Sets and Matches

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For me, no sport quite compares to volleyball. I love the satisfaction of digging a well hit ball; my heart leaps up with me as I jump for a perfect-set quick middle hit; I live for the silent deathmatch between myself and the passer as I stare him down during the serve. Sure, it’s not as easy to watch as baseball or as captivating as football to some. But in my mind, volleyball brings out both the tactician and the barbarian: I see the great discipline and strategy in the form mixed with a competitive, relentless, and emotionally charged thirst for glory.

So, it’s only natural that, within two days of training at Arrupe Jesuit High School (Denver, CO), I’d already found the head girls volleyball coach and enlisted myself as an assistant coach. To put it lightly, I was pumped. This was my first opportunity ever to coach, it would help me build bonds with the students outside of class, and I got to continue playing and watching my favorite sport. I was certain it would be a great season, the team would come together and play their hearts out, and everyone would walk away with a positive experience.

Like winning a set in volleyball, the concepts were simple but the execution much more complex. Between building skill drills for practices, ensuring discipline and buy-in from all players, and all the while creating an atmosphere of positivity and motivation, I was left pretty drained almost every night. Many Saturdays were spent in a hot gym cheering until my voice went hoarse. During games, I watched the girls play each set, riding the emotional rollercoaster with them. And after going to an all-boys high school (U HIGH U HIGH WHAT WHAT), I didn’t fully realize how many turns that rollercoaster could make in a single set.

However, the head coach always came to huddles with the same powerful message: “The last set is over. We can’t change anything about it. All that matters now is the next set and what we’re going to do there.”

While not always successful when rallying the girls in the middle of a match, I find it aptly fitting for where I am in my ASC year. The first quarter of the academic year is ending; the volleyball team (a HUGE part of my experience and volunteering efforts so far) played its last games; events like homecoming and spirit week are already here and gone. These different mini-“sets” (as I like to call them) are ending, and I’m making my final plays in each. Some sets I’ve winning, others I’m losing. But as things are wrapping up on my first quarter here, I’m looking forward to another quarter, another set to play all out. And if I can keep my focus and learn from my mistakes, maybe, just maybe, I can win the whole match.

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