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“They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’, yes I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know know know, I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine, he tried to make me go to rehab but I won’t go go go” blasted the acclaimed Amy Winehouse song ‘Rehab’ through my headphones, covering up my heavy breathing. My steady strides pounded on the blacktop like a booming bass drum. I reached the mile mark and looked down at my watch; it read 7:08. My body screamed and every muscle in my body burned to the point where I felt like I was on fire.
As I gasped for air, I screeched in my head, “Stop! Stop! Why are you doing this to yourself?! Just take a short break.” I shook my head and continued. What is the reason behind this madness you might ask? Well it started in July when I realized my goal was to make the varsity soccer team. Then it began: hours spent perfecting dribbling skills, shooting accuracy, long balls, speed, endurance, passing, juggling...all for one goal, an impossibility it almost seemed. Now is the time all of my hard work would be put to the test: tryouts.
Throughout the years tryout week has been given a nickname that it certainly lives up to: “hell week.” For a week, soccer players from my high school face two-a-day practices with a number of physical and mental tests including the two mile run, 120-yard sprints, and shuttle sprints. So on an afternoon in August where stepping outdoors was the equivalent of stepping into a sauna, I set out to run the two mile with a little bit of Amy Winehouse’s help.
When I arrived at my high school, my heart was already pounding -- I hadn’t even started the two mile yet! I went over to my teammates and we began to warm-up, tension was in the air. After a careful warm up, we lined up at the starting line and I began to blast “Rehab.”
It seemed like 10 minutes passed before Coach Erin yelled, “On your mark, get set, GO!” and we were off on the race for Varsity. Immediately, sweat gushed from my pores, soaking my t-shirt and shorts to a point of pure revulsion. My legs yearned for a break when I hit the mile mark at 7:08. I was way ahead of my pace! Too far ahead? I wondered. A surge of energy fired up my exhausted body and I ran on. We soon reached the back stretch, notorious for being the hardest leg of the two mile. My body went into automatic mode and my legs and arms pumped back and forth. I felt power pulsate through my body as my muscles worked. I turned the corner and was pounding down the last stretch, belief surged through my veins and I powered on. Soon I was nearing the finish line, and a burst of adrenaline allowed my legs to move faster and faster until I was in a full-out sprint to the finish (I look back on this and think that this “sprint” was probably more of a fast, hobble-jog, but after all I had been through, it felt like a sprint!).
I crossed the line to hear my time, “15:11!”
“Great job, Catherine!” greeted my coach. Gasping for air, a smile spread across my face. I had done it! I could not believe it. Even though I had made it before during Captains’ Practices, I was still in shock that I had made it. All the times I ran the two mile in training had really paid off! Eventually, I gained control of my breath and flopped to the ground. One of the best feelings ever spread throughout my body; I was done with the two mile, and it was time to go home.
After a well-deserved, full nine hours of sleep, the next day of tryouts was here. The next test was stations to test our speed and ball skills. The first station consisted of dribbling through a row of 10 cones and back. With a focused mind and somewhat low expectations based on my past performance, I somehow came up with a time of 15.36, the second best time! My heart beating fast, I moved on to the long ball station. Despite sounding basic, kicking the ball over the net with first the right foot and then the left foot from 20 yards away it is pretty difficult. I inhaled sharply then released my breath,and gave it my best shot on all 6 attempts. After practicing this skill with my dad and brother the weekend before, I got 3 out of 6 -- 1 with my non-dominant (left) foot, which sent my mood sky-high.
A new confidence hit me and I continued to ramp up throughout the day after achieving strong scores on shooting accuracy and in speed “T” drills. Next came the test I had been dreading the most: juggling. All players who wanted to make Varsity had to be able to do 20 juggles with only their feet. When the coach announced we were doing juggling next, my heart dropped and my stomach turned over. I took a deep breath and told myself, “I’ve got this.”
I grabbed a ball, and began. My feet flew everywhere, as I tried to control the ball on my feet. The ball hit my feet like, ‘doh, duh, doh’ then plummeted to the turf with a ‘tuh’. I tried again, ‘doh, duh, doh, duh, doh, duh, doh, duh...’ I hit 21 and practically shrieked. My heart jumped up and down in excitement, and swelled to twice its size. Knowing that tryouts were going well and that I could maybe maybe, maybe make the Varsity team sent me to the moon and back. The morning skill tests were behind us, and it was time for the afternoon scrimmages.
