[Editor’s note: Sloane Green, a former high school and collegiate player and current coach, has agreed to write articles for Prep, at least monthly, geared specifically toward the player. You’ll find she has a lot to wisdom to impart. Any players having questions for Sloane can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. While your identity will remain confidential, your question could be used in a future column]
Life is hard. This obvious statement will try you over your years. We play sports to learn how to overcome obstacles and to gain confidence in doing what we didn’t know we were capable of. Being a female and an athlete makes you powerful, if you let it; but it doesn’t make life easier.
We (females and volleyball players) grow up trying to achieve certain expectations, surrounded by cultural and social influences that have nothing to do with who we actually are as people. We see non-athletes wither to toothpicks, while we gain strength, speed and power… and we try to deal with this and figure it all out, amidst transformation out of our control.
We grow up in spandex, with our bodies ever changing. Heck, the spandex themselves change each season. We mature and grow taller (or not), and suddenly we compare ourselves to our more genetically-blessed teammates. We compare ourselves to what we used to be, or what we should become.
Sometimes, we feel shame for what sports do for us in the first place, for building inner and outer strength. And we treat our bodies as the end-all of who we are as human beings and write ourselves off as not enough.
I did this. It was normal until thoughts became behaviors, and at age 17, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. This all-consuming disease jeopardized everything including my life, in part because I was female, and because I didn’t know I was allowed to feel pain and defeat in such a fortunate life (you are!). I punished myself and took control of the one thing I felt was mine: my body, the living spandex-vehicle.
I know I was not, and am not, the only one struggling. I tell you this because you, young woman in spandex, are worth this life and the joys it brings: friendships, hard work, competing with a team, striving to be the best, female or not. The things you find difficult today can be your strength tomorrow.
The privilege of being female, and a female volleyball player who lives a life in spandex, is a celebration of the diversity we all bring to the sport and life, in body types, as well as skill, personality, and confidence.
I hope you celebrate what your unique body can do, and where it can take you.
There is no room for comparison in spandex. There is only room for you.
[Read Sloane’s story about her struggle with anorexia here]