An Open Letter To The Coach Who Told Me I Couldn’t

Its’ been a long time, but I still remember those words you spoke as if it were yesterday.  I was ten years old and we were playing in a local tournament. It was a pool game and I wanted to play a position I had never had the chance to play. We were up by ten runs, so I built up the courage to ask you for an opportunity.  I was so nervous to ask you. I know you didn’t think I could do as good of a job as the girl who plays there all the time, but I thought what is the worst thing that can happen? If I do poorly and you sub me out and I would be OK with that. I just wanted a shot and see if all the hard work, lessons and time my family and I had put in working outside of practices would pay off.

See Coach, you don’t know this because I didn’t tell you. I have been going to private lessons with a really great instructor. She has taught me so much and she is the one who encouraged me to ask you for this opportunity. She told me, if I don’t ask the answer will always be the same. She told me I am getting better and that I need to get some game time experience to see where we need to work. You see, she doesn’t see my size or lack of experience as a negative, but just another challenge to tackle and overcome. She told me I was only 10 and hard work can determine how good you can become.

As I walked up to you right after the inning ended, my hands were sweaty and my heart was racing. I got your attention and asked you if I could play that position the next innings. As I looked into your eyes and the words YES you can, go get your glove were running through my head. Please, please, please say YES I begged you quietly.

The next words out of your mouth crushed me. I didn’t get a simple no, maybe next time. You told me I couldn’t and then spelled out the reasons why. You made a decision about me and didn’t ask any questions or without knowing how hard I had been working. You thought you knew, but you didn’t and now you are telling one of your athletes, you CAN’T. After that day, I stopped going to my lessons. I stopped working outside of practice and for a couple of weeks I believed you. I thought you were the one who could decide my softball position and fate. Then my parents sat me down and told me I can do and be whoever I want to be and your opinion was only one person’s opinion. They told me if I wanted to play that position it would take hard work, commitment and not stopping when I was told no.

So instead of using your words to tell me I couldn’t, I turned those words around to prove to you I could. So I continued to work and I continued to believe in myself. I finished out the season with your team because that is the right thing to do. Then I moved to a team where my coach didn’t tell his or her players they couldn’t. I went to a coach who gave us opportunities to be great. I went to a coach who didn’t want to put their athletes into a box, but to let them choose their own path and give them a plan to reach their goals. I went to a coach who never told me I CAN’T.

It has been 10 years since that day you told me I couldn’t. There is a good chance you don’t probably remember telling me anything when I was 10. I think back to that time and I am so grateful for my parents who didn’t let me quit and used that moment as a learning experience. I am glad it made me stronger and not weaker. I am also glad to have been on your team because without you, I would have never worked as hard as I did. I am now a Junior at a D-1 school starting as their short stop. Oh, by the way I am also on a full ride. So thank you Coach for saying I couldn’t because apparently I CAN!