Growing up, things came very easy to me.
I should have taken more time to appreciate the smooth sailing because it wasn’t long until I received my first significant reality check.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I accepted an athletic scholarship to play softball at Ferris.
Little did I know, but I was about to embark on the most mentally and emotionally challenging four years of my life.
Every athlete on the team seemed to be bigger, faster and stronger than me. All my teammates routinely hit the ball farther and threw the ball harder than I could even on my best day. To say the least, I was overwhelmed.
I spent my entire freshman year on the bench. I didn’t even get into games that we were winning by 10 runs, and my greatest contribution was keeping the scorebook.
For the first time in my life, I watched from the sidelines as other people got the game-winning hits and celebrated victories. Mentally and emotionally, I was at an all-time low. I wasn’t able to come to terms with my new role and had lost my sense of self.
My sophomore year, I rededicated myself to the game. I stayed late after practice for extra reps and pushed myself in the weight room. I didn’t want to spend another year on the bench and was fighting to earn a starting spot in the lineup.
But, the bench is right where I found myself again. Heartbroken, I couldn’t believe that I had actually tried and still not gotten the result I wanted.
To be completely honest, I considered giving up. College softball hadn’t been the glory I envisioned. In fact, the whole process had been downright painful.
My dad convinced me to stay. He asked that I play for one more season and give softball everything I had. If I didn’t earn a starting position, I was free to walk away.
In the months that followed, I pushed my limits as I trained both physically and mentally. When I stepped on the field the following spring, I didn’t want to have a single doubt in my mind that I was fully prepared.
After two long seasons of waiting, I finally got the starting nod. As the left fielder, I played on a team that not only placed second in our conference, but also earned a berth to the NCAA tournament.
Even more thrilling than the wins and the recognition was the fact that I had at last accomplished what I’d set out to do. For the first time in my life, something hadn’t come easy, but instead of giving up, I preserved and eventually triumphed.
A teammate recently asked me if I regretted not starting my freshman and sophomore year. I didn’t even hesitate and told her no. Those two seasons I spent on the bench make the moments I spend on the field inconceivably sweeter.