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We’ve all heard the jokes about high school locker rooms and seen tv shows and movies that use them as comical fodder. But, for some of us, there was nothing funny about these moments of our lives.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were talking about Volleyball and he made a comment about how someone wouldn’t make a good volleyball player. When I asked why, he replied “she’s too short”. I had never considered the actual physical attributes of women in sports as being part of the reason they had made a sports team. Because, I grew up with none of these barriers, as in my small school, everyone played every sport. 

I went to a small, public school in the country where everyone was involved in all the sports, and I was good in them all. I could keep up with most of the boys playing soccer and football and often surpassed their talents in ball hockey, volleyball and softball. 

High School, however, was a whole new playing field. It brought sports to a new level that I haven’t been able to understand or appreciate until recently.

I tried-out for the volleyball team in high school, and had failed to make the team. I was devastated. I had been one of the best players in my school. During tryouts I did more push-ups and sit-ups than most of the other girls who tried-out; I was very ‘verbal’ and encouraging to my fellow teammates in the try-out games; I kept up with the endurance and proved my exellence in my ability to serve. 

How could I have not made the cut?

And, more than 10 years later, it dawned on me…At 5″2, I was too short. 

But, for years I beat myself up for not being good enough to make the team. I thought that it was just another way that I failed to live up to my peers. I wish someone had talked to me about this failure at the time. I internalized it and let it write a narrative over my life that would so often hold me back from doing things that seemed difficult and carried a high risk of failure. 

Because of this fear I have missed out on so many life experiences that I should have had. I could have been on community sports teams, done more adventure-seeking stuff, gone to more school dances, made more friends, involved myself in more social events…

The older I get, I am starting to understand how important it is to embrace failure, learn from it and let it strengthen and not weaken me.

I’m working on a new mantra:

Try always.

Fail often.

Quit never.