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How I Chose To Be Thankful Vs. Entitled


I enjoyed my winter break immensely and was sad to see it end. Although excited and ready to begin practicing beach volleyball, I was not prepared to go back to school. Spring semester 2018 began on January 8th for me. This semester, one of my classes conflicts with my team's practice schedule two days of the week. There was nothing I could do about it. My coaches made accommodations for me so that I would only miss part of those practices, but I was still frustrated. How could I improve while missing time on the sand? What would happen if I was not there?

The first week began with my nerves on edge. On Monday, I went to class and took notes, introduced myself to my teachers, and did my homework. The first practice with my team was wonderful, and I had a lot of fun. I forgot my frustration – until the next day. On Tuesday, I went to my morning classes and then, still angry and annoyed, attended the class that conflicted with practice. As soon as it ended, I sprinted out the door, dodging students left and right. I careened around office buildings and classrooms until I reached the sand courts.

Leadership is an important quality in athletics, especially team sports like beach volleyball. Team leaders set examples for others based on how they speak and act both on and off the court. This includes doing things right – being on time, communicating with professors, working for good grades, and improving every practice. Leaders are also humble and thankful. I am a leader on my team not only in terms of age, but also experience. As a senior, I achieve good grades and work hard in practice. I also conduct myself in a way that honors my family and my school. However, at the beginning of this week, I was not humble or thankful. I felt entitled to be at practice rather than in class.

Throughout the week, though, my attitude began to change. I noticed different blessings that I had overlooked. For instance, our locker room was re-stocked with snacks, and the weight lifting area was also stocked with recovery food specifically for our team. Additionally, my team academic supervisor texted me that he ordered my textbooks and would let me know when they arrived. I even got to play some extra volleyball at a clinic one of my coaches ran at the end of the week.

On Friday night, in the middle of drafting a discussion question for an online class, I realized how selfish I was being. “I have so many blessings,” I thought. “It is silly to let this one thing ruin my joy in all these other things.” I remembered an instance when I coached at a local beach volleyball practice. I led a court of six middle school boys and girls. Over the course of two and a half hours, I instructed them in passing, setting, hitting, serving, and defense.

Although I was a “good” leader in this situation, I learned some things from the players I instructed. For example, each kid had a good attitude despite adversity. The sun was hot, the wind was blowing, and the sand was hard to move in. All of them made a lot of mistakes. Additionally, another coach and myself gave the kids constant feedback on what they needed to change to improve. Despite all this, each demonstrated willingness to listen and learn. They did not complain about the environment and attempted to make corrections. They were thankful to myself and the other coaches for the help we provided. This was how I needed to act, too.

As I reached the courts, my teammates shouted my name.

“Emily! We're so glad you made it!”

“How was class?”

“Oh my gosh! Did you run here?”

I was astonished by their excitement. I was humbled by their responses. They did not care that I was late. They were simply thankful I was there.

As a college athlete, I sometimes feel entitled for the things I receive. “I have worked very hard to make it to college and to continue competing in collegiate sports. I deserve the special treatment,” I think.

However, what I realized this week is that being a college athlete is a huge privilege - a blessing that I do not deserve. I am thankful for the wonderful coaches and coaching I have, the facilities and equipment I have access to, and the gear I receive. I am also grateful for the support I receive both academically and athletically from teachers, counselors, and other faculty. Being thankful is one of the most important qualities of a leader, demonstrating that he or she acknowledges and appreciates blessings from God and from others.

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