“Go team!” we cheered as we threw our hands up from our huddled circle.
It was a cool April evening, and my softball team was facing one of the best teams in the league. We knew it would be a tough game to win but were determined and ready for the challenge to come.
I felt butterflies in my stomach as I knew the game was about to begin. It was my first year playing softball, so I was always anxious before games. But as soon as I would step on the field, the nerves would drift away and be replaced by excitement. However, that was not the case on this gloomy spring evening.
I was in the outfield with the rest of my team, warming up before the game. Coach called us back to the dugout, signaling the game was about to start. He hung up a clipboard on the wired fence - it was our lineup. I looked at the positions I would be playing during the game: first base, second base - my heart stopped and my mouth dropped open as I looked at my third inning position.
I was pitching.
Coach had briefly worked with me on my pitching skills during practices as he thought I had the potential to be a great pitcher. He would help me with my speed and accuracy, and I could tell I was improving. However, he had a whole team to coach, so I never really got the one-on-one practice I needed. Although my skills were gradually becoming stronger, I was nowhere near ready to pitch during a game.
My heart started to beat faster and faster. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to let my team or coach down. I decided to confront him about my rapidly increasing anxiety.
“Coach, I am not ready to pitch yet. I feel as though I need a lot more practice before pitching in a real game,” I confessed.
Coach looked down at me with eyes as cold as ice.
“And? You’re gonna go out there, and you’re gonna try your best. Got it?”
I nodded and dragged my feet to my bag. I grabbed my face mask and glove, and reluctantly shuffled onto the field.
The first inning began. We were on defense, allowing the opposing team to only score one run. Then, the second inning began. We were approaching the third inning faster than I had hoped.
Aside from the score, the game so far had been a blur to me. I couldn't focus. The thought of me having to pitch burned in my brain and would not leave.
I could feel my cheeks getting red as I thought, “Why would coach do this to me? He knows I am not ready to pitch, yet he’s setting me up for failure!”
I wondered how I could ever forgive him after such a careless act.
The second inning came to a close. My heart began beating so fast I thought it was going to burst out of my chest! Full of fear and dread, I lugged myself back to the dug-out. Third inning was about to begin, meaning it was time for me to pitch.
The once sunny sky seemed to change to a dull and gloomy cast of gray. The walk from the dugout to the pitching mound was agonizing, as I could feel the eyes of everyone - my coach, my team, the crowd - staring right at me. Silence filled the air and surrounded me like I was an island in the middle of the ocean. But I would not let it suffocate me. I took a deep breath and began my windup. The ball went soaring out of my hand and flying over home plate. The batter took a swing but couldn’t get a hold of the ball. Strike one. That first pitch was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders, and a wave of relief replaced where there was once fear. As I let go of the ball, I also let go of my stress and anxiety. A newborn confidence took over, and with the help of my team on defense, the inning concluded with only one run scored. We were in the lead - I had not let my team down.
My coach was proud of me for overcoming my fear and pitching a great inning. I was no longer angry, and it was now easy for me to forgive him. I was beyond glad that he had given me the opportunity to pitch, as the whole experience has tremendously boosted my confidence not only when pitching but also on the field in general.
It can be hard to forgive someone who pushes you to your limit, but it is important to realize they are trying to help and not hurt you.