cover.jpg

 

 

The Bench Sitter

 

 

 

 

By Katlin Sweeney

The Bench Sitter

By Katlin Sweeney

 

31805 Temecula Parkway #551

Temecula, CA 92592

 

Copyright ©2011 by Katlin Sweeney

katlinsweeney.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

 

Attention Colleges, And Universities, Corporations, and Professional Organizations: Quantity discounts are available on bulk purchases of this book for educational, training or gift giving purposes. Special books, booklets, or book excerpts can also be created to fit our specific needs. For information, contact the Marketing Department of TSA Books at the address above.

 

Notice of Liability

The information in this book is distributed on an “As Is” basis, without warranty. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the author shall not have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in this book.

 

ISBN: 9781618420251

Table of Contents

 

 

1. Setting the Stage

2. The Beginning, or the End, of the Beginning

3. Great Mistakes in Expectations

4. Not Exactly Divine Chaos

5. Practice Didn’t Make Perfect

6. Releasing the Valuable

7. Awkward Encounters

8. Welcome to the Club

9. When Sports Become a Monarchy

10. A Collection of Collaborations

11. Lacking in Confidence

12. Producing Strong Results

13. Closing Out the Club Season

14. Invitations to Inner Circles

15. Consisting of the Beginning of the End or Not So

16. Practices & Onwards From There

17. War Tactics

18. The Common Lack of Interest

19. Coming to a Close of a Season of Disappointment

20. Lasting Outcomes

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to my Father, the great man that he remains to be this day, who believed in a bench sitter. 

Setting the Stage

 

 

If you have ever seen a Disney movie focused on a hero’s journey, you may be familiar with the formula that seems to be present throughout their stories. Initially the hero is unaware they are destined for greatness, but soon is plucked from obscurity to begin their quest. They encounter antagonists along the way, only for them to be reconciled or defeated later on. Once the adversaries are taken care of, the hero would live happily ever after, the whole story all in about two hours.

 

As a little kid I began to adopt the morals taught in these stories, note the differences between good and evil, and believe that if I kept at my goals, everyone would eventually like me and that there was only momentary failure on a path to greatness. When I started playing volleyball, I expected an introduction much like the one I received. However, I was in no way prepared for lengthy conflict, a lack of improvement, constant scrutiny, and a journey that was far more intense than the ones I saw in movies.

 

Being a high school athlete is far more difficult than everyone gives you credit for. The constant stress of juggling school and practice, sacrificing weekends to tournaments, and dedicating the very few moments of free time to catching up on sleep; as an athlete you accept these abnormalities in order to do something you love. But upon accepting these terms, the people around you do not always understand why you do it. This can make connecting with people outside of your team or sport even harder to do. This is both a curse and a blessing.

 

After spending a year and a half in volleyball, I pulled away more life lessons than I did volleyball skills. We know all too well that life does not follow a Disney fairytale pattern. It is a constant stream of change, adaptation, emotion, and learning. Using each of these things I was able to become a better player, but more importantly, a better person. Adversity breeds kindness, if the one facing unfriendly surroundings uses it as motivation to be nicer to other people. Failure creates an opportunity to force oneself to excel past previous premonitions. Dedication to improvement molds a stronger work ethic, self-esteem, and the skills we desire. Through all of this it becomes more apparent that we know the value behind what we do, whether at that moment or afterwards. It is easy to lose sight of what we once deemed important because of the little distractions caused by other people. Although we may make a plan of what we wish for ourselves, achieving what we desire can come to us through different avenues of life. This book is designed to teach you and remind me that success is self-made and self-determined, based on the opportunities you create for yourself, not luck.

The Beginning, or the End, of the Beginning

 

 

I started playing volleyball the summer before I started high school. My optimism outweighed my talent, but I was eager to prove myself in the world of competitive volleyball. I relied heavily on my Dad for moral support and constructive criticism. He had played beach volleyball in the past, and was able to give me drills appropriate for the level I was at, and others to correct my mistakes. My Dad was positive, but also made sure to be realistic. He could sense when I was becoming lazy and when I was failing to push myself as much as I needed. He pushed me to do my best at those times when I was content at a mediocre level. In doing so, he developed a schedule for me to follow every morning, starting with the P90X bodybuilding program and then later a continuation of my skill building.

