Do you know me? I’m the thirteen-year-old on your team adorned in acne and awkwardness. On the surface I appear calm and collected; maybe even a little aloof. However, inside I’m a combination of mayhem and confusion wrapped up in turmoil.
I’ve been part of your team now for three years. I know I’ve been one of the final selections each of those three years. Maybe I’m here because my dad is the team manager. Maybe it’s because you’ve picked the same players each of the last three years and there is no one either better than me or interested any more in being better than me. I dubiously represent the best of the rest.
When it comes to your program, I don’t miss any events. I’m always on time. I don’t disrupt and force you to have to intervene like you have to do with some of the other kids. I position myself in the back of the huddle behind the other players – a part of the team but separate from them too. I do what you tell me. That is, at least when you take the time to tell me something.
When I was much younger, I used to get to play in games a lot. Over the last three years I’ve noticed that I play very little compared to a bunch of the other players. They play a lot and even replace me and get to play that much more when I’ve not been playing very well. I’m just not sure how I’m supposed to get better though when I spend most of my time sitting on the bench and cheering on my teammates.
Every game, I see you get angry and yell at our team captain at least once. That makes me sad. Why don’t you yell at me? I wish you would yell at me. At least if you were yelling at me I’d know you still care enough to think that I have the potential to become an awesome player like our team captain. But instead all I get is empty praise in the form of a “Good job.” Half the time I don’t even know what you’re praising me for.
Did you know that my bedroom walls are covered in posters and other paraphernalia of the biggest stars and teams in our sport? Of course you wouldn’t. You’ve never asked me anything about myself. So you also wouldn’t know that my dream from when I first got involved was to one day play professional.
And did you know that I’ve watched pro games on tv since I was a little kid? I’d even draw up plays from those games that I watched. I still have them in a notebook which also has lots of inspirational quotes and tips for becoming a better player that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve always had ideas that I’ve wanted to share with you and our team but you’ve never asked me for an opinion. You’ve not asked any of us for an opinion. You’ve only ever told us your opinion. You constantly tell us, this is how it is and this is how it needs to be done.
If only you knew how I really learn. If only you knew how badly I wanted to become better. If only you’d taken the time to treat me as an individual within the team. But you haven’t and so here we are because I’ve obediently followed along with your plan. After all, you’re an adult and I’m just a kid. I learned long ago that my place is to do what adults tell me to do. That is, until the day when I become an adult and can tell other kids what to do.
I’m thinking about quitting but you wouldn’t have any idea that that’s what I’m thinking. You think I’m happy and content when really I haven’t enjoyed myself much at all. I haven’t found real excitement in playing since I was a little kid. I wish I could go back to that time. It was so much more fun and there was a lot less pressure.
But because I can’t ever go back to the way things were, I’m getting out. I’m getting out because I can no longer handle how things have become.
This program that you and the other adults have put together isn’t what I want. And you’ve never stopped to ask me what it is I really do want. You’ve just assumed you know what’s best for me. You’ve just assumed that your expertise trumps anything of value that I could ever contribute. And even if you always do know more than me, would it hurt to engage me once in a while and ask me what I think?
What do I think? Wow! I can only imagine how motivated I would feel to know that I was being given a chance to be in control of my own learning. When I close my eyes I can picture myself being free spirited. Creative. Unique. Instead I’m just one of the pack and at the back of that pack.
I don’t know what else I want to do but that’s the least of my worries right now. Maybe I won’t do anything at all. What’s the sense of going into another activity organized for my supposed benefit by adults if I’m only going to end up feeling the way I do now?
The Forgotten Player
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