My parents have always told me that if you play by the rules, work your hardest, give your best and do the right thing, everything will work out. That proved not to be the case for my first year and a half attending the University of Oklahoma. Beginning university as a student-athlete adds another level of pressure and stress to that of being a college freshman. What I did not know was that I was joining a volleyball program that had little interest in my athletic playing ability, or who I was as a person. This caused me to feel worthless, invisible, and a failure, but led me to take the reins to my life to create happiness and find success in who I am.
After playing volleyball for several years, I developed a dream to play at the highest level this country could offer, D1 college volleyball. As a 16-year-old girl, I didn’t know what I wanted from a University or what to even look at, but I learned the recruiting process is a cutthroat game and if you don’t recruit or commit early, you’re considered leftovers. I made the decision to attend the University of Oklahoma to fulfill my dream, but what I didn’t know was that I was walking into one of my biggest nightmares.
As a “walk-on” athlete, I knew I would have to work for and earn my place on the team. I was told and believed that everyone would have to work hard to earn their place on the team. That did not scare me as nothing has ever been handed to me in volleyball, so I was confident that if I worked hard and did my best I would find success. After just my first season, I was completely drained, both mentally and physically. I met with my coaches to better understand what I could do to improve, and what it would take for me to make a contribution to the team and to earn playing time. The coaches provided me very little actionable advice, but I made note of their comments and began putting them into practice to improve my volleyballs skills. However, it seemed that no matter what I did to spark their interest, I was always left unnoticed. As result, the confidence that I had in playing volleyball had disintegrated.
Going into my second season, I worked hard to improve so that I could have a greater contribution to my team. I spent extra time in the gym, beyond that of all my teammates, in order to find my role. At this point, I knew my coaches had noticed me, but the team roles and positions proved to be awarded based on criteria other than commitment, skills and work ethic. I realized I would not have an opportunity to earn playing time fairly given team politics and favoritism. For one and a half years I had played by the rules, worked my hardest and gave my best, but everything was not working out. So, I made the decision to leave the University of Oklahoma to peruse not only my original dream, but also new dreams from my previous experiences. Not only do I want to continue my dream of playing D1 college volleyball, but to also be in an environment which is encouraging and uplifting for every team member.
Leaving the University of Oklahoma was a harder decision than I thought. The original thought pained me to think I was leaving the school and program a failure. But determined to prove that narrative wrong, I did everything I could to be successful in myself. Failure is not defined by outward accomplishments or worldly achievements, but success found in yourself is more valuable than any physical award. And if you play by the rules, work your hardest, give your best and do the right thing, everything will leave you down the path God designed for you.