By Ava McElhone Yates
As someone who has never described herself as athletic, playing sports is relatively new to me. Growing up I tried some recreation leagues once or twice but I never stuck with anything and didn’t really have fun. Now I go to a school where I have sports as a requirement. The concept was daunting at first but I’ve managed to take a few things from it all. In fact, even more important than the sport is the team.
Lesson One: Everyone Messes Up And not just small mistakes.
No, people plain out miss the ball, trip, run the wrong way and miss opportunities that would have been great. Some mistakes are larger than others and some are more frustrating than others too. But everyone makes them. I’ve found that making mistakes is a concept feared by many people, especially girls. From a young age many people, especially girls, are trained to get the answer right or score the point while looking graceful. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, by age 14 girls are two times more likely to drop out of sports than boys their age are due to a mix of things that include social stigma and lack of facilities and positive role models. How can we let this happen? One of the great parts of being on a team is that it eliminates that fear of making mistakes. From day one of volleyball tryouts this year I was joined by my twelve teammates in dropping balls, jamming fingers, falling, loosing points, and missing serves. And I’ve realized that as frustrating as it is, it will happen to everyone.
Lesson Two: Getting to know people is important.
Is there a better way to get to know someone than to see them when they are the most tired? Frustrated? Proud? How often to you get to practice true teamwork with a person or see them improve though the season? You all want the same thing and you all work for that thing at the same time. It is extremely critical to work with the team in sports. Participating in a team is a great way of becoming friends with people may not usually be friends with. At the same time though, you don’t have to be great friends with everyone either. Sometimes you won’t like a person on your team and you will learn to deal with them anyways. It’s going to happen in life—there will be people you have to deal with reluctantly. So these low stakes are great practice. Many people I know, boys and girls, have a way of judging girls by their appearance, voice, grades, or interests. In high school it only takes one look or one conversation to completely define or alter a perception of girls. Yet being on a team forces you to consider both sides of a person and it eliminates this quick judgment.
Lesson Three: You earn respect by working… Hard
There is no better way to earn the respect of your coaches, teammates, and fans at a game than by working at what you are doing. And not only do you have to work… you have to work hard. You have to do the best you can all the time. And doing your best doesn’t always mean winning; it means improving and genuinely trying. With these ideas in mind, I think teams can be beneficial beyond what I saw in them when I was younger (aka forced bonding). Girls need to be raised with role models. Teams are a great way to support those needs and make friends while doing so. So to all girls- get up and join a team. Play sports, join a club, or debate with friends. Work hard, have an open mind, make mistakes, and have fun!