I was almost 18, and for some unknown reason, I decided to try out for the volleyball team my senior year of high school. I hadn’t played the sport since I was a freshman; the previous two years I had joined the cross-country team. When running injuries during both seasons left a bad taste in my mouth, I decided to give volleyball another shot. I was generally not very athletic, but I tried hard.
When the final team selection was posted, my name wasn’t on it.
The volleyball coach was the women’s physical education teacher at my school. She also was the sponsor of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) club. I was the FCA student president. Her decision not to keep me on the team could have made things awkward.
Actually, it did make things awkward for about a day or two. I was heartbroken. I was a big fish in the small pond of my rural high school, and though I had tasted failure a time or two, this was a big loss. Most of the girls who had made the team were my friends; we had planned on spending practices and games together.
Within a day or two, the coach sat down with me to explain her decision. I already knew: though I wasn’t the worst player, she couldn’t risk keeping a senior and cutting a freshman or sophomore who had time to improve. If only I had played volleyball the past two years, she was sure I would have had better skills. As a consolation, she offered me a way to still be part of the team with my friends: team manager. I could come to some practices, if I wanted, and I would help out at all games, carrying equipment and keeping the stats.
Admittedly, the position seemed like a pity offer, and my pride nearly kept me from taking it. What would I say to everyone in the locker room the first day I showed up? They all knew I had been cut. Eventually, I swallowed my pride and decided to take the position.
The next morning at breakfast, my mom looked me in the eye and told me how proud she was that I had decided to be the manager. I was surprised. My mom had never been one to demand perfection from me. When I didn’t make the cheerleading squad my freshman year and when I wasn’t voted student body president my junior year, she was very sympathetic. And she already had grieved with me about being cut from the volleyball team. But that morning, she moved beyond sympathy to empathy, an important transition for a mother-daughter relationship.
“I’m so proud of you,” she’d said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it if I had been cut from the team.”
This post is a modified reprint from charitysingletoncraig.com.
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