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Adversity, Triumph and Turkish Delight

Three years ago, I was introduced to the “Scambio di Lingue Touch Rugby Team” through a friend. While I have always been an active person, I never thought that I could be part of a team sport, especially one involving a ball, as I used to be scared of balls. I decided to give it a shot and joined the team. I had low expectations, but I was in for a big surprise.

At first, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. Catching the long-passed balls was challenging and remembering all the rules and moves seemed impossible. It felt like what I learned in one training was getting erased in my memory until the next. I felt like I couldn't keep up and as if I was slowing down the other players. I was about to give up. I thought I just didn’t have the aptitude for it, and besides I was not made for team sports.

However, the welcoming environment, understanding teammates, and supportive coach made me eager to to give it a second chance and stay. However, I knew that if I were to be an asset to the team, I needed to increase my self-efficacy. Determined to improve, I studied the moves at home, practiced catching and diving with team members, and asked for feedback constantly.

I used to hope that they wouldn’t pass the ball to me, fearing that I might drop it and let the team down. As I put in more effort, I noticed how incredibly supportive my teammates were. They encouraged me, taught me new skills, and helped me improve. Beginning to catch a couple of passes during training was a significant achievement to me.

What surprised me the most was that, the sense of responsibility that once felt like a burden to me began to feel like a bond that connected me with my team members. Each of us had a role to play, and our contributions made the team stronger.

Realizing that my effort and participation were critical to the team's success, I recognized that even though catching balls was not my strong suit, I had other strengths that could be utilized. Therefore, I decided to focus on improving my speed to become an even greater asset to the team, all while working on improving my ability to catch long passes.

In this regard, I played as a link for a while which has allowed me to practice short passes and made me more comfortable with the ball. As I progressed, I began to feel more motivated to work out, not just to stay fit but also to become a better player. I focused on improving my skills and helping my team succeed rather than on an eventual failure or result that would define my sports abilities. Along the way, I participated to some Serenissima tournaments. However, my departure for Erasmus last year and my recent health problems have impeded me from attending important tournaments.

However, a month ago, I learned that I was among the players selected for the tournament in Naples. I was filled with excitement and pride, but also with nervousness, doubt, and uncertainty. Was I enough? Was I the right player to be selected among all the great players in the team?

However, as I looked back on my journey, I realized how much I had grown both as a player and as a person. I remembered the girl I was three years ago, convinced that team sports were not for her, that she lacked the talent to compete. But now, here I was, preparing to compete at the highest level. I knew deep down that this was an opportunity that I couldn't miss.

I had worked so hard to get to this point, and I wasn't going to let my doubts and fears hold me back. The idea of being a good or bad player suddenly felt like a dynamic concept, one that could be shaped and molded with hard work and dedication. The challenge gave me a sense of purpose and determination, and I was excited to see where this last month of training would take me. I knew that this was a chance to prove myself and face my fears head-on.

Unfortunately, fate had other plans, and I came down with a pharyngitis just two weeks before the big event. It was frustrating and disheartening, especially since there were still moves I wanted to work on before the tournament. I had to play as a wing at the tournament, yet I had been training as a link since October. Yet I refused to let this setback haunt me and focused on getting better so I could be in good shape to play.

The last training before the tournament was my first in the last two weeks, and I made some stupid mistakes that left me short of breath due to the illness I was still experiencing. However, I decided to turn these mistakes into valuable lessons for the tournament. Wasn't training the best opportunity to learn and practice?

As the night before the flight approached, my excitement and anxiety grew. I dreamed about the tournament and the moves we would make on the pitch. Even when I arrived in Naples, still coughing and unsure of myself, I reminded myself of the incredible opportunity I had been given: to play with 15 ambitous teammates in a beautiful city like Naples. The night before the game, doubts crept in, and sleep was hard to come by. But when the day finally arrived, I felt a surge of energy and excitement.

The first couple of games were not our usual performance. Our high expectations and focus on winning made us hesitant to take risks. In fact, we were defending well, but our attack was dull as if we had forgotten about the joy of the game and how much we enjoyed playing it. In every break, we analyzed what went wrong and tried to motivate each other. We were there to win but also to put into practice what we had been training, play the game, and have fun.

That's when I decided to forget about the fact that I had lost sleep and that I was still coughing. I decided to focus entirely on the shots I was about to receive. Some I received smoothly, while others almost made my nose bleed. I was amazed by my performance at catching, and I thought all the catching practices our coach had made us do with the tennis ball had been so useful. I was totally in the flow that no one could break, until my downfall in a match against a formidable team, Verona.

It was already our sixth match, and I was getting tired. Yet, I was exhilarated by the possibility of scoring and proud of myself for pushing my limits. That was when I decided to play as a far wing, eager to play for 15 minutes without changes and receive more balls in that match. In the first couple of minutes, I received two long passes and dove to score both of them, but the defense was good. My second landing was pretty harsh as I fell on my chest and felt short of breath. We had to defend immediately, but I needed a change, and it was not possible. I started to feel dizzy and out of breath, as if I had forgotten how to inhale. That's when I started to run towards our box but fell dramatically to the ground. The referee stopped the game, and sports doctors came to the rescue. It was just an acute trauma to my lungs, and there wouldn’t be any long-term complications. I acknowledged that I was maniacally pushing my limits and that was my body's way of telling me to slow down. So, I returned to play in the next game but deliberately chose to be a near-side wing with changes.

Finally, our team emerged as champions, having not lost a single game. The overwhelming feeling of joy and pride that filled me was indescribable. It wasn't just raw talent that led us to victory, but rather the tireless efforts of our players and coach, who have poured their hearts and souls into the team over the years.

Our success was the result of the determination and regular training of each player since the beginning of the season, their motivation to improve their skills, and their understanding of the importance of teamwork. It takes more than individual’s abilities to achieve victory; it takes effective communication, coordination, and collective decision-making. Throughout this journey, I have observed that the driving force behind all of this was our growth mindset - the constant pursuit of improvement and the recognition of what we needed to become a better team.

As for myself, I pushed myself beyond my limits and left everything on the field. This victory will always be a reminder of the power of hard work, determination, and a growth mindset for me.

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