I’ve had an amazing rollercoaster ride since arriving on the Toronto ultimate scene last July. First of all, I was scared to death to move here largely because I was scared of integrating into a new scene after having only played in Halifax. Not long before my move, I spoke of my ultimate career as ending once I left Halifax. I was so sure that my level of play was not high enough for me to be considered for Lotus, Toronto’s top women’s touring team.
I remember one practice back in Halifax when I reiterated this sentiment to my wonderful coach. He turned to me sternly and told me to look around. “You’re the best player out here. You CAN play with the Toronto girls!” I don’t think he actually said “and you WILL be trying out” but it felt like he did, and I sheepishly agreed. The conversation ended with those simply lines but the impact continued to resonate with me. His words actually DID shift something major inside me, mostly because I believed him and valued his opinion and ultimate experience! And so I went to Toronto determined to try-out for Lotus.
Making my way onto the Toronto scene was still incredibly scary. It didn’t help when I learned that Capitals would be forming in order to give Ontario a good shot at earning the right to represent Canada at World’s in 2012. My confidence was shaky enough, never mind trying to work up the courage to try-out for Capitals, not just Lotus! Ah!
The amount of personal development I needed to go through to make that happen was incredible! Now, I work in the personal development industry and coach people to reach new levels all the time. This has become so commonplace for me that I had forgotten how much energy it takes to do so, until of course, I was challenged to do so myself. Admittedly, I hated much of it. Why did I need to “expand my comfort zones”? Why did I need to put my heart and soul into something knowing there was a huge possibility of not getting what I wanted and “failing”. Why do this to myself?!?! Just thinking of what I put myself through now brings back the knots in my stomach!
I struggled with not sabotaging myself or giving up too soon. I struggled with showing up for games and practices after a day of nerves that turned my stomach. I struggled with walking away from games and practices feeling like a failure and incompetent and being so hard on myself. I struggled with balancing the lows with the highs of playing well and getting caught up in fantasizing about winning a gold at Canadian Nationals (CUC) or USA Nationals (USAU) and going to Worlds. Mmmm…. I still haven’t let that fantasy go…. 🙂
But for several reasons I persevered, tried out for Capitals with my heart and soul on my sleeve, and made it proudly to the final try-outs before being cut. My ability to do so was largely because of the impact others had on me. On the one hand, I had tremendous support from my friends and family! But key to my perseverance was the impact of many small acts from those who were to become my new ultimate community!
I remember when the first person I met on the scene added me as a friend on facebook. I was beside myself! It was like a shot of confidence by being welcomed at the exact time that I needed it – when I felt like an outsider! I was also invited to the competitive pick-up games during the fall. I was nervous as hell but when I got there people actually acknowledged me and asked me where I came from. They cared to know who this new person was! I also remember how excited I was for my first “Caps class”. Caps classes were these open sessions that the Capitals captains ran on strategy throughout the winter. The night of the first one, I updated my facebook status to say that I was going. When one of the Caps girls “liked” it, I felt, again, so included and welcomed! These are some of the small examples of my entire experience here – feeling incredibly welcomed. I think part of feeling comes from a sense that there is a collective desire to raise the level of skill in women ultimate players, and that everyone is apart of this, no matter what skill level someone they fit into. And although my skills WERE being judged (necessarily, as part of tryouts), I, as a person, was not.
My experience coming to Toronto has reminded me of the impact that we have on others, whether we know it or not. My heart was recently warmed when I was tagged in a note written by a woman I played ultimate with. We weren’t close friends but we played on Salty together a couple of years ago. She wrote:
“When I lived in Halifax, I played frisbee with this wonderfully inspiring woman named Mandy. She is a life coach, which always made sense because she was one of the few people who always seemed to have her life together; nothing ever seemed to phase her. In some ways, I looked up to Mandy; she was such a positive, inspirational, motivating force, that it was hard to not want to be like her in more ways than one…”
Although this was quite flattering, as you can imagine, it serves me as another reminder of the impact that we all have on others. I didn’t even realize I had any impact on this person, yet I did. When I think back to my time playing with her, I can remember that it was a time when I was particularly positive (I think I just learned about what positive feedback REALLY meant!).
However, it made me also think back to times when I wasn’t so positive and surely had a negative impact on those whom I was supposed to be leading. I remember one captaining year when I was completely frustrated and negative and looked at people with annoyance quite often, I’m sure. I can only imagine the negative impact I had. I also remember times when I was too busy or too shy or too distracted or just too unthoughtful to pay attention to new people on the scene. I didn’t really think it mattered and I didn’t have time. I felt the impact of that type of behaviour when I practiced in a different scene out West last year and most people didn’t even make eye contact with me, never mind talk to me! Sadly, it was my most awful ultimate experience.
Being in the Toronto scene now, and as a new captain of Lotus (oh the irony!), I have to be mindful of paying forward the positive impact people have had on me, from my coach encouraging me when I thought I was into retirement mode, to being acknowledged and encouraged by the amazing women out in Toronto, and countless other acts of welcome kindness. Having an impact on those around us IS a huge responsibility that none of us asked for but is a capacity within us. Although I can’t promise that I will always be mindful of this, I can say that I don’t want to take this responsibility lightly any more and will do my best to be mindful as often as possible.
Perhaps others out there (silent leaders included!) can also embrace an opportunity to have a positive impact this summer. All positive acts are welcomed, both big and small.
And apparently, it doesn’t take much, as I have come to experience!