What volleyball has taught me


Melanie Martinez

Volleyball has taught senior Savannah Crabtree to persevere, smile, and accept loss.

Savannah Crabtree, Editor

The lights glared overhead, and anticipation sparked the air. Everyone in the gym felt it: from the fans in the bleachers to the players on the court. Who was going to get this last point? The score was 18-24 and we were in the fourth set, having won the first set and losing the other two. I anxiously tried to anticipate where the ball would land, trying to read the setter’s movements and body language. As a defensive player, it is my job to get the ball up, no matter what it takes, so that we can score. I had waited on the bench for the rotation to allow me to go in for a while. I wanted to get on that court so bad, to be there, regardless of if we won or lost this set.

A hitter from Splendora goes up to swing, arms up, and hits the ball down with a powerful swing. I wanted to move my feet to the ball, I should have at least tried, but my feet were glued to the gym floor. I watched as the ball hit the floor, just a few feet away. A resounding thud echoed throughout the gym and lasted a mere millisecond but felt like an eternity. None of us looked at each other at this moment, as we realized that we had lost, and this was our last game as a team. Immense shame and grief washed over me as the fans exploded into cheers and we lined up to shake hands with the other team. I refused to look at anybody the whole time and when my friends came up to me and hugged me, I could not hold back the tears anymore. 

That was my last game in high school. We lost our first game in the playoffs. 

Volleyball is a race to see who can score 25 first, who makes the least mistakes, who has the best morale. I have been playing since sixth grade and I vividly remember my first game, where a ball was served to me and I freaked out and caught the ball, instead of at least trying to pass the ball. I did not even want to play volleyball initially and was very angry with my mom when she forced me to play. To middle school me, volleyball just seemed like some dumb girly “sport.” It was only over the course of my years of playing this sport that I realized that volleyball is so much more. 

My first few years of volleyball were spent just being grouchy and isolated. I would get annoyed with my teammates and just outright avoided them. I had a poor attitude and often, it affected my playing abilities. I had spent all my school years with that lousy mentality and as such, I was very unhappy. My coaches would always tell me to get excited and to smile but I would always just brush them off. 

My freshman year in volleyball was rough and I attempted to quit. However, a coach convinced me not to and told me that she “sees something in me.” I thought she was crazy but for once, I felt supported, and it gave me the push I needed to keep playing.  

Sophomore year rolls around and I was not even supposed to be going to school because of Covid-19, which meant I could not play volleyball. I ended up going to school anyway and I begged for a chance to play. Fortunately, I was given an opportunity to play and to this day, I am so grateful that I was given this chance. I was not initially on the team, and I had to work to earn my spot. I worked hard and I earned a spot on the junior varsity team. I did not get to play much because of how many people were on the team, but I was just grateful that I got to be a part of the team. There were people who did not receive a chance, so I knew I was lucky. Sophomore year was the year I started to fall in love with this sport. The games were more intense, and I enjoyed competing against other players. I started to see improvement in myself, and it made me excited.  

I started to enjoy volleyball so much that I dropped all my other sports I played so I could focus on improving. I started to play club ball. Club ball was even more fun than school ball and it taught me a lot more. My first game in club was horrible; I shanked several balls, fell in the net, and let balls just hit the floor. I had never been so humiliated in volleyball before, and I felt my confidence slip. I felt like a failure, and I could not control the mental breakdown I had on the court, in front of a bunch of parents and hot guys watching our game. I regretted playing and questioned my self worth. However, I had a wonderful coach who encouraged and supported me. Her kindness and patience really warmed my heart and I promised myself that I would never let her or my team down again. That day I learned to recover from my mistakes and move on to the next play. Volleyball is a game about mistakes, and everyone makes them.  

My junior year I really wanted to make Varsity, but I never imagined I would actually make it. I had more experience from playing club and I busted my butt off in summer workouts. I made Varsity but I was so overwhelmed. Most of the team had more experience and I felt unworthy. These feelings affected how I played as well. I was always more reluctant to go for the ball, and I felt uncomfortable on the court next to better players. As such, I often rode the bench at the beginning of the season, and I was fine with that. Unlike previous times, I did not put in the work needed to play. I was too scared to play, and it showed. Over time I grew more comfortable with my team, and I finally started to have fun again. However, the season was over, and I knew that next year, I wanted to go all out. 

I set high expectations for my senior year; I wanted to have the most digs every game, win awards, and be the libero. I thought if I worked hard enough, these things would come easily but they never did. I had a good start in the offseason, but everything fell apart when we attended camp. The second day of camp I was thoroughly exhausted and nervous because our coach was watching. I missed so many balls and could never get a solid read on the other team’s hitters. As a result, I was no longer libero and it felt like all my dreams had been crushed. I was so upset about the whole ordeal that I just stopped trying at all. I figured there was no point if I could not get what I wanted, which was obviously incredibly selfish. At that time, I was not thinking about the team and only myself instead. 

Further on in the season, one of my teammates practically breaks her body trying to get a ball up. I thought she was insane. After all, it is just one point of a set, one set of a game, one game of many more to come. I replayed the visual of that teammate injuring herself to get that ball up in my head over and over again. I started to feel guilty for being so envious of her and realized that she deserved that spot, way more than I ever did. As I sat on the bench, I thought about my career in volleyball; how my parents paid thousands for me to play, how I had improved from sixth grade, my coach giving me a push, and how I had wasted all my years in school and volleyball with a toxic mindset. As I watched that one teammate be hauled off by medical care, I knew that it was time for a change. I saw just how selfless she was in her sacrifice, and I felt disgusted with myself for being so selfish and rude to everyone. 

From that moment on, I felt like a changed person and player. I started to let go of the past and move on to the future. This is essentially what volleyball is; shaking off the mistakes and injuries so that you can make the best possible play for your team. I never really accomplished my goals for the season, but I received such a valuable life lesson that has changed me and how I interact with the world ever since. There is no point in spending life sulking and longing for things you cannot have. Instead, just make the best of what is given and be grateful for the opportunities you are given. 

My playing abilities were not perfect after that instance, but it was my mindset that improved. I made amazing new friends, had fun when I played, and learned how to persevere. Undoubtedly, there were rough games, but we all gave our best. Nobody wanted to feel the pain of when we finally lost our final game. However, when we lost to Splendora, there was a solemn feeling of acceptance amongst the whole team, the seniors especially. Our time as a team was truly over. We see each other in the hallways and some of us have classes together but it is not the same.  

Volleyball is a sport about overcoming loss and improving yourself. Compared to any other sport, volleyball is a sport about mentality. Essentially, who you are as a person is how you play. If you want to be the best, you have to want it so bad that it becomes all you can think of. Despite all the hardships and sacrifices I have had to make for volleyball, I still would not change a single thing. I have learned so much from this sport, met so many amazing people, and found something that can truly make me happy. I want to keep playing, whether it be recreationally, for college, or whatever. I truly love volleyball, and if I ever had to give it up, I would be giving up a part of me.