59: Softball and Self-Confidence

59: Softball and Self-Confidence

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Softball and Self-Confidence

Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you are right.

~Henry Ford

“What about the jersey?” I paused from placing clothes in a Goodwill bag and looked at my friend. She was holding up a small red and white jersey with the number twelve and the nickname “Runt” printed on back.

A smile tugged at my mouth as I snagged the tiny shirt out of her hands.

“I’ll keep this one.”

We were in the process of sorting which clothes were going to college with me and which ones were getting donated to Goodwill when my friend came across one of my fondest memories of junior high — my softball jersey.

I ran my hand over the soft cotton of the faded shirt and I was transported back to the softball field behind the school — the green grass was bare in places from gym class, dirt rose as one of my teammates slid home, and hot summer sun warmed my skin.

I was new to the school district the year I joined softball. I had made several friends, but being a self-described shy girl I was lacking confidence. I didn’t raise my hand in class, I hung back in gym class and I wasn’t participating in any after-school activities. So I surprised myself when one of my new friends asked me to join the softball team and I said yes.

We were the Dairy Queen Braziers. If we won a game we got a free ice cream cone from DQ. I don’t recall us ever winning a game.

At our first practice we picked our numbers and the names we wanted on the back of our jerseys. I picked twelve because that was my age and my teammates picked “Runt” because at seventy-nine pounds I was the smallest seventh grader on the team.

As the coach started assigning positions, most of the girls jockeyed for first base and pitcher while I volunteered for right field. Hardly any balls came to right field and I wanted to be away from the action.

My first practice went well until it was time to bat. I was uneasy standing at the plate while everyone stared at me. It made me want to disappear. I swung at the first pitch and missed. Strike one. I swung at the second ball and hit a grounder right to the pitcher. I was out before I could even run to first base.

It turned out I was pretty bad at softball. When a ball did come to right field I was too afraid to really get under the ball to catch it, and when I batted, I either struck out or hit grounders that were easily caught. Despite this, I took practices seriously and enjoyed being part of a team.

I quickly became friends with the girls, and as they helped me adjust to the new school my confidence grew. I got better at the game. I started catching and occasionally covered third base. Although I never pitched, I learned I could throw the ball really far. I even hit a home run.

At school I started participating in class and in after-school activities, even performing in a musical. I was no longer the shy girl in gym class and was often selected to be a team captain.

Softball didn’t make me popular, but being on a team gave me the confidence I needed to make friends, try new activities and succeed in school.

I folded the jersey and tucked it into a box that contained other items that would get packed away while I was at college. I’m still terrible with a bat, but I wanted to keep the jersey as a reminder that life is full of possibilities.

~Valerie D. Benko

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