I’m not talking about the “most wonderful time of the year,” back-to-school. We’re not quite there yet.
Nope, for the last few years, the drama and stress start well ahead the first day of school, with school sports try outs! Whoop, whoop!
This can include terrifying near misses, like when we think we screwed up the schedule and actually missed a try out or when I think that my daughter’s been cut from the team on her birthday. Last year, the huge bummer was M not making the team that her parents thought she deserved (she took it much better than we did, but we succeeded in keeping our mouths shut around her for the whole season), and the big surprise was that J abruptly dropped gymnastics entirely and decided to try out for volleyball (the memory of my teensy daughter squaring her 7th grade shoulders and walking into the HS gym still makes me borderline weepy with pride).
We are currently in Day 3 of try outs. That means that J will find out about what team she’s on today, and I think M finds out tomorrow. So, how’s it going, you ask?
For M, there’s not too much stress. Hoping for varsity last year, as a 10th grader, was a stretch. Really only a few of the very strongest sophomores make varsity. This year’s rising juniors are likely to make varsity unless the coach thinks that they’re weak. And I specifically say “the coach thinks that” because sometimes the choices that are baffling and seem pretty unfair. So that’s a bit of a wild card. But I think that it’s likely that M is “safe,” which means that she hasn’t been too stressed about her own prospects. In fact, before the first day of try outs, she was just plain excited to get started with school soccer. Now that we’re on Day 3 and the cuts are looming, she is stressed about where her friends and various other players are going to end up. This is the time when you just wish that you could fast-forward a week so that it would just be settled one way or the other.
J, meanwhile, was a bundle of nerves on her way to try outs on Monday. If you’re a rising 8th grader, you’re generally hoping that you’re considered strong enough to be on the freshman team, and if you’re weaker, you’ll play on modified for a second year. Part of the problem with volleyball is that there are fewer players overall (6 on the court at one time), so last year, kids were cut from modified, which seemed. . . gosh, so harsh. Last year, J didn’t get much playing time on modified at all, and it will be the same coach, we think, so she was really hoping to advance to the next team. She was putting up a brave face, saying that if she stayed on modified she’d have more playing time, so that would be okay, but she was still tense. I mean, who are we kidding, her resting state is a little more tense than average. So imagine my delight when she came bounding out of that first try out, reporting that the whole crowd of girls, 7th to 12th grades, had been put into big groups to play, and she was placed with the older girls. And then she stayed with them for the whole session, holding her own. She was super-psyched. On Day 2 she stayed with the older girls, although she thought she didn’t play quite as well. Still, she was excited just to be playing in the same game with some of them, naming one volleyball superstar as if she were a celebrity. J was thrilled to be considered worthy to play on the same court with this older girl. Of course, as time wore on here at home, the thrill of playing receded and she was clearly thinking about every little mistake that she’d made at try outs, so by this morning she’d plunged back down the roller coaster a bit. It seems pretty clear that she’s advanced beyond modified, so that’s excellent. But it would be pretty unusual for her to make JV as an 8th grader, so it’s likely that the end of try outs will feel like a bit of a let down, the clock striking midnight on Volleyball Cinderella. So she could end up landing just where she’d hoped to be and end up feeling vaguely disappointed about it.
We’ll see how it goes. Meanwhile, all I can do is make water bottles and braid hair and keep up the good fight against sweaty sneakers and athletic equipment.
And possibly buy some more scented candles.