My parents hated you, too—especially my dad. You and he had a few very tense conversations after you kept me seated on the bench for yet another volleyball game.
Those games broke my heart. All I wanted was time to play. I worked so hard and volleyball was my passion.
I sat on that bench feeling inadequate and incompetent. I tried to cheer and clap for my team, even as the sweat-soaked tears stung my eyes. Wondering if this next game would be my turn. Maybe this would be the moment. Over and over again until the ref whistled the end of the game.
But you didn’t put me in. There were better players on the team, and you and I both knew it.
Your job wasn’t to make every girl on the team feel good about herself. Your job was to coach a great, competitive, and elite team. And our team was really good.
I sat on that bench my freshman year, then again my sophomore year.
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Finally—finally—I had an epiphany. What if volleyball wasn’t the right sport for me? What if my dream of a college scholarship wasn’t in the cards?
Junior year, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life and decided not to try out for the team. Four years of hard work down the drain. I cried about it. I groaned and griped and felt so sorry for myself—as only a 16-year-old can do.
But eventually, I dusted myself back off. I picked myself back up. I found a new dream.
Dear Coach, thank you for not putting me in.
Thank you for keeping me as the lead bench warmer game after game. It helped me realize this was not the sport for me. It helped me find a new dream and reach for new heights . . . somewhere else. Somewhere destined for me.
You could have put me in to make me happy. You could have put me in to make my parents happy. But you taught me an important lesson about growing up. We don’t get playing time just for showing up.
We aren’t owed anything just for being present.
That’s not how the world works. That’s now how growing up works. Not school, not relationships, not work, and absolutely not competitive sports.
I’ve come across so many hurdles and so many rejections since high school. I like to think my volleyball experience better prepared me for them. Because you didn’t put me in, I had to find a new dream. And it hurt at first, and it was hard. But I did.
And I’m better off for it.