I have a niece, and she is cool. She’s 12, and she just made the volleyball team at her middle school. Her aunt is proud.
I was chatting with her dad last night, and he was telling me about the last match she played in. The match went to three games. Nat played in the first two but didn’t make an appearance in the third. “It was strange,” said my brother. “She had been playing pretty well and then, all of a sudden, she wasn’t playing.”
Not one to jump to conclusions, I immediately thought, “Typical jerk-of-a-coach who probably has never actually played volleyball is trying to make a statement, no doubt.” Ha. What can I say? I’ve known a few. Anyway, my brother said that after the match he asked Nat why her coach didn’t play her in the third game.
“Coach asked me a couple of times if I wanted to go back in,” she said, “but I said ‘No,’ because I missed a serve in the second game.” It turns out, the coach tried to play her, but Nat refused. More than once.
My brother was surprised. I was surprised. “Nat,” he said to her, “How do you expect to get better if you don’t play? If your coach asks, ‘Natalie, do you want to play?,’ you say ‘YES, COACH!’ and you go play.” Natalie didn’t seem so sure.
My brother told me that Nat is finding out that volleyball isn’t coming to her as easily as clarinet-playing did. When she decided to take up band a year or so ago, she took the first-chair spot in a matter of days. Volleyball, on the other hand, is taking some work. And because it’s taking some work, she isn’t sure she should be playing it.
So it goes, my niece and I WOULD have more in common than just height and good looks. Unlike Natalie, I have no musical talent; it’s true. But, volleyball took some work for me, too. That’s the thing about it; it’s a sport of repetition. Just like many other sports/activities. You get really, really good by practicing, practicing, practicing and practicing some more. You’re bound to make errors; it happens.
Especially when trying to pick up a new skill and grow into your body at the same time. While on the phone, I had a flashback to junior high volleyball camps I used to run. I’d have a gaggle of girls in the process of growing into their bodies, who were really concerned with what the equally gangly girl next to her was thinking about her. One shanked ball or missed serve would be enough to cause tears to well up.
I remember saying on repeat: “It’s volleyball. It’s a game. You’re going to make mistakes. And then you’ll make some more mistakes. Those mistakes will make you better.” Trust me, I’d think, I used to be one of you gangly junior-high volleyball players. I know.
I was reminded, again, of a mindset that I held onto for too many years. If I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to be good at something, you can sure as heck bet I wasn’t doing it. The problem with that thought process is that I spent a lot of time missing out on fun activities* just because I was concerned I wouldn’t be any good at them. Ah, yes, that was the perfectionist in me rearing its ugly head. Who knows how good I might have been at any number of activities had I given them a chance.
And, it’s not just a junior-high thing. Oftentimes, our concern about what others think about us keep us on the sidelines of life. Our unwarranted concerns keep us from doing what we would maybe like to be doing and even what we were meant to be doing. It’s how we end up letting a lifetime pass us by.
This morning I was reading a devotional about how David didn’t become an expert marksman just as Goliath showed up, or a master harpist at the moment King Saul requested he play at the palace. David disciplined himself by practicing. He didn’t know what his future held; he simply found joy and fulfillment in discovering and developing his gifts. My best guess? David didn’t hit everything he set out to hit when he first picked up a stone and sling. And his first harp tune likely wasn’t his best. But, that didn’t hold him back. And look at the place God brought him to! King of a nation and then some!
So, my brother has been practicing with Nat to increase her enthusiasm in playing while knowing she may make a mistake or 600. He said they walk around the house, and every so often, he’ll ask, “Natalie, do you want to play?”
“YES, COACH!” she replies.
Trust me, Natalie. You don’t want to be someone who lets some fears of what others think hold her down. Go have fun. Go make mistakes. The girl next to you will make some, too. Go get ’em, Ace!
“Sad is the day for any man when he becomes absolutely satisfied with the life he is living the thoughts he is thinking, and the things he is doing; when there ceases to be forever beating at the doors of his soul a desire to do something larger which he seeks and knows he was meant and intended to do.”
*I don’t count tennis or golf or softball as fun and not entirely because I’m no good at them.