The Girl Wearing Blue This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“Number seven,” says the woman at the check-in table, tossing me a black tryout shirt. “You got the lucky one.”

The player in line behind me actually lets out a faint sigh of disappointment as I unfold the jersey, revealing the bold white number across the back. I smile and thank the woman, though her assurance of good fortune means little to me. I have decided that the success or failure of my number will be determined by the girl wearing it.

I'm among the first to arrive, so I sit on the edge of the nearest volleyball court, between two girls putting on kneepads and adjusting ankle braces. We don't make conversation, preferring instead to listen to music as we wait nervously. The iPod of the girl next to me reveals that she has selected Katy Perry, while Nicki Minaj blares from the pink headphones of the other girl. My own iPod is safely in my sweatpants pocket at a reasonable volume to conceal that my warm-up playlist contains my favorites by Alice Cooper.

As the gym fills with other hopefuls for the volleyball tryouts, I am immersed in a sea of black. Black shirts, black Spandex shorts, black socks. There's no policy regarding dress except the numbered jersey, but black is generally the accepted color. There is a certain safety in this conformity. To wear anything else is to draw the coaches' sharp gazes your way – to be remembered, for better or for worse. These thoughts course through my mind as I reluctantly remove my sweatpants, uncovering my vivid blue compression shorts. I am now a subtle oddity, a piece somehow painted the wrong color on an assembly line.

The first hour of tryouts passes in a desperate attempt to distinguish myself as a setter. I lead the warmup exercises, I am the first in line, and I am the loudest on my court. Coaches watch like a cast of hawks, some constantly in motion, others lingering to scrutinize and make careful notes. The pressure I've placed on myself, combined with this overwhelming awareness of being watched, is enough to cause my mask of confidence to slip – but only slightly.

Then, as drills come to an end and scrimmages begin, I forget that I am at a tryout; I forget who I am trying to be. I don't just let my mask fall, I discard it completely in the courtside dirt.

The only thought that remains is to play, and I do.

I collect bruises like trophies that suddenly take on real value as I make a sprawling dig that earns a shout of appreciation from the nearest coach. My smile is genuine when a player compliments my offense. I am no longer a stereotypical setter; instead, I radiate my own unique enthusiasm.

I'm not sure what each of the coaches said about number 7, but this doesn't bother me (or my new teammates). I am perfectly content to be successful within myself, to enjoy what I do, and to display my true colors, which happen to be blue.

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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