My First Team

            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.


How to Make a Friendship Bracelet

           A fine friendship bracelet should look elaborately woven with a beautiful array of colours that complement each other and unite to form a wonderful bracelet. I learned how to make friendship bracelets at a summer camp called Camp Goodtimes when I was twelve years old. At this camp, all the campers and camp counsellors made cool friendship bracelets for each other. As a newcomer to Camp Goodtimes, I was intrigued by how popular friendship bracelets were, so I asked my camp counsellor, Greg, to teach me how to make friendship bracelets. After being a counsellor at the camp for five summers, Greg was a master at making friendship bracelets and was happy to teach me. Now, after attending Camp Goodtimes for four summers in a row and making hundreds of delicate friendship bracelets, I have also become an expert at making friendship bracelets.

            Before you make a friendship bracelet, you must think of someone to give it to. This person can be someone you’ve just recently met, someone that you want to become friends with, or even a long-time buddy. The first time I wanted to make a friendship, I wanted to give it to a close friend of mine at Camp Goodtimes, named Michael. For me, Michael was somebody that I thought deserved a friendship bracelet because he was he was a kind and funny guy and was one of the first friends that I made at Camp Goodtimes.  Once you determine who you want to give a friendship bracelet to, you are ready to begin crafting a marvellous friendship bracelet.

            To make a friendship bracelet, first you must choose three different coloured embroidery threads. When choosing colours, choose colours that go well together, such as contrasting colours or complementary colours. This will make the friendship bracelet more attractive. One time when I did this, I coincidentally chose all of the favourite colours of the person that I gave the bracelet to. If you know the person’s favourite colours, making a friendship bracelet out of those colours may be a good idea. Once you have chosen three colours, get a single thread that is 80 cm long for each colour. Hold all the strings together by one end, making sure that all the strings line up with each other, there are no strings that are twisted with other strings, and there are no knots in the strings. Then, while holding one end of the strings with one hand, grab the other end of the string, bring the two ends together, and tie a very small, tight knot using these ends. After that, get a safety pin and pierce through the centre of the knot with the needle of the safety pin. It is important that you pierce the centre of the knot, not the sides of the knot, because in a later step, the strings will be pulled and there could be a risk that the knot will be undone in the process. I remember one time near the end of the camp; I wanted to make friendship bracelets as quickly as I could for everybody that I met before the camp was over. All the people were so awesome that I thought that everyone deserved a friendship bracelet. I was so rushed that I accidentally pierced the knot one of the strings incorrectly, which later became undone and forced me to start over again.

            The next step to making a friendship bracelet is to pinch a small section of the fabric on your pants at a point three inches above your knee on the front side of your leg. With the needle of the safety pin still in the knot, pierce through the fabric of your pants that you just pinched, and fasten the safety pin to secure it. Now, you should have three large loops of strings. Hook the loops of each individual string with your fingers and your palm facing down so that there is one loop on your left middle finger, one loop on your right index finger, and one loop on your right middle finger, making sure that none of the strings are twisted or tangled. The next two steps describe the weaving process and are the most crucial steps of making the friendship bracelet. While pulling the strings with enough force so that there is no slack, put your unoccupied index finger through the top of the loop that is being hooked by your opposite index finger, hook your unoccupied index finger on the loop that is being held by the middle finger of the opposite hand, release the hook that was held by the middle finger, and pull your hands apart so that there is no longer slack, while maintaining your hold on the strings. With the hand that has only one loop of string, transfer the loop to the middle finger so that the middle finger is hooked onto the string, instead of the index finger. Repeat the last two steps until your fingers can no longer easily fit through the loops. Lastly, release your fingers from the loops of string. The friendship bracelet is finally complete. The next you meet the person that you want to give the friendship bracelet to, tie it around their wrist with a knot.

            To this day, I still remember the look on Michael’s face when I gave him the first friendship bracelet that I ever made. His face lit up like a bright shining star. Soon after receiving the friendship bracelet, Michael made a friendship bracelet for me as well. Many years have passed since the bracelet broke and fell of my wrist, but my friendship with Michael lives on.

            I like to make friendship bracelets because by giving someone a friendship bracelet, you show that you are the person’s friend. The friendship bracelet symbolizes the friendship that you have with the person and lets the person know that they mean something to you. When people receive my friendship bracelets, they feel special. In my opinion, making others feel special is the most rewarding part of making friendship bracelets.

The Lesson

            As I play with my red Tonka truck on the coffee table in the living room, I hear Mom coming through the front door. “Hi Leon,” Mom says. “I’m home from the grocery store!” Mom puts her grocery bags on the kitchen table, reaches into one of the bags to grab something, and walks towards me. “Here,” Mom says. She gives me a small, thin pink brick. “This is gum. You put it in your mouth and chew it.” I excitedly take the pink brick from her hand. “What do you say, Leon?”

