I started playing hockey at 4 years old and immediately fell in love. I loved everything about it, the freedom, the energy, and the feeling of inclusion. On my 10th birthday, I made the team of my dreams. I was handpicked by a coach to play competitive hockey. I was more excited than I’d ever been, but as much as I loved the game, the minute I signed the papers, I lost the freedom I loved so much about hockey.
When I was 11, I started to have trouble breathing and I found out that I had exercise-induced asthma. Instead of being supportive of the fact that I hadn’t evened out my medication yet, I was told by coach after coach that if I couldn’t fix it immediately, I wasn’t worth their time. This was the year I started running several kilometres every day so that I could keep up. For years I put my body through hell so that I didn’t have to hear that I wasn’t good enough from both teammates and coaches. I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly sick, my body ached, and I had more injuries than I could count, but the worst of it all, was that I still felt like I didn’t belong on that team.
At 15, I had torn a muscle in my leg. It started out as a micro-tear, but I pushed through and continued to play and it ended up becoming a huge problem. I played until I could barely walk, let alone skate and then promptly got told by my teammates that if I couldn’t be bothered to show up to practice I should just quit because “You aren’t that good anyways.” After 4 months of physiotherapy I made it back to the ice and got told that I didn’t deserve to be there because I had missed too much.
I felt like I did all that work for nothing. I felt as though I wasn’t worth anything to these girls even though I considered them friends. My self-worth was destroyed because all I ever felt that I was good at was hockey, and according to my teammates, I wasn’t good enough for them.
After that year, I decided to quit competitive hockey. The official reason is that my leg never healed properly and that skating was too hard for me, but really I chose my mental and physical health over a sport I used to love. Sports are supposed to be good for you, teaching teamwork, improving cognitive ability, and keeping you in shape, but honestly, playing hockey was destructive to me. Quitting was honestly the best decision I ever made for myself.
If you are ever in a similar situation, where you feel like the pressure of sports is crushing you, talk to someone, switch teams, decide whether the sport you love is worth the pain. If it is, remember, even if someone tells you that you don’t deserve to be there, you do, because you tried out and made the team just like everyone else did. You contribute something unique to the team and no one can take that away from you, but even still, sometimes it is better to walk away than let yourself be crushed by others. Your health is infinitely more important than a game or a team that doesn’t support you.