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Something New

by Cody Johnson

 “Come on, do it! It will be fun!”

Fourth grade D.A.R.E. class and every antidrug PSA I had ever seen taught me that nothing good ever follows those words, but I kept listening.
“If you don’t join, there will only be two seniors on the team,” Michael continued.
“But I’ve barely played tennis,” I protested. “I’m not going to be good.”
“That’s what practice is for. Plus, the exhibition team—that’s the people who aren’t JV or varsity—get to play way more games than anyone else. But I think you’ll be able to make JV,” he quickly added.
“When are practices and games?” I asked, hoping for an excuse to say no.
“Practices are Monday through Friday, 4:00-5:30. Games are Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they’re usually done by 8:00.”
I cringed. It fit my schedule, but would take up a sizable portion of my free time.
“Just come to the meeting after school today. The coach will tell you everything you need to know, and if you still don’t want to go out you don’t have to.”
“OK, I’ll go to the meeting,” I conceded begrudgingly, “but no promises on joining the team.”
By the time the meeting began, I was already regretting my promise to go. I was expecting to know most of the people there, but it was almost entirely underclassmen. Michael didn’t even show up. When the sign-up sheet came to me at the end of the meeting, I was still determined to say no. I looked up to pass the paper to the next person. Every face in the room seemed to be staring at me, waiting for me to sign. I looked back down at the paper. Nobody had said no yet. All I had to do was hand the paper to the person beside me, but I couldn’t do it. Not with everybody looking at me like that. Slowly, against everything I had planned, I lowered my pen to the paper. Looking around the room one last time, I scrawled my name quickly, as if pulling off a Band-Aid.
The first practice started out much the way I thought it would—slowly. We learned backstrokes and the basics of serving for the first hour or so, and I was afraid that I had committed myself to being bored every weekday until the end of the school year. Then the coach announced that we were going to play a game called “Around the World.”
“In Around the World,” he explained, “the whole team plays, rotating around the court after every hit. A player is eliminated once they make three mistakes, and the last player remaining is the winner.”
Finally, we got to play a game! Once it started, I watched person after person get eliminated like supporting characters in some movie, until I was surprised to find myself one of the last two players remaining. I immediately lost, but it was invigorating to learn that I wasn’t as bad as I thought I would be.
By the end of the season, I was loving practice. As we got better, we spent less time practicing shots and more time playing matches. Our team ended up winning about half of its games, and my position floated around between first and third JV. I made friends with most of the team, and I am still good friends with several of them today.
My fitness level improved drastically. Before going out for tennis, the only exercise I got was from P.E. class and the occasional bike ride or walk on a Sabbath afternoon, and most of my free time was spent playing video games. During the season, I usually played tennis about nine hours a week.
When I look back on the day I signed up for the tennis team, I never regret it. In fact, I’m incredibly glad Michael pressured me into it. While D.A.R.E. is right that peer pressure can be a bad thing in certain situations, picking friends correctly can actually make it fun.
Sidebar: How to Start Something New
Talk to your friends. Not only do they know what things you would enjoy, it’s always more fun trying something new if you have friends to do it with.
See what your school has to offer. Look at the clubs and activities sponsored at your school and see if any of them appeal to you.
Look online for a calendar of events in your area. Many towns have a calendar that lists all events held by businesses, clubs, and schools in the area.
Check with local churches. Churches often have charity events that are open to members of the public. Not only are these a great way to try something new, you can also help others while you’re doing it.
Cody Johnson writes from Lincoln, Nebraska.

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