As I change into a t-shirt and shorts in the boys’ changing room, I feel a mixture of excitement and sleepiness. Right now, it is 7:00 AM. Today is the first day of tryouts for the Bantam Boys Volleyball team. It’s the first time that I’ve ever been to a tryout for a high school sports team. Basketball, soccer, and badminton are sports that are really popular among many students here at Britannia Secondary School. I was never interested in those sports. However, the one sport that I love is volleyball. Volleyball has always been my favourite sport. Back at Seymour Elementary School, I was a strong volleyball player on the Senior Boys Volleyball team during my grade seven year. I was never good at playing most sports, but I was decent at volleyball.
After I change into my gym strip, I go to the gym and sit on the bench with the rest of the guys who are trying out for the team. A young man stands in front of us with a stern look on his face and his arms crossed. He looks like he is in his early thirties. “My name is David Ng,” says the intimidating looking man. “I am going to be your volleyball coach this season. I’d like to get you boys started right away. Everybody grab a partner and a ball to share between the two of you. Then, start underhand passing to each other.”
I get up from the bench and look at my friend, Jian, who is sitting on the end of the bench. “Hey,” I say. “Want to be partners, Jian?” Jian sits next to me in my math and science classes. He is my partner for many projects in the classes that we share, so we work well together. And since I don’t know anybody else, Jian is an ideal partner.
“Sure,” Jian replies. “I’ll go get a ball.” Jian goes to the basket of volleyballs in the corner of the gym, picks one up, and returns with a ball. Jian points to an area across the gym. “Let’s go over there,” Jian says. “There’s more room there.”
“Alright,” I say. We go to the area that Jian suggests and stand about three metres away from each other. Jian tosses the ball to me and we begin underhand passing to each other. Whenever I attempt to pass the ball to him, Jian has to work hard to receive it because the ball always goes in different directions. But whenever Jian passes to me, the ball goes straight to me and I hardly have to move. I begin to feel frustrated because of my poor passing. I look around the gym and see that everybody is passing to each other really well. I seem to be the only one who is struggling.
Without me realizing it, Jian passes the ball to me and the ball drops to the floor right in front of me. “Come on, Leon,” Jian says. “Focus!”
Before I could pick the ball up from the ground, David blows his whistle. “Alright boys,” says David, in a loud, assertive voice. “Time for the next drill. With the same partner, I want you to set the ball to each other.”
I pick up the volleyball, toss it to Jian, and we begin setting the ball to each other. He sets the ball into the air and the volleyball is beautifully placed right in front of me. I attempt to set the ball to Jian, but he has to hustle for it because I’m not able to push the ball far enough for it to reach him. “Come on, Leon. Focus!” Jian says, for the second time.
“I’m trying!” I respond. I really am trying. Every time I try to set the ball, no matter how hard I try, the ball does not reach my partner. This is terrible. I look around the gym once again and realize that I’m the only one who is struggling again. I feel like a fish out of water. Maybe I don’t belong on the volleyball team. How can I expect to get on the team if I can’t even pass or set the ball? I have to step my game up.
The sound of a whistle signals us to stop what we’re doing. “Alright, boys,” shouts David. “Let’s do some spiking. Give me all the balls and line up single-file behind the attack line. When I toss the ball, I want you to spike it over the net. Then, fetch the ball, put it on the ground beside me, and go back in line.”
I line up behind the attack line with the other boys. I don’t feel very eager to spike after executing such poor sets and passes, so I stand at the very back of the line, behind Jian. David tosses the ball up in the air. The first boy approaches the net, jumps up two feet in the air and savagely pounds the ball over the net. The ball lands in the corner of the court with incredible force.
“Holy cow,” I say to Jian. “That spike was nuts!” I am in total awe. The ball went down so fast that I thought that a trail of smoke was behind it. “Who is that guy?” I ask Jian.
“His name is Jake.” Jian responds. “He was the captain of the volleyball team at my elementary school in grade seven.”
David tosses another ball in the air and the next boy spikes the volleyball. The ball goes over the net, but it is nowhere near as impressive as Jake’s hit. As the other boys in front of me in the line-up get their turn to spike, I continue thinking about Jake’s amazing spike. I think about how the ball was hit with such unbelievable force and killer accuracy. If I’m going to be on this team, I’m going to have to perform a massive spike. My passes and sets earlier were absolutely awful, so this is my last opportunity to impress David.
When it is finally my turn to spike, I position myself on the attack line. “Come on, Leon,” I say to myself under my breath. “Focus! You can do this!” David tosses the ball in the air. While keeping my eyes on the ball, I approach the net, and jump up as high as I can. I use my left hand to point at the target and pull back my right hand beside my ear, like an archer readying his bow. Then, I ferociously strike the ball over the net as hard as I can. The ball lands on the centre of the other side of the court with great force.
As I run to the other side of the court to fetch the ball, I am full of joy. I can’t believe that I spiked the ball so well. I place the ball on the ground beside David, and run back to the line-up.
“Nice spike, Leon,” Jian says. “I wasn’t expecting that from you!”
“Yeah,” says Jake, as he lines up behind me. “That was pretty sick, man!”
I feel flattered. “Thanks, guys,” I reply. “It was probably just a fluke.”
When it is my turn to spike again, I’m able to spike the volleyball just as impressively and with as much force as I did previously. I’m ecstatic. “Maybe it wasn’t a fluke after all.” I say to myself, as I fetch the ball. We do a few more rounds of spiking and I continue to spike the ball well.
“Alright, boys,” David says. “Since this is only the first day of tryouts, I think that’s enough for today. Hit the showers, and I will see you all tomorrow morning for day two of tryouts.” David points his finger to me. “Hey, I want to talk to you for a second.”
I nervously walk over to David and wonder what he wants to say to me. Everybody else is in the change room, so only David and I are in the gym.
“I was watching you a lot today,” David says. “You need to work on your passing and setting skills, but you can do some killer spikes! I was really impressed. I think that you can be a great offensive player on the team.”
“Thanks a lot, coach!”
“Now, hit the showers. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
I turn around and walk towards the change room. I begin to feel really good about myself. Maybe I do belong here after all.