The Unexpected This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     As my finger scrolled down the softball team list, I realized that my name was not there. I got sweaty and nervous, checking the list again and again, but I really was not there. I took a deep breath, wiped my tears and walked toward the cafeteria. Maybe when I saw the assistant coach at lunch, she would tell me there’d been a mistake.

I found her, but instead of my fanciful dream, she turned away, as though it hurt to look at me. I quickly walked to my table, and as soon as I saw my friends, I broke down again.

“What’s wrong, Heather?” they asked, confused. When I told them I hadn’t made the team, they couldn’t believe it.

“What, are you serious? You have been playing your whole life. There must be a mistake. You were a swing player last year,” one said. I didn’t know why I was cut from the team.

Back in March, after an intense meeting about all the rules, the coach told everyone to leave except the returning varsity. Unsure whether to stay since I was a swing player, I began to leave.

“No, Heather, you stay for this.” I sat back down, my heart racing. If I were considered returning varsity, I was practically guaranteed a spot. I excitedly listened as my coach discussed the season.

The first day of tryouts was held in the gym. After the final sprint whistle, we made a big circle and did another conditioning drill for 15 minutes, which was exhausting but nothing I hadn’t expected. I kept telling myself, The second baseman isn’t trying out. I have a chance, I can do this.

The next day practice was outside and they would really get to see what I was capable of on the field. As my group walked to the pitching machine, I began to feel nervous. Last year I had a lot of trouble hitting off the machine and this year I hadn’t had a chance to go to the batting cages. As I watched the girl before me hit almost every ball, my heart began to race.

“Heather, you’re up. Watch the first one, then bunt three and then hit away.”

Okay, I told myself, I can do this. I squared for a bunt and kept my eye on the ball. I watched the ball fall a few feet in front me. The following two bunts were also successful. Now I was to hit. I watched the first ball fly to third base. Then I hit balls into the field, some into the outfield, which surprised me.

At the fielding station, I took my position and worked to impress my coach. We rotated every three catches. After doing what I thought was pretty good for not playing since fall, my coach called everyone in. “Good job, everyone. The list will be posted tomorrow after lunch. You may all go home now except for the returning varsity and the girls I asked to stay later for the meeting the other day.”

That’s me! I did it! I thought, excited. We fielded and hit for another hour.

“You all did great, I’m really looking forward to the season. The list will be posted tomorrow so check it.” We were silent. “Just kidding, you all obviously made the team,” she assured us.

The next day at school, I went online and wrote all the games into my agenda book. After lunch as I passed the gym, I decided to look at the list to see who else had made the team. I could not believe I was cut. The thought of not making the team had not even crossed my mind.

After a few days, I finally had the courage to meet with the coaches to ask what I had done wrong so I could improve my playing for the following year. When I walked to the small office and saw them waiting for me, I wanted to turn and run, but I took a deep breath and sat down.

As I listened, I tried to read into what they were saying because instead of telling me why I hadn’t made the team, they only told me what a devoted, hard-working player I was. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to hear compliments, I wanted to know how to improve. When the meeting ended, I was just as confused as when I’d walked in. By the time I reached my car, though, I was happy with myself. Unlike the others who were cut, I had had the courage to face the coaches to try to find out where I went wrong.

Today, when I see the girls in their uniforms, I want to go to the locker room and struggle with my sliding shorts before putting on my uniform. I now have a job and can start to focus more on field hockey. I still miss softball and realize I should never have taken my time on the field for granted.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Rachael J. said...
Apr. 7, 2009 at 12:53 am
thats so cool
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