Hi, my name is Samantha G., I am in eighth grade and I have played volleyball, basketball, and softball for the past three years. In volleyball, we play a game called dead fish. The objective of the game is to serve the volleyball over the net. In sixth grade, I really struggled to serve the ball. Ms. Applebaum and Ms. Pando dedicated so much time to help me, but I just could not do it. This led my small sixth-grade self to tears, many times.
However, these past nine seasons have changed who I am in many ways. I could not have gone from hitting the net to acing the ball by myself. It took a lot of help from the coaches. The coaches are what make the Bernard Zell Athletics program thrive as it does. Each coach has not only the intention of making each student-athlete a better athlete, but also a better person. I have learned so many different things from all of my different coaches. The coaches embody the traits that we hope to develop as student-athletes. They are good leaders, compassionate, keep positive mindsets, but most of all they put us and our learning first.
Another core trait that our coaches demonstrate is tough love. Tough love is very important because it prepares you and helps you develop a thicker skin. Having tough skin is one of the biggest takeaways I have from the Bernard Zell Athletics program. I remember there was one seventh grade basketball game where I was not playing my best. I was fouling like crazy, and not being a good team player. I stomped off the court upset and pouted the whole way home. If a similar experience were to happen now, I am confident that due to my Bernard Zell Athletics career, I would still be upset about playing a game like this, but I would not stomp off the court and spoil the game for my team.
Another way that the BZ athletic career has made me a better person is through my leadership skills. Now, this may come as a surprise to exactly none of you, but since I was in SK, I have always liked to lead everything and be the boss of everyone and everything. While most sixth graders are scared of the older eighth graders, I was just jealous that they got to have all the power, and I did not. However, while I was in sixth and seventh grade, I saw the eighth graders use their power to help the younger kids learn and become better team players. My sixth-grade self would have looked at leadership as a power; my eighth-grade self looks at the leadership as a responsibility. The Bernard Zell Athletics program has helped me figure out what type of leader I am, and helped me learn how to become a good leader. The program gives you a chance to be put into a leadership role. However, you also get to observe the different styles of leadership that student-athletes and coaches use, so when it is your turn to be the leader you are prepared. Some traits of leaders that I have observed are staying positive, being compassionate, and delegating. I have tried to embody these traits during Softball this year. As a person who has played softball since I was in second grade, I have more experience on the field than most. However, I think this year I started being more positive if we win a game. Also, I have grown because now I am able to let others take a leadership role. I don’t save it all for myself.
When you are up to bat in softball, you either get an out or you don’t. However, you have your whole team, the whole other team, all of the coaches, and all of the fans staring at you. To me, this is one of the most stressful things. But, the Bernard Zell Athletics program has created a space where it is okay to strike out, where it is okay to make a mistake. Even though in high school and beyond I won’t have the same Bernard Zell community cheering me on through every swing and miss, I will have always have the foundation and the skills that the athletics program has provided me with. I have been given the chance to put myself out there in a space where it is okay to make a mistake and because of that I now have the confidence to put myself out there.
Not only does this program grow you as a person, but it also helps you become a better team player. Bernard Zell Athletics means so much to me and is one of the best things the school has to offer. Amongst all of this, it gives me a chance to be with teammates, strengthens relationships, and it gives me a place for my peers to see a different version of myself. During school, there are a variety of pressures, and people mostly only see the academic version of you. For me, it is so special that my peers have a chance to see me in a non- academic way. This is a time that I really value having with my peers because I want everyone to know multiple versions of me not just my inside the classroom version. Lastly, the four things that everyone regardless of your age should take away from the Bernard Zell Athletics program are winning is a lot but not everything, being a team player is key, with leadership comes responsibility, and relationships with teammates and coaches are so important.
Three years later, we are playing dead fish again, but I am now an eighth grader and it is my last game of dead fish ever. I can serve it over the net with no problem now. However, when this practice ends; I start to cry. Not because I was frustrated with my ability, but because I was not ready for the season to be over. I was not ready for my Bernard Zell Volleyball Athletics career to be over. Here I still am, not ready to say goodbye to my Bernard Zell Athletics career.