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I’ve never been known to be athletic. Most of my friends are quite the athletes and many of them are at D1 schools playing what they’re good at. Typically, athletes begin at a very young age and become skilled at their sport. Unfortunately, I was not raised to be an athlete; my parents never enforced it and at the time I never asked. It bothers me that they never thought of letting me try soccer, basketball, swimming, or gymnastics.
However, I took matters into my own hands and tried out for Field Hockey. Picking up a sport at a young age is probably easier than picking it up your sophomore year in high school. I was influenced by many of my friends who I met my freshman year to try out. They had been playing field hockey since they were in the sixth grade. I decided to give it a shot since my friends said they were willing to help me out and teach me.
Also because my childhood best friend, Caitlyn, was also trying out. My friend, Emily Cole, is a field hockey goddess to everyone who knows the sport. She is one of the best in the nation and knowing she would be there to help me get the hang of it was comforting. Once pre-season rolled around, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I don’t think I have ever been that sore in my life but once we started the season I was playing at the Junior Varsity level.
I felt out of place because my friends were on Varsity. At one point during the season Caitlyn was a swinger playing both Varsity and Junior Varsity. It was a wakeup call, I could not believe she was playing with the Varsity team when both she and I had just started playing this sport together, I felt envious. It made me realize that nothing will ever get handed to you and that if you want something you have to go after it. My whole sophomore year, I worked on my stick work and learned the rules. I promised myself that I would be on the varsity team the upcoming season.
Summer 2010, I would go running every day and work on everything I needed improvement on. I would remind myself about what it felt like not being on the Varsity team. During pre-season I proved to the Varsity coach that I did have what it took to be on the team. My original mile time was ten minutes my sophomore year. That year it was under seven minutes. Coach A was never the one to show any type of emotion but I knew she was proud. After a week of pre-season, we had to have practice indoors because it was raining and it was also the day Coach A had the uniforms out. She told us to stretch out and that meant practice was over.
We all sat and stretched out and she said, “Returning varsity from last year, grab your uniform” and once every one had grabbed their uniform she said, “Gabby, you can go pick your number” I had never been so content! It felt amazing knowing that I finally had a spot on a team and even though I’ve never been much of an athlete, I did it. Once the season began, I was ready to play at the varsity level. My JV coach would always try to coach me because he knew that I had potential to be better than what I was demonstrating. I played left forward and playing left forward as a righty wasn’t easy. In order to be good at that position, you had to know where to place your stick at the right time to get a deflection into the goal. Field hockey is a sport in where you have to be aggressive which was what I lacked.
The few times that Coach A gave me the opportunity to show her what I was about didn’t work out to my favor. I would miss balls that my nine year old brother could stop. That year I did not start and despite how much fun it was bonding with the older girls it wasn’t sitting on the bench. Our 2010 Field hockey team went undefeated and won a State Championship title. We did receive rings that year but it never felt right wearing that ring because as much as I was on the team I felt like I never did anything to deserve it. That year made me question why I even bothered in the first place.
The rest of the school year, I put a lot of thought into whether or not I should try out for the team next year. I never once thought positive about the upcoming year, I felt used and not needed on the team. Most of my friends on the Varsity team were graduating and the only one left was Emily, the all-star. Therefore I could not settle to play like an average plater, I was expected to step up. It was my senior year, why go through all that trouble and quit? I wasn’t sure returning the upcoming season was the best idea but I did it anyway. I could not allow myself to quit knowing I had made it that far. Every day after practice, I would ask Emily to stay and help me whether it was with conditioning or stick work. I had no other option but to step up and help my team. There were finally spots which I could fill in for; the only problem was they were big shoes to fill in.
I knew that if I wanted to start this year, I would have to put aside all of my fears and work harder than ever before. In the beginning of the season I did not start. At that point, I was on the verge of just quitting because it was clear that everything I was doing was not working. It wasn’t that my coach didn’t believe in me, it was obvious I didn’t believe in myself. My team and I entered post season undefeated. Our coach always said that depending on how your warm up goes that’s how you will play. My warm up went fairly well that day and my coach decided to put me in. I knew that this game was important and I had to leave all of my emotions on the bench. We were down by two and Emily had got a hold of the ball in the circle, I ran to where I was supposed to be on the right post at the right time with the right angle and it deflected into the goal so perfectly. It was one of the best feelings I had ever felt.
I remember my team jumping on top of me and my coach yelling, “I knew you could do it!’ I felt so much more confident and a sense of relief. It made me realize why I was playing and why I didn’t quit. As the season went on I was so glad that I had made the right decision, I became one of the leading top scorers and became part of the starting lineup for the rest of the season. We kept our title by winning another State Championship. This time around I was proud to wear the ring that was given to us. Every year after our season ends we have a banquet where our coach gives us all a little gift and talks about each one of us.
I remember Coach A saying she was so proud of who I had become on the field and knew all along I had it in me. All I could say to her was thank you for being the coach that she was and believing in me. This experience taught me that nothing comes easy. There are things that you will go after but never fully grasp. It taught me that in life not everything goes your way. You will get pushed to the ground but it is up to you if you get up and keep fighting.
Even though Field hockey was never on my list of sports that I wish I had played, I’m so grateful for the friends I met who pushed me into playing this sport. It just goes to show that you can really do anything you set your mind to. It just depends on your attitude and how you go about the things that are thrown at you. Many people take the easy way out and just quit but holding on even though the road is rocky for most of the way is true ambition. It all depends on the kind of person you are or want to become. My coach always said, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”
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