Advanced 15's-Quite an Advanced Occurance

November 4, 2010
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Success shows we’re better, but failure makes us better. Most people have encountered failure at some point in their life. It is not how many times we are defeated, or how inadequate we are, but how we react to this collapse. The reality of life is that some people don’t react. Some people are content with average or below average, but some people strive for excellence. I am one who is not content with breakdown or defeat, and I am one who will continue to work until I avenge the circumstance.
It was May of last year; my confidence was soaring after a varsity hockey season of scoring, and I was ready for some summer hockey. At the time, I was in four hockey programs, on two soccer teams, and running for the middle school track team…can you say busy? The reality of all of this is that only thing truly mattered to me. I wanted to make it to Mankato for a hockey training camp, an elite camp where only the best of the best are selected to participate. I didn’t want to go there because it was an appealing place, or for quality coaches. I wanted to go there because I wanted to carry that pride. I wanted to be able to say “Oh yeah, I made it to Mankato for Advanced 15’s.” You may think I was being greedy, and I would have to agree, but then, more than anything else, I wanted to be considered a “superstar” hockey player.
The Minnesota program consisted of twelve districts. Each was given the task to bring 20 of the top female hockey players to a festival. That was the first step, making it to the festival. I was pretty confident that I was one of the top 20 of the district, which I proved 20 hours of ice later. I remember walking up to the lobby from the locker room of the New Hope Ice Center with all of the other girls. Not too many people seemed nervous because they were only going to cut a small number of us. I walked up to the sheet in search of jersey number 18. I saw it and immediately felt relieved. As I walked away proudly from the list, I heard a girl say “Hey! Can you just tell me does this say 30 or 31?” I replied in a monotone voice simply with “31.” I walked away watching tears run down the girl’s face.
A few training sessions later, it was time for the festival. Everything I had ever done had led up to that moment, or so I thought. There were over 200 girls there, all with the hopes of making it to Mankato. There were the 15 or 20 that knew they would make it there because they were that good. Their ideal situation was to make it to the National Development Camp in Rochester, New York a few months later. I had to bring myself back to actuality and realize that I would most likely never be one of those players. Less than half of the girls at the festival would even go to Mankato, and I wanted it so badly. I was “mentally prepared” for defeat, however, I knew if my name wasn’t on that list that I would be in an emotional heartbreak for a while.
It was the third and final game of the tryouts, and so far I hadn’t done anything too special other than work as hard as I could. I knew I had to come up big, especially considering the fact that the evaluators in the stands, all uniformed in royal blue jackets with clipboards, were all either former Olympians, or former NHL players. I breathed deeply preparing myself for the next ninety minutes. We stepped on the ice to warm up and everything seemed to be fine; my shots were on target, my speed was normal, and my hands felt fast. Those ninety minutes flew by, and before I even knew it regulation time was over. However, we were in a tie. We played a solid ten minutes of overtime with no score. Next up was the shootout.
“Dani, Kelly, Ellen, Kaylie, and …” Our coach paused as he named off the first four shooters searching the bench for a fifth. I saw him glance at me. I wonder if he saw the anticipation in my eyes and that’s what made him say “…Maddie. You guys are up in that order for the shootout.” This was my big break. I had to be a hero. Because I was to shoot last I spent about three or four minutes mentally preparing myself. As I was jumping the board to get onto the ice the coach stood up. “Wait, I think I’m gonna change this up. Katherine you’re up. Here is your chance to score, considering you didn’t all winter season.” He said with a smirk. She nodded and skated to center ice. The ref. blew his whistle and the next thing I knew she was skating up ice. Only some strides later, she shot. The puck soared into the back of the net. As the rest of my team cheered, I sat in awe. My dreams were robbed from me. I didn’t even get the chance. I joined my team in the celebration, hiding my misery.
All I could do was wait. Wait for the moment that defined me as a hockey player. It was about six days after the final scrimmage that my anticipation led up to. I was sitting in science class listening to Mrs. Brinkhaus talk about atmospheric layers, yes I do remember exactly, when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I was by no means expecting what I read. Maybe a “do you have your soccer cleats, because there are two pairs in the garage?” from my dad or a “do we get homework in math?” from a friend, but not the words I read. I can’t recall them exactly, but I read them over and over again for about a minute trying to grasp onto reality. Tears began to stream down my face.
The rest of the day went by heavily and stagnantly. My focus was lost in all other classes and tears began to reappear periodically throughout the day. It was finally close to the end of the day. I was in Geography with Mr. Nelson, who was one of my coaches. He noticed my tears and abnormally negative mood and pulled me into his office while we were working on a map. He asked what was wrong and I explained the situation. He told me that this should only be an incentive to work harder. I understood that he was right, but the last thing I wanted was to be reminded of my failure.
The last bell finally rang. I walked to the bus and sat alone until I got home. I wanted to shut the world out and just be left alone. Once I was home my parents reminded me once again with hugs and sorrowful words. As soon as that was over, I dragged my eradicated self to the computer to look at the girls who did make it. Of course this made nothing better. I saw names of girls that weren’t any better than me listed and to irony’s expectation everyone who shot in the shootout for my team was on that list, including the one who shot in place of me. I ran up to my room wanting a mournful night seeking self pity from everyone. That was definitely not what I needed. I was called to go to a friend’s house, but I said I was busy. I sat for another few hours listening to sad music and feeling defeated, when my parents finally came in and told me I needed to get a grip on things I was in agreement with them. I decided to hang out with my friends after all. We had such a fun night, and without them I don’t know where I would be. I was reminded that life does go on. Tragedy isn’t forever.
This was such a good learning experience for me because I have never been a failure at this large of a scale. I go to a small school where I was able to make the “A” team in my sports without a problem. I have to realize that it isn’t so easy for some. I need to step into others shoes, or maybe just my own. This brought me back to reality. I realized I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. I became more humble and learned how to help others when life gives them lemons. Most importantly I learned that if you never pick yourself up after you fall, you will never be able to go anywhere but down.

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