When I was younger, being a part of a team with close friends by my side allowed me to enjoy being active, while spending time with my friends on and off the field. We thought of each other as sisters, and as you may know, sisters occasionally fight. As our soccer team transitioned into middle school at North, people started to change.
I remember those cool, breezy fall practices just before sunset, when the sky was a light pink and purple. Everyone always reluctantly walked onto the fresh cut grass to start another day of boring drills. During some of the drills, Ann, one of our fiercely competitive teammates usually became upset with some of her teammates when her team was not beating an opposing team. To cope with this issue, she kicked and pushed her competitors down onto the spiky grass, hard enough to hear their limbs slam against the solid, hard ground. My legs throbbed every time she spiked her sharp cleats upon my skin instead of the ball. I’d come home with bruises and cuts on my arms and legs, telling my mother it was all a part of sports.
At school, her dark, sinful eyes would shoot impulsive looks that gave chills down our backs so fast we forgot that she was supposed to be our friend, not the opposite.
When indoor season arrived, Ann began to show us her true feelings, but not physically, verbally. Her screams were blood churning - Everyone would cease dribbling, talking; all to hear Ann’s screams echo throughout the field. We would stand frozen at our places, not knowing what was to come next of Ann’s aggression.
This behavior continued for about a year and a half. It felt as though we were just going through the motions. I treated Ann the same way I treated any of my teammates, and tried to see past her issues. However, our friendship with Ann began to fade away, as many teammates could not see past her issues. The bond between us as teammates, and friends was beginning to loosen. We decided that it was best to include her in activities with friends outside of the soccer group, as many girls were not very friendly with her.
A friend in our group, Emily, organized a Secret Santa before Christmas earlier this winter and invited Ann, as she was a part of our friend group. Emily organized a group conversation so that we could figure out a date, as well as a price range, that worked for everyone. However, Ann did not want to do a Secret Santa, but a Yankee Swap instead. She told everyone that it would be more fun and easier. Despite Ann’s persuasion, many of the girls wanted to stick with the original plan. This resulted in Ann lashing out, worse than she had ever before. Ann poured out her heart in her all caps rant, claiming we have always had it out for her during soccer, and on other sports teams she’s on with friends.
Meanwhile during the chaos, another group chat had been created, filled with complaints about Ann.
“What the heck is wrong with her!”, one girl exclaimed.
“We shouldn’t have her come.”, another replied.
“Do we just ignore her?”, one questioned.
As I was reading these texts, I realized that we were the problem. Talking about Ann behind her back was not going to solve anything, and certainly did not support our cause as being the nice and caring friends. Ann’s heart-wrenching disclosure made me realize that those years of her tears and her fights was our own fault. We had always pushed aside Ann’s behavior so we could move forward with our lives. Unfortunately, this method of coping with Ann’s actions lead up to that inevitable moment of anger, confusion and frustration.
Eventually, her mother was brought into the matter, and told us that she explained to Ann why everyone was upset. Her mother even added that Ann was now trying to work on her actions and behavior towards others, especially in sports. After a sincere apology from Ann, we all began to “reintroduce” ourselves to start fresh and resolve the matter.
Although you cannot see it, we all were happy in the picture.
Fortunately at the party, everyone’s laughter, enthusiasm and cheerfulness allowed Ann, and everyone to have a great time. For the first time in years, I had seen Ann’s playful and happy side, and was thankful she was able to reconnect with everyone.
Since then, many of us have seen Ann’s behavior change dramatically, a change that most of us had been waiting nearly three years for. We knew Ann’s issues could have been resolved earlier if we had just mentioned the problem to her face to face when it began, but many of us were scared of what the possible outcomes would be for talking to her. Luckily, informing Ann about the issue not only helped her, but her teammates and friends as well in becoming the people who love her at her best and worst times.