[Editor’s note: Cassidy Lichtman was a first-year assistant coach in 2016 when she won a national championship with Stanford University, her alma mater. Lichtman, a two-time First Team All-American during her playing days, wrote thoughtful articles for PrepVolleyball.com during her high school days at Francis Parker, where she was a two-time California state champion. This piece was written when she was a 16-year-old junior. Be inspired]
“I can’t _____.”
Fill in the blank: pass, set, hit, serve, etc. This is probably one of the most used phrases on a volleyball court and one of the worst ones to use. Everybody says it; it isn’t really important, right? WRONG.
Early in my volleyball career I had a coach who taught me to pass and serve (the only really important skills for young volleyball players) and how to rotate. But in the midst of all that she taught me something just as important. She taught me to never, Never, NEVER say I can’t do something. The punishment of pushups and sit-ups was enough to keep those eleven and twelve year olds from saying the dreaded phrase but it was the concept that really stuck. Now, five years later, I still catch myself before I say it. Most of the time at least.
I don’t know if I really understood the importance of that word back when I was eleven, but I do now. Now I realize that no matter how lightly it is used, it still makes a difference. It seems that we have all become immune because we hear it so much. But at the same time, part of it sticks.
I think that Vince Lombardi said it best: “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.” It’s when the little team wins, when the underdog upsets the favorite, when the nobody beats the powerhouse. We’ve all witnessed it happen and almost everyone says the same thing: “I don’t know how they pulled that off.” I know how; it’s not a secret. It’s hard to beat the teams that start front lines all over six feet, and the ones who will all go on to get college scholarships, but it is just as hard to beat a team that knows that they can win.
My high school team last year was never the biggest team. We don’t have huge Division I players, but we went on to win the state championships because there was not a doubt in any player’s mind that we would win. I think teams like that throw their opponents off a little bit because they keep going no matter what. You know, the teams who are down twenty to ten but are still playing like they have the game. I guess Vince Lombardi was right; sooner or later those types of people are going to win because they refuse to believe that they could lose.
In learning not to say I can’t, my mind clarified another point by making the only logical conclusion: I can. I decided that I can do anything. If you strive to do the impossible you will reach much farther than the realms of anything that you thought possible in the first place. When you say you can’t, then of course you can’t. Now you probably think that I am just contradicting myself, but think about it. If you don’t think you can do something, you are never going to be able to do it. Only if you really think you can will you be able to accomplish the impossible.
Volleyball teaches us a lot; it teaches us how to win, how to lose, how to work hard, and how to have fun, but I learned more. What someone once taught me I have now imparted to you in the hopes that at least one person will stop next time before saying those words and think twice about what she is really saying. Because if you don’t say that you can’t then maybe, just maybe, you will.