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Swing and A Miss This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     “Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker,” Zig Ziglar said, a reminder that an experience written off as unsuccessful can change the course of a human life. Albert Einstein once failed a math course but instead of dwelling on it, he went on to become the greatest mathematician ever. As a sophomore, I decided to try out for the baseball team after being left off the roster the previous year.

The dark green warehouse known as Sluggers would become the battleground for my mission the following winter. Covered with snow, Sluggers jutted out of a quiet, wooded area. Inside, the calmness was destroyed as the acrid smell of sweat and the cracking noise of ball hitting glove filled the air. I felt constantly watched by the huddle of gray-haired coaches who grasped clipboards to scribble their notes.

As I waited for my hitting to be evaluated, my heart began to thump like a bass line. The last player stepped out of the cage and held the net up for my entrance. I drew in a couple of breaths; lingering pine tar in the air mixed with dust from the Astroturf. My sweat-creased gloves clenched the bat, and while preparing my stance, my knees rattled with the fear of missing a pitch.

First rule of hitting: you will never hit the ball unless you think you can. As I flung my bat and missed, the closest coach dropped his head to his clipboard. He made a forceful slash, and turned away. Coach Knox had told us, “You’ll all have bosses one day. They will be making judgments of you all the time.” The truth hurts.

That day left me with a physical scar. The light coming in the windows was very bright, and the white walls were terrible for catching a white ball. During a drill, the ball came toward me ... toward me ... no sign of the ball yet ... whack! It hit my lower lip. Blood spurted out as I grabbed my shirt to cover the wound. I rushed off the field, followed by a string of coaches. I trudged out of the building into the cold, which hardened the blood, and went to the emergency center. But, I returned for the very next practice.

At the end of each session, Coach Knox would dispense information as he sat on a blue bucket, his fingers intertwined. His proverb, “Repetition is the key to success,” is one I discovered to be essential in life.

On the final day of tryouts, he left us with these words: “Not everybody is made to play baseball. You all have different talents; baseball might not be one of them. If you’re cut, you can’t let that keep you down. Get up, and get on with your life.”

My finger shook as it skimmed the final roster. After going down it three times, I realized my name would never appear. I calmly turned around, no tears in my eyes like the year before.

Not everything was a complete loss during this journey. I realized baseball had not always treated me fairly; this led me to focus on academics. I loved the game, but that did not mean the game had to love me back. Perhaps the repetition of failure is the real key to success.

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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