Danielle, Staten Island Half Marathon
Today’s Lesson of the Day comes from a Classmate who has a story about passion, dedication, and the ability to realize that when one door closes, a road opens. A road that is 26.2 miles long!
Dear (My) High School Soccer Coach,
How have you been? It has been about 10 years now since we last spoke on the high school soccer field after classes let out. I was the girl with the black soccer shorts, pink cleats, curly hair in a bun, about 110 pounds and 5 ft. 3 inches in the summer of 2005. Ring a bell? What if I tell you my name? Nope that probably won’t work either.
The reason being is that to you, I was just another grammar school soccer star that had a dream to make the high school team but you see that’s what makes this story so special. You and me we never saw eye to eye — I thought I was good enough to play in high school and you thought the exact opposite. How do I know? You never gave me the chance to show you, because I didn’t make the team.
I remember waiting by the phone after the tryouts for your call. The call never came. Maybe I wasn’t the star I thought I was and maybe I just wasn’t good enough. The one phrase in my whole life that I would never settle for, but after 10 years and no phone call, I am writing to say you were right.
I cried for days. My parents felt terrible, but I remember my dad looking at me and saying, “You have to put yourself back out there and join another sport. You have the athletic ability, find something to stay fit and then give tryouts a go next year.” What could I do? Soccer was the only sport I had ever known and loved. I saw a flyer up for the cross-country team but running was the one thing I hated most about soccer. Running was our punishment, not our pleasure.
I decided to give it a try. I went to my first day of practice in those same black soccer shorts. I ran for 10 minutes and I felt like I was on top of the world. Runners high? Maybe, but then again maybe I was too young to understand what any kind of high really was.
That day I laced up my first pair of not even real running shoes. It was probably the day that set the rest of my life in motion. I fell in love with the sport, the girls, the sweat, the tears, the pain; it became a part of me. I was average I wasn’t the star but that was okay because I was a part of something. It was so much more than I ever could have imagined.
I ran cross-country, indoor and outdoor track all four years of high school. This gave me some of my best friends to this day and some of the best years of my life. Coach, I never went back to your soccer tryouts during my sophomore year, instead I circled the track in my fancy new running sneakers and I watched you coach your girls on the field, and knew that was then and this is now.
I went on to college, and although I decided to not run at a Division I level to focus on my studies, I trained myself for my first half marathon soon followed by my first NYC Marathon. The girl who used to score goals and walk back to center field, completed all 26.2 miles of the NYC Marathon and sometimes I still don’t even believe it. It happened and it was one of the biggest accomplishments in my life to date. Completing the marathon lead me to writing my college thesis on “The Empowerment of Women through Distance Running” which lead me to my marketing position at New York Road Runners, the biggest running organization in the world, who organize the NYC Marathon, helping to inspire and empower people through running everyday, truly a dream job.
This afternoon, I went running on my old high school trails, and I came to realize that most of my success is owed to you, Coach. We often go through life thanking the people who believe in us. We thank the people who give us countless opportunities, but we rarely stop and thank the people who never gave us a shot.
When you really think about it the people that didn’t believe in you are the whole reason you are where you are today. A decade later, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, for not thinking I was good enough to play on your team. You were right, I had so much more to offer the world than scoring just one goal.
A very happy runner girl
Danielle, New York