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How being the worst person on the court is actually a good thing

Training with the U19/U21 USA National Team

How being the worst person on the court is actually a good thing

This week I had the amazing opportunity to train with the u19/u21 USA National Team. After battling out a three day tournament, my partner and I placed third, punching our ticket to the training as alternatives for the U19 World Championships.

All the other teams were girls that I idolized and looked up to. These girls were winning national championships, dominating the college game, while my partner and I still had another year of high school. So you can imagine how nervous I was going into this week.

I knew that we were going to be the weakest and worst team on the court. My partner and I lacked the chemistry of the other girls who had played together for years, we didn’t have intense college training, and we didn’t have the same intelligence on the court that the other teams had. Knowing this was discouraging. I wanted to prove that I was meant to be here and I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I went out into the first practice with jitters, but still tried to play my very best.

But my best wasn’t good enough. The other teams picked up my shots, blocked my hits, aced me. After our first day of practice, I trudged back to my hotel room disappointed.

But it was then I realized that I needed to change my mindset. Yes, these girls are better than me. Yes, I am going to be the weakest player on the court. Yes, I am going to get blocked, I’m going to get dug, I’m going to get aced—but that’s okay.

I realized that being the worst person on the court was a blessing in disguise. Playing people better than me would help my game in the long run. Because soon, I would learn how to hit past that block, place my shots perfectly, and side out every time.

I went into the second day with a more open mindset. I tried to pick up as much as I could. I soaked up all the information and tips I was given like a sponge. I watched the other girls’ technique, their form, and their strategies. And I still played my hardest, but now, trying to incorporate little things I observed here and there.

While now, my game has a long way to go, I know that with time and more training, I will reach the level my teammates are on.

Being the worst person on the court pushes me to drive harder and work harder. And while it may be a hard pill to swallow, all athletes should want to be the worst player on the court—to encourage them to work harder, to give them the tenacity to push deeper, and to inspire them to be the best players they can be.

Izzy Martinez

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Summer Performance Lab