January 18, 2014

What Club Volleyball Has Taught Me

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.... a LOT.

Starting this post has scared me for a while.  Where do I even start?  How do I describe the rollercoaster of emotions that had before been uncharted territory for me?

I've always enjoyed sports.  I started out in gymnastics and did that for almost 10 years.  My 7th grade summer, I also began volleyball, to see which sport I wanted to continue in middle school.  Gymnastics became too much of a time suck and something I would have to devote a ton of time too if I ever wanted to be successful, so I joined volleyball.

I was terrified of the first practice.  Sheesh, I didn't even know what to wear!  All my life, I had gone to gymnastics in a leotard or sometimes soccer in cleats ... I didn't even know you needed knee pads.  I was the most clueless junior high volleyball player ever.  I don't remember loving the first practice, but I do remember not knowing what I was doing.  Thankfully, that changed and eventually, I really began to throw my heart into practices and games.  They became the highlight of the week and I began serving at home.  I broke two, no three, garage lights. Dad replaced one before deciding it wasn't worth it.  He jokes volleyball has become the most expensive sport.




Fast forward to this year: I had an emotional sophomore year and I was unsure about how this year would go.  Well, it didn't go that bad, since I blogged about it every other post :)  It was a blast.  After Nationals, volleyball was supposed to be over.  I never planned on doing club this winter/spring, it only came up when the private Christian school's coach offered to build a club team of her players and our players.  We had only a couple days to respond and I was intrigued, so Dad, bless his heart, did a ton of research on club volleyball.  (Just FYI, you can't figure out everything about club in a couple hours ... but my Dad almost did it.  He is a researching machine - I am not.)  One of the people he called, Jill, had helped with CHIEF for years and she knows a ton about club.  Well, after we felt we knew enough to commit, the team fell through and I was back to where I was a couple days before; waiting until spring for volleyball.  It wasn't a huge deal, because I really had no clue about club and hadn't had my heart set on it.

Enter Jill.

Out of the blue, she calls us and asks if I would like to play for her club team.  Now, a little background info.  I've never played club.  Ever.  Most girls start in 5th-6th grade.  And, her team is in the 18s division.  I'm only 16, which would be fine if I had felt I was good enough to play in the 18s, but I didn't.  Finally, I would play defensive specialist on their team and I was a setter and didn't touch the ball in the back row at all this year.


Basically, I would be playing a position I've never really played at a level I've never experienced.

Mom and I talked about it the whole drive home from Lawrence (we were there for State piano auditions, I think. Anyways, I had to call Jill back that night) We looked at it from every single angle because I wanted to make the right decision.  I could go to tryouts the next morning and possibly play for a team as a setter ... or not get picked at all.  Long story short, I decided to play with Jill because I knew and liked her as a coach.

In hindsight, I can see God really opened a door here.  Jill didn't have to offer, in fact, I'm not sure why she offered, but she did.  And I am so grateful.

I was so nervous for the first practice.  SO nervous.  It felt like junior high all over again.  Except the first practice was bad. And I really began to regret saying I would do this.  I felt like this was a gift from Jill, letting me play, and I didn't her to regret her offer.  I also wanted to play well for Mom and Dad, who were making sacrifices to let me be on the team.  But for the first few weeks, I would try as hard as I could, but I couldn't physically get my body to move, pass, hit, whatever, the way I wanted it to.  I was on the verge of tears in the middle of the first tournament.  I'm a pretty good volleyball player and have always been one of the best on our homeschool team.  I knew it would be tough joining the traveling team and I knew I would be the worst on this team.  I had thought I had mentally prepared myself for it.  But that was the problem.  I was relying on myself, my mental preparation, my skills, to pull me through.  Unfortunately, my insecure, hyper-sensitive, negative self at the point was failing me.  Have you ever had just one job in a group project while everyone else is multitasking - and multitasking well?  I felt like that person with the one job, except I was failing at that one job. Miserably.

I have been doing a devotional on prayer this month of January and so I decided I needed to pray about this, because it was NOT working.  During devotions every morning, I started praying about it.  One lesson was about fear and trust.  I realized, when I am really, truly, fearing "the world" (in this case, what people thought of me, failing someone) I am not trusting Jesus.  That's what I had been doing. Letting my rehearsed fears tying me down.  I had to choose to trust Jesus on this one.

