I’m Not Sorry: How Sports Taught Me To Lose My Manners

The most valuable advice I have ever received was what my softball coach told me when I was 10 years old. More valuable than learning to pitch, steal bases, catch and throw, I learned the skill of not apologizing — but it took a lot of work to be comfortable with it.

During practice one day, I made a lousy play that caused me to overthrow the ball to a teammate, and as usual, I began apologizing, muttering ‘sorry’s’ to myself and making excuses for my mistake. My coach turned to me, and in a calm voice asked, “Why are you saying sorry?”

I wasn’t sure how exactly to respond, because it was obvious that I had done something wrong in my play. However, I believe my coach had noticed I was entirely too apologetic in general. He gave me one command after that: “Stop saying sorry.”

I hadn’t given much thought to why I had apologized so often in a sport that was known for being very competitive and rigorous, but after that simple command, I began taking note of how often I apologized for plays I made. I was embarrassed for the smallest of mistakes, and I constantly worried that my teammates were judging me for every bad play.

It got in the way of my confidence in the game, making me a much more timid softball player—which is not very beneficial in such an aggressive sport. I had also noticed how frequently my other teammates would say sorry as well.

The moment I restrained myself from constant excuses and apologies, my confidence on the field and in general increased immensely. I believe that my apologetic behavior strongly correlates to women’s submissive attitude in the workplace (I bet the common pre-apology “Sorry to take up your time, but can I suggest an idea?” rings a bell). This self-deprecating habit stems from women’s constant urge to make excuses for not meeting approval or standards.

From an early age, we are taught to be people pleasers — if we have any skill to offer to the table, we must perfect it and make it flawless. This continues into adulthood and other group settings, where women are afraid to make their voices heard and take command.

It took me a while to ditch my bad habit, but eventually I began to learn the time and place to be polite. This skill was integral to my development from child to teen to adult. I will continue to remind myself of the advice from my childhood softball coach, and move this skill from the softball field and into the workplace as a confident, successful, unapologetic #girlboss.