In Republic, Ohio sports are big. In junior high I was on the volleyball, basketball and track teams.  My shining moments were serving a perfect 15-0 game in volleyball and running the second leg of the championship 4×100 relay. In high school, I decided I would try out for the volleyball team. That meant endless hours of practice, mostly serving, as an over-hand serve was required in high school versus the underhand serve I mastered in junior high.

When the day of the tryout came, I prayed to get one of the softer balls when it was my turn to serve (I guess I was hoping for my own deflate gate advantage!) I don’t remember the tryout and whether my serves cleared the net or not. Up to that point in life I was always on the team, and in many cases, a starter. I had no reason to believe it would be different this time. 

On the second day of tryouts, coach called me – and only me –  into the hallway. She told me that I was cut from the team. I was the only girl being cut. I don’t remember my reaction in the moment – I probably sat there stunned. Maybe I cried.

What I do remember is my neighbor Linda picking me up from the tryout. She saw that I was upset and we promptly went back to her house and she made me a huge ice cream sundae. (Linda is the same person who paid me in ice cream that I described in my Small Town Resume post – clearly she knew the way to my heart!)

She reassured me that things were going to be ok. I didn’t need to be on the team. As much as getting cut from the team stung in that moment, Linda was right. I could do other things with my time. I had an opportunity to explore other teams.

Small Town Leadership lesson: It’s okay if you don’t make the team. Having this experience early in life helped me as I was cut from more teams, lost competitions, wasn’t picked for the lead role and not hired for jobs. The teams you don’t make and the jobs you don’t get can often teach you more than the ones you do. When you are faced with an unexpected, negative outcome, it is a chance to practice composure and build your resiliency. Not making the team helped me focus on what was really important as I began my high school career. It led me to music, community service and public speaking experiences that I never would have imagined during my 3-sport junior high days.

What team have you not made that has taught you an important lesson?



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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