I know how to play volleyball. I’ve played indoor 6s for two decades. I’m comfortable there. I’m good. I’m reliable. I’m confident. But beach volleyball is something I play a few times each summer with a few people who are just “messing around.”
I read somewhere that when trying something new, you should be humble. Learn all you can. Don’t pretend to know everything. If you do, people will resent you, overestimate you and you may not improve. Which is the ultimate goal when you’re learning.
So, when I started actually playing beach volleyball (no sideline beers), I took the humble route. I let everyone know “Hey everyone, I’m a beginner.” That was very hard for me to do. I don’t like failing publicly (I do a lot of that in Toastmasters… but I’m a beginner there so it’s ok). I don’t like sucking at things. It’s why I don’t bowl. Like, ever.
The reason I went the full disclosure route, is because I didn’t want those players to think that I’m a veteran who just sucks. This way the general consensus becomes “she’s really good for a n00b.”
If you’re gonna fail, it’s the best way to fail.
I made sure no one had lofty expectations of me. People gave me the benefit of the doubt when I messed up and made dumb moves.
It’s like when I used to wait tables and I’d have a bad night where nothing seemed to go right. I’d mess up so many times that finally I’d just tell the people, “It’s my first day.” The rough edges get smoothed, shoulders drop and people have a little more empathy for my errors. What? Everyone did it.
So when I went to my third high level doubles beach tournament, I told all my partners, hey, I’m a n00b. Among high verticals and even higher egos, it was the best approach.
It was a queen of the beach tournament. Basically, the idea behind that is: the best teammate wins. You are matched up with each person in your pool. You start each game with a new team. No prep time. No practice. Just playing. Whoever wins the most games with different teammates, wins the tournament.
This is very difficult because many partners spend years trying to find their mojo. We had 20 minutes and then it was over. But… we were all on the same playing field.
So back to me being a n00b. I was walking around all n00b-like. Putting my sand socks on the wrong feet and sunscreen in my hair (really selling the n00b-status). It was borderline hustling. I wasn’t the best among this group of women, but I definitely was not the worst, not even close. That’s the big problem with the n00b strategy. Employed in a competitive setting, like this cutthroat tournament among strangers, it becomes my glaring weakness.
My partners treated me like a toddler, coaching me and putting me in the least favorited positions. At this point, I know as much about strategy as they did. I’m not an idiot. But… I sure felt like one.
It was even worse that the other teams knew I was a n00b. That means, they picked on me. And BOY, did they pick on me. They served me every ball. Some nails (low and hard) and some lobs (high and easy). But, you better believe every single serve (and most attacks) went my way.
Typically, I can handle being picked on a little bit but this was a little boy on ant hill with a magnifying glass and I was writhing around in the scorching heat (this is an appropriate analogy because it was literally over 100 degrees that day). Even Kerri Walsh-Jennings couldn’t handle being picked on in Brazil at the 2016 Olympics. Competitors finally realized that maybe Misty May-Treanor was the amazing one and they should have been picking on Kerri all along. They more than made up for the misappropriation of serves by taking Kerri way out of her game by serving her off the biggest court in the world. She couldn’t pass, she couldn’t hit. Eventually, she fell apart. I, being a shorter player, never overestimated Kerri and always knew Misty was the real talent. But I felt for Kerri. It happens to the best of us.
So after hours of beatings and humiliation that July day, I was sunburned and dehydrated and so was my spirit.
I learned many lessons that day, which are as follows.
– Never underestimate your competitors or your teammates
– Be honest, don’t try to under promise so much people look down on you
– Be confident
– Hustlin’ is only effective if you’re a phenom.
I think it’s ok to be honest about being new at something. It’s good to admit when you don’t know something. But maybe I took it a little too far with the n00b volleyball status.