Sydney Kahl is finishing her junior year at Plymouth Regional High School in Plymouth, N.H., and submitted this personal story in conjunction with Girls Sports Month at USA TODAY High School Sports.
My life as an athlete started out rocky, beginning in the second grade at one of my YMCA basketball games. My parents and grandmother came to watch. The coach yelled to one my teammates several times to pass me the ball.
Finally, the teammate yelled back, “No, Sydney’s the worst one on the team.”
My parents remember this story better than I, as they wondered what effect this public humiliation would have on me. I must have blocked out most of the pain of this early experience.
However, I remember much better a similar, later event.
I was playing softball in middle school and it was the championship game, the bases were loaded and I was up to bat. I struck out, my team lost the game and I was crushed. I shed some tears after the game, knowing I had let my teammates down.
My parents joked that I liked the uniforms so I continued in organized sports. I joined the field hockey team as a fifth grader. The sport felt awkward at first – bending over a stick, running and trying to keep an eye on the ball and where you were going at the same time.
There was an A team for seventh and eighth graders, a B team for fifth and sixth graders and a swing team. Two to three sixth graders were asked to join the swing team, meaning they played on both the A and B teams and got more playing time. When I made the swing team, I was so surprised. This was my first confidence booster and a turning point in my athletic career.
I continued to play field hockey and as a freshman in high school, instead of being placed on the freshman team, I was placed on junior varsity. As a sophomore, I made the varsity team and last year as a junior, I started in all of the games. I was the only one to be voted player of the game twice during the season.
My story in sports is a lesson in perseverance and commitment. My challenges led to my rewards. I now appreciate that athletes achieve goals largely based on hours practiced. I gave up basketball and softball, and found I love field hockey and Nordic skiing. Field hockey and Nordic are so different; each has taught me something about competing and the emotional, physical and social benefits of participating in organized sports.
The bottom line is positive feedback motivates me and I like it when team members push one another to do our best. Next year as captain of the Nordic team I hope to convey this message.