SAND IN MY SUIT: Yucatan if you want

How does a girl born and raised in California go nearly 24 years without ever taking the plunge into the deep blue sea? By clinging steadfast to a faulty notion, that’s how.

It all started during a recent Monday morning training session on Second Street. There I was, enjoying a simple game where each pair must make two controlled contacts before sending the ball over on a forearm bump pass, when the energy of the entire practice shifted.

Doubts about the drill’s purpose surfaced by way of some of the girls’ behavior and attitude, and it was clear that coach was not happy about it. Next thing I know I am thrown into coach on one, a drill that takes every former collegiate volleyball player back to his or her alma mater gymnasium.

You basically have to cover the entire court by yourself for a specific length of time or a certain number of contacts — the details of which are determined by the coach. Come to think of it, the feeling of stepping into the court is more akin to stepping into the ring. We players enter survival mode, anticipating that first slap on the ball as if it were the “ding” signaling the start of a boxing match.

The key to surviving coach on one lies not just in the execution but also in the preparation. Like a fighter making his way to the ring in his shiny robe—heart pumping and rowdy posse following close behind—you, too, must psych yourself up and believe that what you are about to do is going to be enjoyable.

Even an artificially induced smile has been shown to actually uplift your mood, so I always try to look as if I slept with a hanger in my mouth before the coach initiates his first attack. Bring it. Oh, he brought it — twice. Then the four of us had to run to the Redondo wall and back before practice was officially pronounced over. And did I mention it was rounding 80 degrees with barely a breeze?

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never question why you are doing a certain drill. Thinking that a drill is beneath you is a naïve and poor attitude to have. You must treat each exercise as an opportunity to get better. Period. Leave the dissection until after practice if you must; otherwise, you will be misdirecting your attention and energy away from achieving the goal(s) at hand.

As a couple of the girls and I dragged ourselves to the beckoning ocean waves I had time to reflect on this lesson, unaware that I was about to learn a far greater one. You see, until that moment, I had never ventured into California coast water past my waist.

I can’t quite claim Pacific Ocean virginity because I have gone all the way while vacationing in Hawaii and Mexico — but only because the water is warm there. For some reason I have managed to convince myself that I can’t handle colder temperatures. “Water is too cold, too cold,” I would tell myself as well as anybody else around me who leapt confidently through the waves like they were born with gills

But on this particular day my body was too hot and too tired to surrender to the possibility that the water was too cold. I gave in to my teammates’ jeers and took the plunge.

What I felt when I resurfaced was far more noticeable then a coating of goose bumps. I felt incredibly empowered. This time, the hanger in my mouth was anything but artificial. The words, “too cold, too cold,” had justified my terrestrial existence far too long and I was finally free from its limiting grasp.

Now I had the confidence to pursue the aquatic lifestyle that I had always eyed from ashore. I want to learn to surf and do stand-up, one day making the journey from pier to pier. It all seems possible now (just need to perfect my surfboard to surf swagger…those things are heavy!).

I was so energized I called up one of my surfer friends and asked her to bring an extra board for me because I was finally going in. For over an hour I stood up, fell down, and saw the Strand from a whole new vantage point. I proved to myself that day that just because I have been saying that I can’t do something my whole life doesn’t mean that I actually can’t do it.

Words are powerful little suckers, aren’t they? Especially when we repeat the same ones over and over again to the point where we believe they are a part of who we are and what we are capable of. All this time I have been hiding from activities that I could potentially fall in love with and experiences that could redefine my being. These types of limiting notions exist in our everyday lives — they make a home in your subconscious and it’s up to you to play landlord and send that negativity packing.

So the next time you catch yourself alone in front of the tube because joining your 3-dimensional friends for a drink is just “too far,” consider the likelihood that you are limiting yourself with this overplayed excuse, and put down the damn remote.

Katrina Zawojski lives in Hermosa Beach and is chasing her dream of a career in professional beach volleyball. Follow her on Twitter at sandinmysuit1.

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