The smell of sweet, slightly wet grass filled my nose, and I was feeling at home on the soccer field. The coaches divided all 55 girls into teams and the scrimmages began. An hour and half to show them what you’ve got.
I thought to myself,“Let’s go Catherine. It all comes down to this.” I stepped onto the field and played my heart out. Perspiration again drenched me and I drank every single drop of water in my water bottle. Breathing hard and unsure if the coaches had liked what they had seen me do, it was time to go home, shower (finally!), and get ready for what tomorrow would bring: 120-yard sprints.
120 sprints presented the most intense physical challenge I have ever endured. The two mile is a cakewalk compared to these. The runner has to sprint the full soccer field (120 yards) in 20 seconds, and then has 35 seconds to jog back. You are given 30 seconds to control your breath which is pretty impossible! Times ten. To be honest, some of the things that went through my mind during 120’s is not anything to write here! Fortunately, the day the coaches had chosen for 120s was fairly cool, which was nice. The cool breeze controlled the heat emanating from my body. I kept going to the line again and again because of my teammates. Their encouragement was unbelievable.
“C’mon, Catherine! You got this! Let’s go only four more!” said one.
Another shouted, “Push it! Let’s go Fraser! You’re doing a great job!” Through their encouragement, my legs felt lighter, and I felt a new energy.
“What am I doing this for? Why?” I asked myself, “for Varsity,” was my answer. The cheers of my teammates greeted my ears and my exhausted body as I finished number 10. I was done! Happiness and pride swelled in my heart. Another day of tryouts was behind me. Only one more fitness test tomorrow: shuttles, more commonly known as “killers.”
I woke up with a good attitude the next day. I had only day of tryouts left. When I arrived at the field, everyone was determined to finish strong. Shuttles would be difficult, but nothing we couldn’t handle. For shuttles, the runner has to go to the 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yard lines and back. Times five. Then the runner goes to the 25 and back three times. Times three. And finally, the runner finishes going to the 50, back, and to the 50 again. Times two. This is done all in 25 seconds with 30 seconds rest in between. With this refreshed attitude, I pushed it. My legs screamed and practically went numb. They were unbelievably sore, but despite it all I made all but one time constraint. Before that day, I wasn’t aware that my legs could function like that after a full week of two-a-day soccer practices. I didn’t know I was capable of so much.
I went home and had the remainder of the day to wonder what team I had made. Friday finally came and an excited nervousness came over me. My stomach fluttered and fingers tingled. I played every scenario possible through my head millions of times. After what seemed like a decade, our coach called us over. They were giving each player a slip of paper telling them what team they had made. Slowly, she went through the alphabet until the F’s came up and she said,
“Catherine.” I popped up and grabbed my slip of paper. I unfolded the crinkled, white paper. My hands shook and I read the word written on it once, twice, ten times. The paper read the following: Varsity. I screamed in my head and a discreet smile slid up my face.
My friend Morgan turned to me and asked, “Cat what team didya make?!” I gaped at her for a while, unable to come up with the reply. She grabbed my paper and gasped, “Oh my god!! You made Varsity! What a baller!!” She shrieked. Drawn to her reaction, some of my friends came over and congratulated me.
I couldn’t believe it, and still it frankly seems like a dream. Even though I was successful during tryouts, I had no idea that Varsity was a reality. Through this experience I have learned how much hard work and perseverance does pay off. When I reflect back on all of the times I wanted to quit, to stop running, and not give 100%, my unwillingness to give in was fairly remarkable. In the future, a quote from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee about True Courage will help me persevere. It reads:
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” (Lee 149)
During 120-yard sprints especially, I knew I was exhausted during the 30 second breather and doubted if I could continue, but I began anyway, and completed them. I “won,” but even if I had not, I would have been happy that I tried my best and left no room for regret.
From that moment on, whenever I ask myself, “Can I really do this?” I will now always respond with, “When you work hard, anything is possible,” because I know it’s true.