The summer before I left California to play Division I volleyball in South Texas, I was given a packet of workouts (weights/agility & conditioning) and was told I would be tested before starting two-a-days and preseason practices.
The test was 16, 100yd sprints, as a team, under 18 seconds with 30 seconds rest in between and 1 minute at the halfway point. If an individual failed, the entire team would have to do the test until everyone passed together. If you couldn’t pass, you would be cut from the team, regardless of your scholarship offer.
Only 12 Weeks
I had 12 weeks to get in the best possible shape to play Division I volleyball and more importantly, pass that test.
This immediately created a sense of pressure, anxiety, and doubt. Could I do this? What if I can’t and I fail? What if I can’t hack it as a Division I player? What if they made a mistake?
The moment after reading through the summer workout packet and THE TEST, I realized I had one option. I was going to have to push myself harder than I ever had to be ready to compete at the highest level. That I would be going into a program that was filled with upperclassmen and a large incoming freshman class. I had something to prove not only to myself but to my new team. Sure, I may have earned a scholarship, but I was going to have to earn it every day that summer.
My first day of training I figured I should get a baseline of where I was and how much work I really needed to put into this. After warming up, stretching and getting in the groove…I was ready to run my first practice test.
I remember the anxiety of approaching the starting line, awful feelings of dread coursing through my body and I got ready to hit the start button on my watch. My shoulders and back hunched forward, almost cowering at the intimidating starting line. The only way I knew would get rid this feeling was to stop thinking and just sprint.
I ran sprint after sprint and don’t even think I got to the end. I made the first three sprints, and the rest were massive fails. Just seconds over the time. As the number of sprints I completely increased, so did my times. I remember pacing around the track thinking, “whelp, looks like I have some serious work to do.”
Practice Like A Champion
Fear of failure was MY motivation to succeed that summer. Whatever workouts were given to me, I did, and then I did more. I remember being so incredibly tired every day.
I would talk to myself like a Nike commercial. “Just one more, push yourself, you got this, finish strong, get it, it’s worth it, focus, go go go!”
I was constantly encouraging myself through training sessions. Spending hours every day (5 days a week) preparing for two-a-days and my upcoming freshman season. Really earning it every day. I refused to fail, I refused to not make the team, and I refused to accept anything less than my personal best.
I carried that attitude of earning it into training every day. Focused on the plan, focused on my effort and attitude and had the unfailing belief that if I gave my best effort every day, I would eventually be able to pass the test, prove myself as a freshman and start my volleyball career off on the right foot.
As the weeks went on, I mixed up my workouts, started sprinting up hills and did everything I possibly could to be more explosive. I got stronger, faster and more confident in my ability to accomplish whatever I set out to do. That’s the funny thing about confidence. The more you prepare, train and focus…the better you get. As you get better, you gain more confidence, and that confidence propels you to reach new heights and greater levels of competence and human performance.
What If It Is Not Meant To Be
Heading into the last two weeks before my parents took me to Texas I was feeling good about my progress. It was time to run the full test, again. I wasn’t as nervous walking up to the starting line anymore, and even my posture was noticeably different. My stance was strong, shoulders back but slightly forward. I was attacking these sprints. With each sprint, I felt stronger and stronger, completely focused on every step. I got down to the last couple sprints and came up 1.5 seconds short.
My heart sank and worry set in. I started questioning my abilities, thinking maybe I wasn’t cut out of college volleyball.
I started thinking about the embarrassment of not being able to pass the test, the shame of earning a college scholarship but being unable to compete because of a stupid sprint test. Having to come back to California and tell everyone, “yup, I failed, I wasn’t good enough.” That day my body and mind exhausted itself and left the track, deflated, tail between my legs.
After a talk with my mom about my disappointment in myself, she, the eternal optimist that she is, encouraged me to keep training. She reminded me of a few things my progress, my attitude, and my effort. That this is what I have been working my whole life for and not to be so hard on myself. Tomorrow was a new day and with more training, I would certainly succeed. I went to bed that night knowing that tomorrow was a new day and all I needed to do was stay positive and keep pushing myself.
I wasn’t ready to give up.
Two weeks later my parents dropped me off at college. It was a terrifying and exhilarating feeling all at once. After the initial freak out of saying goodbye and realizing I was officially on my own, I got excited for all the new adventures and people that I would meet.
When I met the team for the first time, everyone was welcoming. All the freshmen expressed nervousness about the test and the upperclassmen put on the pressure by telling us we better be ready. Not wanting to look weak around the upperclassmen. Confidently I said, when asked about how I felt about the test, “I trained all summer, I’m ready to run it” This was no time for doubts. I was ready to prove myself to the team and get that test over with.
The night before the test I was anxious, but I also had a deep sense of pride and confidence. I was proud that I had trained to the best of my ability. Pass or fail I knew I did everything I possibly could to succeed.
That night I had a hard time falling asleep, as I kept imagining the test. I visualized the beginning, middle, and end of the test. Identifying the feelings I would feel at each point and how to respond to them. I ran sprint after sprint in my head, every one bringing out relief that I was one more sprint closer to being done. Especially at the end, I knew I would need to give it everything I had to make it.
The minute I woke up, anxiety and nervousness set in, again. I laced up my shoes, put on spandex and my favorite shirt, a shirt I had sweat in all summer. When we walked out on the track together, I was nervous, but I was ready as I was ever going to be. There was a sense of calmness in the anxiousness because I knew I was going to pass this test. We ran the rest at 6:30 in the morning, the cooler part of the day, but it was Texas, so it was still 85 degrees with humidity.
As we lined up to run sprints, I smiled because I was actually excited to compete and be done with the thing that had been haunting me all summer.
“GO.” I exploded into my sprint feeling strong and confident. Sprint after sprint I felt more relief, more joy, more happiness and more alive.
It wasn’t even a test anymore, it felt like a game. All that preparation was finally paying off. All the discomfort melted away because I was so rehearsed. It could have been the endorphins from the sprints, but I distinctly remember a euphoric feeling during and after the test. We all passed, and there was relief among everyone on the team. We could trust each other, we could succeed together, and we earned the right to start our season, together.
This was my proof. Proof that I belonged. That I could succeed at anything I put time, effort and focus into. Proof that I had earned it.
As an 18-year-old college freshman, this realization was the foundation for the rest of my success on and off the court. Every day, for the rest of my life, on and off the court…I would have to earn it.
Article first appeared on Athlete Network
Want to share your stories or something you learned during your athletic journey? Let’s make that happen or email firstname.lastname@example.org