Bravery & the Importance of Trying Something New

My daughter decided to try volleyball for the first time, and joined the school’s Grade 7 recreation-level team. It made me happy that she had willingly signed herself up for a school sport. It was something that had taken a lot of bravery to do on her own. An activity that I didn’t have to organize or pay for after years of community sports and other pursuits. No uniforms and equipment. No early mornings. And most importantly: No crazy parents. I was thrilled.

Why It’s Important to Try

It didn’t take long to realize that my daughter was average at volleyball. I didn’t expect her to be good. She had never played before. But I think every parent secretly hopes that their kid is an undiscovered superstar with scholarships and excellence in their future. And I was no exception to that. I needed to believe that the hours I’d put in on bleachers and benches would add up to something.

So, I sat there on the bench watching my daughter and her teammates make mistake after mistake. It’s not surprising that the girls aren’t skilled volleyball players; Most of them had never played before.

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And that got me thinking about how uncomfortable it is to try something new and not be good at it. It doesn’t feel good to fumble, to put yourself out there and risk being embarrassed or incompetent. I can recall many times in my own life when I was put in that position. I’ve opted out of an activity or invitation because to participate felt too scary and too vulnerable.

Then a moment came in the game when one of my daughter’s teammates bumped the ball off of her arms onto her own bench, causing her teammates to scramble out of the way. She blushed and looked apologetically at her teammates and coach. She then looked over to her dad, who was sitting next to me. He smiled and said, “It’s okay.” She turned back toward the game and got into position.

She had made an error, one that had come at a cost: a lost point for her team, an insult to her confidence and worst of all, in front of an audience. It occurred to me then that I was bearing witness to bravery in action. A girl, willing to stand in front of us in all of her imperfection, exposed and seen.

Bravery And Trying Again

It’s an understatement to say these girls had no control over the outcome. None. It was almost funny how little control they had over the ball. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the girls were terrible. Most of the serves didn’t make it to the net. There was the odd time that the volleyball traveled back over the net but mostly, it was a lot of bad bumps and misfires.

The ball landed on the score-keepers table, on the bench where I was sitting with the other parents. Sometimes it just traveled through the air and its destination was anyone’s guess. You had to have your wits about you as a spectator in the game or risk a volleyball to the head.

The benefits of team sports go beyond just the physical. Being a part of a team creates a sense of community in which kids can build connections and grow in a supportive environment. Teamwork fosters compassion and teaches kids to be able to accept the limitations and strengths of others. They get to experience the joy that comes from lifting up a teammate after they’ve missed a shot and encouraging them to keep going.

At the heart of all of this is the building of bravery and self-esteem and community, two pieces of being human that are essential in all of our lives.

What was happening on the volleyball court that day was good practice for what will continue to happen in these girls’ lives. They will be embarrassed. Sometimes they’ll make mistakes that disappoint people. But they’ll always have to push through the discomfort of learning to do new things and develop the grit, tenacity and bravery to stick with them, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

I left that game feeling so filled with pride for my daughter and her teammates who showed up that day. I marvel at the duality of life that was captured so well in that volleyball game: Can you be not good at something and still be worthy enough to try?

To hold both truths at the same time is possibly the most important work a person can do.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing: it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. – Brené Brown

Sarah Seitz
Sarah Seitzhttp://sarahseitz.ca
Sarah Seitz is a working mother, writer and consumer of coffee and books - in that order. She writes about the messy and real parts of parenting and reveals her underbelly in her words. You can read more of Sarah’s writing at www.sarahseitz.ca.