Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Everything Happens For A Reason

I had everything. I played varsity sports, was in the best classes and clubs, had two jobs, and a lot of friends. My life was perfect. I was halfway through my junior year of high school when my parents dropped the bittersweet news. My dad was coming home from Iraq, but moving us away from our home in Pflugerville, Texas, for his new job. I couldn’t believe them. I couldn’t believe they would move me away from everything I had worked for and looked forward to. I treated the idea as a joke. At school I told my friends not to worry I would be back the next year to stand in the senior section of the gym during the pep-rallies and help win the spirit stick. But my parents weren’t on the same page as me. No matter what I said I could not convince them that staying would be in the best interest for me and my family. I finished my junior year as best as I could, making sure to finish my years at Pflugerville High School on a good note.

Summer came and I decided to try and contact the volleyball coach at my new school so that I could work out with the team and try to join their volleyball program. The coach then emailed me back and said, “Give me a call.” I thought he was trying to blow me off, but I was desperate to become a part of the team so a couple of days later I called. He answered immediately and I was confused.

“What’s up girl?! Hold on I’m in the middle of a sand volleyball game. I’ll call you in fifteen minutes.” I immediately wondered if I had the wrong number or if his son had answered the phone. I had never had a coach who was as young as this one sounded or that actually played the game of volleyball. He called me back and informed me of camps and tournaments that were going to start a month later, and I wouldn’t have a chance of making the team if I missed them.

My summer was then cut short by two months, and everything I had planned to do to say goodbye to my hometown and everyone in it had to be compacted into a single month. I hung out with my friends, ate at my favorite restaurants, swam, and played sand volleyball as much as I possibly could with a curfew set to only midnight. Even with all of the fun, my days were numbered. My friends threw me a surprise going away party, and a week later I got in my car and drove twelve hours to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. All of a sudden I had to step up and accept what had happened. I had a new home and a new way of doing things.

Just as soon as I arrived, I began my year as the new kid and went to volleyball camp. I didn’t know anybody except for the coach who I had spoken to only a few times, and I was extremely intimidated. My new coach, Ben Wallis, turned out to be a former volleyball player and college coach. Right away I started learning so much from him. He was extremely organized, and had our schedule planned out for us before we were even accepted on the volleyball team. Not only was he organized but he was young and loved the game of volleyball. He sometimes would have us over to his house on the weekends we didn’t have games. He would have his wife cook us dinner while the team would take over the living room.

“Did you see that hit? It was such a smart swing for her to use that angle! That block was to the pin, remember that Hope. Use the angles, don’t be a butthead.” Wallis would say as we watched college volleyball games. Team bonding activities on his team were all about volleyball and furthering our knowledge of the game, not just making the team chemistry stronger by doing useless things.

Wallis could speak to us in terms that showed not only his knowledge of volleyball but also his understanding of high school players. If I had a dime for every time he said, “I’m going to scissor-kick you in the back of the head!” I’d be rich—he knew how to let the team know they messed up without screaming his head off. He used his humor to build relationships with his players and it felt as though he knew all of us individually.

This team had a coach that was the complete and polar opposite of my prior coach. My coach in Pflugerville, Jeff Coward, was very unorganized; sometimes we didn’t know when we would be having practice until the day of and the times would be changed multiple times. He would sometimes decide to do pointless things instead of practice the day before huge games, like five a.m. nature walks, to team bond. He would let his uncontrollable eight year old sit on the bench during games causing a player to have to stand.

He said things that made us feel as though he didn’t really know the game of volleyball, like, “Hope you need to hit the orb harder.”

At the beginning of the season we would make fun of him behind his back.
“Did you hear what he said? He called the ball an orb, what an idiot.” Girls would say during a water break. It got to the point where the whole team had no respect for him.

“Are you seriously wearing a pink shirt? That doesn’t even look good.” I can remember a teammate laughing and saying to Coward before practice. Once a player even took over and decided there would be no practice.

She walked in with her hands on her hips and simply stated, “I am getting my nails done today so practice is cancelled.” I remember the whole team looking at Coach Coward seeing what he would do about it.

He said, “Okay, see everyone tomorrow.”

It was obvious that he knew that he had lost everyone’s respect, by the fact that he let her cancel practice. His poor coaching style reflected in the fact that we lost most of our games.

As volleyball season really started to kick in, I was realizing slowly that the move wasn’t that terrible. I had even managed to make the varsity team, whose potential of winning a State Championship was greater than my previous team I had left behind. With the help of Coach Wallis’ excellent coaching techniques, and the discourse community he built for us, our varsity volleyball team took second place in the State Championship Tournament.

Reflecting back on the move to Rio Rancho, I’d have to say it was a blessing when I thought it would be a curse. My family was able to stay together, I benefitted from a great volleyball coach and it changed my future. Now I am certain, everything happens for a reason. I was given a new start, new opportunities, and a new team to make the best of; most of all, my family was along for the ride.

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