A challenging time for the Centura volleyball team took place when we lost the conference finals game last year. I felt a crushing, burdensome weight on my shoulders, as if the loss was all my fault. The crowd was disheartened, the team’s morale was low, and the coaches lectured us about our errors, but this time was different.

Usually, I could see the frustration on our head coach’s face after losses. She didn’t have the usual fire in her eyes, hurried walking pace, or tension in her posture. Instead, she was placidly perched in her office, scanning over film from the conference finals game. Every athlete knows that when your coach is quiet, that’s when the fear of God should be in your soul.

I plopped my bags in the locker room next to one of my teammates.

“Can you see what she’s doing in there?” my teammate whispered, gesturing toward our coach who was vigilantly watching the game. “That notepad on her desk is filled with tally marks. I bet that’s how many twenty-two in ones we are going to run at practice tonight.”

It is said that the numbers to beware of in this world are the triple sixes, but in my perspective, there are only two numbers that should be avoided at all costs: 22 and one. This line drill involves sprinting the width of the volleyball court 22 times in one minute.

“I guess it could be that or …” My voice trailed off, my frantic eyes as wide as melons.

Simultaneously, the heads of myself and my teammate snapped toward each other. “CANCER SHIRTS!”

After school, our team was supposed to take a picture in our Dig Pink shirts commemorating our head coach’s 100th win. The tallies probably represented the number of volleyball players that had forgotten to wear their shirt and the number of 22 in ones that would be our consequence. The assistant coaches reminded us, but after all of the disappointment and commotion following the loss, not even half of our team of over 20 athletes remembered their T-shirts.

The red alert regarding the team picture sent the volleyball team scrambling on a wild goose chase, searching for our hot pink T-shirts. Girls dismissed themselves from class to call their parents. Others snagged cancer shirts from friends. In some cases, teammates stooped so low that they even dug waist-deep through the musty lost and found basket.

After hours of desperation, we stood before our coaches at practice, a mass of skittish teenagers, clothed in nothing but hot pink. If that’s not teamwork, then I don’t know what is.

Later we found out that the tally marks were the number of blocks we missed at the game, not the number of girls who forgot their cancer T-shirts. Relief filled our bodies as we proudly posed for that photo, but that relief was swiftly replaced with anxiety when our coach uttered the dreaded words, “On the line!”

Throughout that heart-attack of a school day, not much else went through my mind, except for the urgency to collect as many stinking cancer shirts as humanly possible. In retrospect, I am thankful that our team has each other’s backs, on and off the court. I am thankful that when the world looks bleak, we are able to unite, even when we are a dozen T-shirts away from a 22 in one.

Despite the tense grip of the big loss from the night before, we were able to shake off its grip and unite as a massive T-shirt search party.

Sometimes in life I get too occupied with finding those T-shirts, and I forget about the meaningful moments that are interwoven into each and every day, such as the resilience of my team in all of that frenzied pandemonium. Reflecting on the blessings that we are granted is important. Instead of counting 22 curses in one day, why not try counting 22 blessings in one day?

Throughout the remainder of November, I encourage you to indulge in days of thankfulness. Hardly anyone can be consumed by a perpetual pessimism when they have gratitude in their hearts. Amidst the discombobulation and mayhem of the worst days, there are always blessings and people to thank the Lord for.

Now that my high school volleyball career is over, I will forever miss the rush and the joy of battling with my teammates on the court. Keeping those memories in my heart, I am urged forward when my sorrowful thoughts consume me. Start focusing on the little things you hold dear, and always remember to give ______. (I encourage you to read the first letter of the last six sentences to form the final word. The final word in my previous article was “fight.”)

Grace McDonald is a senior at Centura High School.

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