            “Thank you, Mom.” I say. Mom always wants me to say thank you when people give things to me. She smiles, and goes back to the kitchen to put away the groceries. I examine the label on the bright pink brick which says, “Hubba Bubba: Sassy Strawberry and Luscious Lemon”. I tear off the paper from one end of the pink brick, which reveals several small cubes of pink and yellow gum. I take one of the pink cubes, remove the wrapper surrounding it, and put the fluorescent pink cube into my mouth.

“Mmmm,” I say to myself. “This is so good!” As soon as I bite into the gum, bursts of sweet strawberry flavour are exploding in my mouth. The gum is more flavourful than any strawberry that I’ve ever eaten. I had never tasted candy like this before. At first, the gum is stiff and hard. But the longer I chew it, the softer it becomes. After a few moments, the gum finally becomes soft enough for me to swallow it.

I look at my pink brick, and count the remaining pieces of gum. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.” Since, there are so many pieces left; I decide to have another piece of the tantalizing gum. This time, I try the yellow cube instead. “If the other one was Sassy Strawberry, this must be Luscious Lemon!” I say to myself. I remove the yellow wrapper from the gum, and pop the vibrant yellow cube into my mouth. Unlike the Sassy Strawberry flavoured gum, which was exceptionally sweet, the Luscious Lemon flavoured gum has a pleasant sour flavour that is not overpowering. I chew the delectable gum for a few moments, and swallow it.

“Hmmm, I wonder what it would be like if I ate both flavours at the same time!” I say. I eagerly remove the wrapping from a radiant pink cube and a bright yellow cube and put both pieces of gum in my mouth. The flavours are even more powerful when they are put together. My mouth is bombarded by a surge of incredible flavours. It’s like there’s party in my mouth and everyone’s invited. As soon as the gum become soft enough, I swallow them.

Mom comes into the living room, with a glass of orange juice in her hand, and puts the glass in on the coffee table in front of me. “I squeezed you some orange juice,” Mom says. “Have a drink.” I take the glass and drink the orange juice. “What do you say?” Mom says.

“Thank you, Mom.” I say politely.

Mom looks at the gum wrappers on the table. “Wow, you’ve chewed so much gum already! That was quick!”

“Yes, they were so good. I love them so much that I can’t stop eating them. Can you buy me more?” I ask.

“Sure. I’m glad that you like them.” Suddenly, Mom looks at me in disbelief. “Wait,” Mom says. “You ate them?”

I nod.

“Leon, you’re not supposed to eat gum. I told you that you were supposed to chew them. No more gum for you, mister!” She takes the remaining pieces of gum, and walks towards her bedroom.

I am shocked when she takes my gum. “Mom, what are you doing?!”

“I’m taking the gum away from you so that you don’t eat any more.” Mom responds, as she walks away. After a couple minutes, she returns from her room.

“I want my gum!” I yell.

“You are not allowed to have any more gum, and that’s that, mister!” Mom replies. Mom goes to the kitchen to start cooking dinner.

I sit in the living room, frustrated, and play with my red Tonka truck. As I push the toy truck back and forth, I can’t help but think about the delicious gum. I imagine the wonderful taste of strawberries and lemons in my mouth. I imagine the wonderful sensation that I felt when the amazing gum was in my mouth. After a few moments, my mouth begins to water. I must have more gum.

As quietly as I can, I sneak into Mom’s bedroom. Immediately, as I walk through the door, I can see the pack of gum sitting on top of one of her drawers. The drawer is too high for me to reach, so I push a chair against the drawer and climb up the chair to reach the gum. “Yes,” I say to myself. “I’ve got it!” I take one piece of Sassy Strawberry gum, one piece of Luscious Lemon gum, remove the wrappers, and put the pieces of gum in my mouth. I’m in heaven again. As quickly as I can, I finish the rest of the gum, dispose of the wrappers in the garbage, and return to my red Tonka truck in the living room. Mom is still busy in the kitchen and does not have a clue what just happened.

After a few minutes of playing with my Tonka truck, my stomach begins to hurt. It gets more and more painful as time goes on. I’ve never had a stomach ache this bad before. My stomach feels like it is being assaulted by an army. I go to the kitchen to talk to Mom. “Mom, my stomach hurts really badly.”

“It probably hurts because you swallowed that gum, Leon.” Mom replies.

Then, I realize what I’ve just done. “Mom, I went into your room and ate the rest of the gum. I’m sorry.” I say.

“Oh my goodness!” Mom is shocked. “I told you not to eat the gum! Let me take you to your room. You should lie down and relax to make your stomach feel better.” Mom walks me to my bedroom and puts me in bed. “After you get better, you’re going to be in big trouble, mister!”

I lie in my bed, trying to endure the pain as well as I can. I hate gum.