 

At first it was difficult to adjust to early mornings and stronger physical demand than the easy workouts I was used to in PE class. But there was nothing more I wanted than to make the team I was so focused on. I never thought I would become one of those kids who was consumed by the possibility of moving up one spot on the roster and would spend endless hours in practices to achieve it. But as I became more entwined in the world of volleyball, my theories and beliefs changed. I began to see that playing a sport would not be as easy as I once expected it to be. Recognition did not always match the work ethic, and teamwork was not always the goal of the entire team.

 

I prepared for tryouts in the summer. My new high school that I would be attending in the fall offered a summer camp program to sharpen our skills and strengthen our endurance. For two hours we would be in the gymnasium, running drills and repeating motions that we would need to know during games. Following this, we would go to the weight room. Here we would spend time lifting weights to build our arm and leg muscles, guided by the weight coach himself. It sounds easy, but change and a different reality were already present in the air.

 

Typically when people think of an older man they envision their grandfather. But in the case of Coach Tanner, I had a hard time finding him capable of being anybody’s grandfather. He had been the school’s weight coach since its inauguration five years before. He carried himself with mannerisms of a younger coach, no doubt the product of his lifetime dedication to fitness and an absence of excuses. Aside from the wrinkles and gray hair, nothing about his appearance gave away Coach Tanner’s age. His age never seemed to affect him, nor did he plan to let it catch up to him.

 

The weights we were instructed to lift were small, yet I could feel my arms yearning to break in two from the amount of times we had to lift them. My muscles tingled with frustration as they struggled to hold up the overwhelming little weights. Just thinking about the actual weight amount was depressing.

 

Finally Coach Tanner finished counting and I was able to lower them. The air sizzled with the sun’s heat, not making weightlifting outside any more comfortable. Adding to my frustration was the fact that I felt completely out of place. Not only was I considerably weaker than the other girls when it came to weightlifting and endurance, I felt awkward being dressed differently than the others. I did not have the standard volleyball t-shirt and spandex volleyball shorts. I showed up every day in long sweatpants-like shorts and a casual t-shirt. I could feel the strange looks of the girls surrounding me, wondering why I was not dressed in the same Nike brand outfit and expensive, custom volleyball shoes. Combined with my nerves and fear of showcasing myself as the worst player trying out, I was an emotional wreck. I had yet to realize that appearance was one thing, and talent was something totally different. I spent so much of my time worrying over what the girls in that camp thought of me, whether I could get my hair to stay in the same ponytail that theirs did, what they thought of my clothes, if I looked stupid standing by myself, and if my skill level was as terrible as I thought it was. I did not understand while you cannot always choose the people you are surrounded by, you can determine the type of person that you value. By spending time around people that were less than what I had initially hoped for, I began to see even greater worth in the friends I did have. It was much like life in that sense. People do not always like you and events unfold the way they do for a reason. You can tell somebody that they are capable of being better than what they are, but nothing changes without the motivation of that person. I thought if I was polite to these girls, and kept revisiting the idea of teamwork, they would come around. However, volleyball lacked a domino effect in that if I lit one up successfully, all the rest would follow just as simply.

 

One of the few friends that I had made during camp, Rachel, chose to lift weights near me. Every once in a while I received one of her pained looks as she swiped at her forehead. I returned them with a similar expression. Rachel was easily the most beautiful girl in camp, her popularity and charm equally difficult to neglect. Although we were two opposites, we became friends. When we spoke it was concise and nothing compelling, but it was nice to have someone I could refer to as a friend. It was a pleasant change from what I had become accustomed to. Very few of the girls in the camp were willing to reach out from their cushy spots in their posh friendship circles to include those who did not have a large collection of friends. For those select lucky girls who had friends to hang out with, camp was easy. But for the few girls in my situation, it was more than awkward to try to make friends. There was an air of over-confidence that bred in those big crowds, and it did not look like that would be evaporating anytime soon.

 

The sound of doors opening distracted us from Coach Tanner. During these few weeks, the football kids had traded spots with us, taking the gym while we used the weight room. They began to file out some time in the middle of one of our lifts. They did not bother trying to hide their amusement in watching the volleyball team attempt to lift baby weights. There was obvious satisfaction on many of their faces at the sight of us struggling. I refrained from rolling my eyes at the girls that scurried to adjust their hair and smile at the guys that walked by. Coach Tanner took careful notice of which girls ignored him for the football team, just like the rest of us did. Many of them had been prone to goofing off during weight lifting as well as camp, and the now obvious signs of deteriorating priorities were working against them. Thinking back, I cannot think of any of them who made it past the first day of tryouts.

