I never knew that playing the sport you love could be so hard.
I started playing softball when I was in third grade after my mother had initially signed me up just for fun. I remember the first day of practice. Before I even made it to the field, I threw up in the car. You may think that I was just extremely nervous, but it wasn’t anything serious like that. I had just had a bad falafel. That’s it.
Ironically, that trivial moment seemed to symbolize the rest of my softball “career.”
Throwing up may seem to be a grotesque way of symbolizing a passion. Yet over the years I kept on finding myself quietly discarding the comments, while taking the criticism to heart. In other words, every time I was complemented, I threw it up, while every time I was criticized, I digested it. Concerning, no?
I continued playing softball in Little League throughout elementary school, just as a fun way to spend my Monday and Wednesday afternoons. However, once I reached fifth grade, softball started to become a little more serious.
I never really talked much on my team and I definitely wouldn’t have called myself a leader. Even today I find myself holding back a number of comments when taking part in friendly conversations or even team discussions. Some people regarded me as timid, some as boring, and others as “too serious.” In fifth grade, I was told by my coach to try out for All Stars. It was a one-tournament team of girls from around my area that seemed to demonstrate skills above normal standards. I was elated at the fact that somebody deemed me competent enough to try out for such a team.
I went to tryouts and made the team— which wasn’t much of an achievement, considering that basically everybody made it. The everyday practices went well and I received a number of pitching opportunities- which was at the time my favorite position. However, come the tournament, things changed.
I was benched. A lot. I didn’t even have a chance at proving myself during the games. The whole tournament I watched other girls happily prance on and off the field while sitting under the shelter of a clammy dugout. It was disappointing honestly- I was a decent player and really wanted to pitch. The only positions I played were some outfield and maybe one inning of shortstop.
Looking back at it, it makes me sad to realize that only at the age of ten I had already begun to lose my confidence.
The next season I excelled at pitching once again during Little League and was ready to redeem myself during All Stars. Come the tournament once again, I was benched more than I would have wished to be.
Was it because I was too quiet?
Should I have stood up for myself?
Was it only because of my hitting, which tended to falter at times?
I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting the equal amount of time that other girls were getting. I slowly started backing myself further into a corner- into a place where my coaches wouldn’t acknowledge me, my teammates wouldn’t remember me, and the team parents wouldn’t remember me. I started believing that I sucked at the one thing I loved to do. I wanted to quit, but never told my parents or my coaches. So I played on.
The summer of the tournament, I tried out for Select. I finally got in and felt accomplished. Training season came and went by and I felt ready to pitch for the season. I was anxious to pitch in my first tournament- my very first select tournament.
We traveled to Yakima for my first tournament and I was mentally going through the pitching motion at least a hundred times. I felt confident; like I had felt at the beginning of every season I had previously played. Fatefully, the end result was almost the same.
The inning for me to prove myself as a pitcher finally arrived. I didn’t execute. It was a cringe-worthy inning of balls rolling over the plate, batters being walked, and hitters being given free bases. I gave up about five runs in one inning- five runs too many. I had worked hard the whole season only to blow this one chance. When I walked off of the mound that inning, I knew what my one mistake was. I had exuded fear and anxiety instead of poise. I had thought about proving myself to others, about being benched for the rest of the season, and about not being the best on my team. I never thought about a second chance, even if I messed up. And the saddest part is- there was never a second chance.
Every day after that tournament I went to pitching practice.
Every day I played as consistently as others.
Every day I worked hard on my pitching.
Every day I waited for a second chance.
If you don’t get second chances, how are you supposed to believe in yourself? My confidence went from zero to negative. Every time I made a play, I focused on the errors instead of the successes. I slowly started being pushed out of my position at second base, even as a capable player. I didn’t even have the confidence to speak up for myself as I watched myself sitting in the dugout while other players took the field every inning. I can’t blame my coaches or my teammates. I can only blame myself.
Finally, my parents told me that if I wasn’t going to speak out, I would never get what I wanted. I was adamant that my actions on the field spoke louder than my words. Apparently, that was not the case. I had a talk with my coach, showed him the stats, and refuted his excuses. Slowly, I won my position back- but it would never win back the confidence that I needed to push me forward.
This isn’t a story about how now I’ve magically transformed into a confident and improved player. I’ve stopped pitching and I still don’t even have a consistent spot on second base on my select team this year. I’ve continually performed well, but I feel that all my coaches see are my errors. Maybe that’s true if you don’t stand up for yourself, don’t have a dominating presence on the team, or just worry yourself to an extent of making the wrong plays. However, I’ve definitely gotten better. I’ve realized that if I’m going to talk less, I would have to observe more. My coaches and my teammates can’t affect how I play. I’ve realized that the only one that can directly tear you down is yourself. Confidence is the key. And lastly, I’ve become resolute to stand by the opinion that everybody should have a second chance.
If others won’t give me one, I’ll just have to give myself a second chance.
Archika Dogra loves to write and read, along with playing outside. She plays select soccer and softball throughout the year. She will be going into high school as a freshman once the summer ends. She loves science, programming, and getting involved with her local theater. She has been recognized for her writing internationally, and also by contests such as Letters About Literature. In the future she would love to pursue acting, writing, and something STEM related, all at the same time hopefully.