Gameday. My hands were trembling as taped my ankles and tightened the laces on my court shoes knotting in precisely twice into a neat bow. This was my game ritual and always had been seen my first match when I disastrously tripped over my own laces. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins yet at the same time a wave of nostalgia hits me too. How many matches had it been already? Yet every match feels like my first.
I still remember the first day of training, almost 8 years ago. We warmed up with a game of dog and bone. The team was split and allocated numbers from 1 to 9. When 3 random numbers we called, the individuals with those numbers were supposed to run out, chase the ball and shoot it into the hoop. I noticed during this game however, that my performance was very much sub par. I didn’t run as fast as I could nor did I try my best at intercepting the ball from getting shot. The matter of fact was really that I didn’t want to be passed the ball. I didn’t want to be the one to take the blame for losing the ball or mispassing it and I did not want the responsibility of helping the team because I was too afraid of making a mistake that could cost me so much more.
This mindset followed me around for a good period of the school year; I was just the new girl at school what if I didn’t make the right impression the first time I meet others? This held me back from asking questions in class or from opening up to others on the team; i was just too afraid that they may consider me too nerdy or unqualified to join them.
The trainings that ensued were also much more exhausting than I had imagined- both mentally and physically. Having joined school later than others, I was already behind on the basics while others had already secured their fundamentals. It didn’t help either that the coach was almost like a vixen in human skin.
Even after 6 months of training with the team, my fears prevailed as I continued dreading actually having to play on court. I was just too unprepared and inexperienced. Training with the team in the lead up to the season had surely bonded us together but along with it came a new fear- one that was more linked to the consequence of having to face a disappointed team in the case of a bad play on my part.
The memory of my first match still haunts me till date. Not even a minute into the game and I had already lost possession of the ball. But, a single bad play didn’t stop my coach from substituting me into many more games to come. I made mistakes. Many mistakes. However, the more I played and the more experience I gained- the more I started to grow out of my shell of fear. I became stronger mentally fuelled by the emotions that came along with a team sport: anguish, frustrations, camaraderie and a hunger to do better and overcome challenge for the team and for the school. I started making fewer mistakes and eventually even went on to win Most Valued Player (MVP) of the season award.
The fear of my coach and the perception others had of me had reigned my mind and shackled my capabilities. However, as I grew into the sport and into the team, I learned the importance of communication. Their faith in me and my abilities when I myself had none was one of the biggest factors contributing to my improvement. I was able to regain my self-confidence. It didn’t matter to me anymore If I failed or got ridiculed because of it. I learned from my coach that it was necessary to experience failure to achieve success