 

After about two weeks of weight training and volleyball camp, actual tryouts were ready to begin. They were not brutal, but they were definitely nerve-wracking. Part of my initial fear had been removed from the equation, due to the fact that the varsity and JV girls who were already selected were not there. Many of them were seasoned veterans, others had noticeable talent that was spotted early on and were excused from further tryouts.  In the past few weeks I had been terrified of coming in contact with these girls. Although some were friendly, most were content with their position atop the rosters and had no interest in befriending the girls on the lower levels. My Dad assumed this was their method of self-defense; they were afraid of the girls that could one day take their spots.

 

The upperclassmen that were still interested in joining the team were sectioned off onto the court furthest away. The sophomores were taken to the middle court, leaving me to try out for the team with the rest of my fellow freshmen on the court closest to us. The freshmen were noticeably far more anxious than the rest of the girls trying out, knowing right away that the next two days would soon be remembered as either the beginning or the end of our volleyball careers.

 

I observed the girls around me, wondering if they were as nervous as I was. Some looked confident in their abilities, others looked nervous, and some looked like the pressure had not reached them at all. Rachel was with her group of friends from her past middle school. She took to ignoring me during warm ups, something she had not done before. Aside from Rachel, I only knew two other girls who were trying out. Jordan, who I had gone to my middle school with and we had a casual friendship, and Alaina. We were not remotely close and were the most standard form of friendly, making it difficult to connect with her. After Jordan and I decided to warm up together, I began making a mental list of all the things that I would commit to doing to improve, if only I could make the freshmen volleyball team. As I did this, my Dad found a spot on one of the bleachers, positioned between Jordan and Alaina’s moms. My father, the great man that he remains to be this day, sat through their wearing conversations of child glorification just to watch me try out. I do not know how he did it without losing his patience, and quite possibly his mind.

 

Among my choices in tryouts, partnering up with Jordan was not detrimental to either my or her chances of making the team. Throughout our concise discussions prior to starting, she made it clear almost immediately how much she despised volleyball and held little interest in the sport. Although I was a fit of nerves, Jordan was much calmer than I was, having been a star basketball player. She never really prepared or tried to polish her volleyball skills like I had, but her confidence level was naturally strong.

 

Tryouts turned out to be a frenzy of confusion and missed passes, not only from Jordan and I, but many of the groups. A lot of the freshmen groups were struggling to keep up with the pace of the coaches. There were about seventy-two girls total, and probably only one fifth of them were able to do the exercises almost perfectly. Walking away from tryouts, I was cautiously optimistic. I thought I did well, but I was terrified that I really was one of the worst on the roster.

 

The results were scheduled to be posted on the team’s webpage by three in the afternoon of the second tryout day. I waited anxiously, fidgeting with the computer as often as possible and unable to sit still. I found I was successful in my endeavor to make the volleyball team, as was Jordan in her mother’s hopes. I secured a bottom spot of the freshmen team while she nabbed one on JV, soon traded in for one on varsity. Jordan was by no means the best player on either team. Although she made varsity level track, volleyball, and basketball that freshman year, her supreme reign in athletics was restricted to all sports aside from volleyball. Her advantage over the other freshmen was her height, being that she was just as tall, or taller, than all of the girls on the varsity roster. In contrast to the previous teams she had been on, Jordan was not the star. But here, being off of center did not bother her. The mindset of Jordan and her new teammates were very different. To the varsity team, a girl who was taken because of her height, and had no skill level, was an embarrassment. They were already one of the worst teams in the league. The only saving grace was the setter, Heather Caden, and her older sister, Hazel. The two girls had been playing elite club volleyball since they were little kids. Hazel was one of the best outside hitters the team had, especially when her sister set the ball. It was obvious how much they practiced in order to perfect their skill level. But regardless of their hard work, the varsity team was still in bad shape. Aside from Jordan, no new girls were put on varsity, leaving them just as bad, if not worse, than before.

 

It also grew more and more apparent to me that I was not going to fit in just because I made the team. I began to develop a somewhat fear of the varsity girls, despite the fact that Jordan was one of them. They had no interest in any player lower than themselves, and JV was not much better. The girls who were on my level were not even remotely nicer than what I had above me. Rachel and her best friend from middle school, Morgan, took center stage in what I came to call “The Morgan Situation”