Two weeks ago, we had a scrimmage here at home.  We played three games and it wasn't until the 3rd set of the final game that I decided, I'm going to play as if I was playing for CHIEF.  I'm not going to worry about what every single person is thinking about me.  I'm not going to tense up on the court.  I'm going to trust that God opened this door for me and that I can do this.  I'm going to have fun, because isn't that the reason why I'm here?

You know what?  It was fun.  It only lasted about 15 minutes, because that's how long our last game was, but it was a major revelation to me.  I could have fun on this traveling team.  I could do well.  It was something I had not experienced and wasn't expecting.  Because when left to myself, I can be pessimistic and clam up.

This last week, we had our first real tournament.  Dad and I drove there and I was feeling pretty good, ready to play back row and enjoy watching half the time from the bench.  I was finally okay with that, not because I felt like I shouldn't be on the bench, but I finally felt like I had earned the time off the bench. 

But as we were warming up, Jill got a call saying one of our players had been throwing up that morning and they were driving the two hours back home.  God opened another door because I got to play right side hitter, since we were short a person.  Guys, that is the most fun I've ever had playing volleyball - ever.  I got to play all the way around and for the first time in club, play front row, where I had played 100% of the time for Chief.  It felt like home, almost, and it was a relief to feel comfortable on the court.  When I'm comfortable, I'm confident, and that makes playing a sport waaaay more fun.  Getting to hit and block and pass well and feel like I was contributing to the team was worth the many tears and bumps along the way.  It was the first time I had felt like I had played like I was capable of.

A couple weeks ago, I would've said I was ready to be done with club (and I only gave it, like 3-4 chances)  These past few weeks have really opened my eyes to my own limitations, which in a sense opened the door to surpassing them, because I was motivated, really motivated to get better.  I've begun to break down the mental barrier that I never will be as good because I was on a homeschooled team.  After the first practice, back in December, my goal became to hear, "You played well."  Period. Not well for someone inexperienced. Not well for someone not used to the faster pace. Just "well done."  Period.



It felt good to hear that said. 

I can still do better. I can still learn. But I can improve without trying to earn my spot. I can learn because I'm doing my job(s) well.

This has taught me something else. In order to hear God tell me well done, I'm going to have to trust Him and let Him give me a job that scares me. If I'm obedient, I'm going to have to work through tears.  I'm going to hit some highs that will motivate me and I'm going to hit some lows that leave me wondering why I said yes.  Am I willing to be obedient?  I'm going to try my best because at the end of it all, when I see God face to face, I don't want up hear I did well for being lukewarm. Or I did well for not trying. I want to hear "well done."  Period. 

I bet it will feel good to hear that. 

Ps. I'm driving to a tournament as we speak, but as soon as I get back, I'll upload photos from "through the years" ;)


  1. Love this post, Mary Frances! When we're obedient, God is so so faithful and shows so much favor even in the challenges. Way to go, girl. Trusting = hardest thing ever but I'm so glad you are in the middle of it all. Have fun at the tournament you're headed to!

  2. Wow!! Great for you girl!! That is so exciting!! I hear ya about being nervous at first... but good for you for powering through it!! :) I hope that you have a great weekend!! Looking forward to seeing the pictures!!

  3. Wow, girly. I love your honesty in this post!!! All of your thoughts are great, and it's SO COOL how God has been teaching you through it all and how you can see it! Volleyball's great that way, isn't it?!

  4. I love this post Mary Frances! SO true, honest and real. I am so glad to hear you listened to yourself, put your fears into prayer and are enjoying the new team. We always just need to trust Him and follow our hearts. I can't wait to see some pictures and hear more about the traveling team.

  5. What an insightful post. I am in awe that at such a young age you have such a capacity of self reflection and the ability to do something about it. You are going to go really far in life with that gift. So happy that this experience was a positive one for you. Check out our latest post, http://mayihavethatrecipe.com/2014/01/16/home-made-paleo-almond-yogurt-with-persimmons-pomegranate/ you may want to share something there it really ties in with your post. The question is: What would you do if you weren't afraid?

  6. Loved the post, Mary Frances! I'm so happy that you managed to overcome your fears and doubts and kept on believing! You'll get so far darling! I'm wishing the best for you and your team. And of course, hugs to your lovely father! So glad he could provide so much support! xxxx

  7. I'm so proud of you! You're so brave - for hanging in there and for putting it all out there for us to read. I have a really hard time trying new things and going outside my comfort zone so you're inspiring. I loved seeing your pictures through the years and how you've matured.


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