From cuts to the finish line

Claire Goldberg

On my first day of high school I got cut from the volleyball team. After an intense and exciting two weeks of tryouts, I had grown fairly attached to both the sport and the people on the team. As the first day of school approached I did my best to push the looming thoughts of cuts out of my mind. I was starting high school, after all, and had a lot of other things to worry about. I told myself I had to see the bigger picture; making the volleyball team was not everything. But the moment came, and names got called, and I was cut. In just two weeks, my high school volleyball career had both taken off and come crashing down.

I came home upset, thinking that my participation in HM sports was over. When my mom brought up trying out for the cross country team, I shot it down instantly. I didn’t see how running around in the hot sun for three hours a day would ever be for me. My experience with running did not go beyond the dreaded mile on the track each year for gym class. But, I decided one practice couldn’t hurt.

Amidst my first lap around Van Cortlandt Park and surrounded by new faces, I understood that I had found a special community. I felt incredibly welcomed and connected to the team after that first practice, and throughout the season my interest in the sport grew into a passion. The Cross Country team ended up being an environment where I found some of my best friends and became a varsity athlete.

At Horace Mann there seems to be a huge taboo around failure. It’s so intense that I know some students do not even try out for teams in the first place because of the chance of being cut. This fear also manifests in other parts of our community, in trying to get into selective debate teams, school plays, Student Council, and even in classes. In an environment where everyone strives for perfection, the thought of rejection in front of our peers is mortifying, so much so that it becomes a substantial reason to “play it safe.”

From my experience, however, I’ve learned that rejection should not prohibit risk taking. When students begin to feel like the consequences of taking a risk is too great, they face the even bigger likelihood of missing out on an opportunity to find new interests.

As cross country came to an end this past month, I was able to reflect on the season. Through joining the team, I met people in different grades and also coaches that I grew incredibly close to. I even ended up placing in a few of my races. It’s not like getting cut from the volleyball team wasn’t embarrassing or frustrating, because it most definitely was, but if I hadn’t gone out for the team, I would never have been pushed to find something that I’m really passionate about.

All HM students should be more willing to try new things, not because rejection isn’t that bad, but because it puts you in a position to find new things that you love. This is especially true in an environment like Horace Mann, where there are opportunities in every direction you look. Students should consider that rejection doesn’t always mean you’re doing something wrong. In fact, when you make yourself vulnerable, that’s when you can learn about yourself and what you’re interested in.

As a community, we focus on only potential failure rather than the possibility of finding success through failure. We should foster relationships where people feel comfortable to take risks. To this day, most of my friends don’t even know that I went out for the volleyball team in the first place. After all, I did not want to be known as the girl who got cut. But this experience taught me that I am that girl, and there is nothing wrong with that.