A few weeks ago I started drafting an article about my personal journey as a female athlete and to show a different perspective of women’s ultimate. I mentioned my intention to publish this type of piece to a few friends before sending it to my editor, and instead of the support I was looking for, I received a warning: “be prepared for criticism.” Suddenly, overwhelming feelings of self-doubt started to creep into my head. Why would anyone care what I see in women’s ultimate? I’m just some girl with her head in the clouds, thinking I can play for one of the best teams in the world after a few months of training. The voice in my head continued, “I should just give up now so I don’t have to face the fact that I could, and will, fail.”
In that moment of weakness, I truly thought I didn’t deserve to succeed. I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t work hard enough, and I was naive to think that I could stand a chance to be on a team like Fury. But then I asked myself a simple question that helped overcome those feelings of self-doubt. What are the consequences if I do fail? That I spent my time, energy, and money on a sport that I love? I didn’t mind that so much. After all, I’ve been doing that for the past nine years and enjoyed every minute of it. That I got to train with my friends and grow stronger as a player? I didn’t mind that either because I want to be a better player. That I don’t make Fury? I’ll try again next year, with a better knowledge base of what to expect and how to train. But those thoughts of self doubt worried me because for a brief moment, I let my fear win.
This wasn’t the first time in my ultimate career I let fear stop me from doing something. I was acting captain during a tournament in Buffalo, NY the last year I played for Ithaca College. We were on a winning streak on Sunday and found ourselves playing in the finals for the first time in our team’s history, against Edinboro. We dominated the whole game and were up by two when soft cap went on. My heart started racing and instead of jogging onto the field for the next point, I stood frozen on the sideline. A friend came over and nudged me, “Get out there, Jen. You need to be on that field and score the last two points.” I looked at him, shook my head, and lied, “I just need to take a point and get some water.” I didn’t want to tell him the reason I stopped playing was because I was too afraid of failing. What if I dropped a catch or turfed a disc? I couldn’t take that risk, so instead I continued to stand on the sideline and watch. After Edinboro scored four points in a row, we walked away a losing team. I will never know if I would have made a difference in that game or not, but I always regretted standing on that sideline, frozen in fear.
I had similar doubts in my abilities a few months after I started training for Fury tryouts. Skyd called and offered to transform my blog into a weekly column. The only question was if I was okay with the amount of exposure I would likely receive. I told them I needed to think about it and spent the entire next day debating the pros and cons of this new opportunity. After refusing to tell any of my friends about it, worried what they might say, I called my husband, who asked me what was stopping me from accepting their offer. “When it comes down to it, I’m afraid I’ll fail in front of everyone,” I said sheepishly. How could I ever agree to make such a personal journey in my life so public? “It doesn’t matter if you fail. The better question is what do you want to get out of it?” he replied. It was the first question I should have asked myself instead of grappling with my thoughts of self-doubt. I wanted to inspire other female athletes to start their own journeys, make their own goals, share their experiences, and show how hard they work to get what they want. I wanted them to know they weren’t struggling through the tough moments alone. I wanted to go back in time and push my 19-year-old self back on that field, drive away the worries and self-doubt, and play those last few points against Edinboro.
I’ve had my own battles with failure and so have many of my friends. We feared failing as leaders, as teammates, as coaches, as players. We stopped trying because it was easier to let it go than to risk failing. But instead of giving up, let’s ask ourselves: why are we so scared of failure? Failure is a part of life. it’s how we learn, how we grow, and how we ultimately succeed. I don’t know if I will end my journey in failure, but I’m not going to let fear stop me from trying.