Dear Warrior - Keep Moving Forward
When you practice the same sport every day, sometimes it can feel like running in place. The skills you have today aren’t going to be all that much better than the ones you had yesterday, but you’re always aiming for a little more—“Get 1% better,” as my pitching coach likes to remind me. So, when I returned to campus this January and my head coach me asked how my training went over winter break, I told him something like, “It was good… not every day was perfect, but it was good.”
That’s a pretty safe answer. I metaphorically covered all my bases, letting him know that he could expect improvement from me at practice the next day, while also hinting that I very well may need to be coached up in the same areas that I have been working on for months. The aspect of my game that has consistently needed the most coaching is mental—I’ve struggled with performance anxiety for over a year now, and despite the time, energy, and effort I have put into overcoming this beast of a challenge, sometimes I slip back into a place of fear and let it cripple me.
The best summary I can offer about my time spent trying to overcome anxiety is that not every day has been perfect. But it’s been good.
By the time my coach was checking in on me, the rest of my team had cleared out of the conference room. So, he took a moment to explain an analogy for success and growth to me. He picked up a marker and drew a straight line going up from left to right on the white board beside me.
“When I drive from Louisiana to Maryland, I’m going north,” he said. “If you look at the trip on a map from far away, it looks like my car is always headed up.”
I nodded along in agreement. Then he drew another line that was far more crooked and curving than the first.
“But, if you zoom in on the route, you’ll soon realize I was certainly not always traveling north. Sometimes I went straight east, sometimes I even drove south for a while to get around a city or a mountain,” he said, while pointing to a sharp turn in the line with the marker.
Improving in any sport is a lot like driving from Louisiana to Maryland. From an outsider's perspective, it may look like you were only ever headed up, but the reality of the process is that it’s a lot more complicated than that moment-to-moment. Sometimes it feels like you’re not getting better, or headed north, at all. It’s the times when I miss my spots and give up hits or my thoughts are clouded with negativity or doubt that I realize what I need to work on the most. Despite how much it sucks to fail, those days teach me arguably more than perfectly successful outings. And after times like that, it’s difficult but wise to remember the bigger picture. I’m headed up, no matter how curvy the road. If I just keep moving, I’ll arrive.
Walking each other home,
Amelia Jarecke is a journalism student and softball player at the University of Maryland from Lincoln, Nebraska. She loves reading and hearing stories about adventures and is often trying to create her own.
"...no matter how curvy the road. If I just keep moving, I’ll arrive."