On Getting Cut from the Team

on getting cut

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m 29 – that means I’m an adult, I’m pretty sure. I have adult things to worry about. Children, husband, bills, job – those sorts of things. So why is it that once in a while I find my thoughts contorting themselves around an isolated event from the 10th grade?

It’s easy for me to rehash: the plain, manila sheet getting posted up on the outside of the girls’ locker room. The plain, manila sheet with thirty or so names – none of which were mine. Coach P had subjected me to weeks of trials and workouts, assessing every ounce of my aquatic proficiency, and done it all seemingly for her own enjoyment. It was cut day. And I got cut.

What stung the most, probably, was that I’d made the team as a 9th grader. Being a 10th grader meant one more grade of competency. One more grade of experience. One more grade of ready-made camaraderie with my teammates. All in all, it meant if I made the team in 9th grade, I should’ve been able to make the team in 10th grade without goggles… and my hands tied behind my back.

But I didn’t. Coach P gave me the runaround. When I went in to speak with her, teary-eyed and more choked up than I cared to admit to my friends, she stuffed me full of stale confidence boosters and clichés. You would have been our 31st. You’ve got a great head on your shoulders. Someday we’ll look back at this and laugh.

It all meant nothing to me. Coach P and I had gotten along fine, but she was undoubtedly a bit fragile and eccentric. I’d watched her explode on some of my teammates (oddly, the same ones who had made the team again this year) for minor infractions. I’d watched her prod and goad our more talented swimmers and make them stay later after practice, when in reality I believe it violated some sort of provision our school district had imposed to limit the amount of time kids spent on sports rather than academics. She wasn’t a bad person, but she wasn’t someone I particularly admired.

Now, funnily enough, I think about her every once in a while when my mind starts to drift. And it’s not because I plan on looking back at the experience and laughing about it with her. In fact, it’s hardly about her at all. It’s about the experience of getting cut.

A change as harsh as getting cut sucks. But it doesn’t suck forever. In fact, it gets quite good after the wound has healed. My abbreviated tenure with the swim team forced me to divert my attention to other areas. I started reading – first just a little at time. Then, pretty soon, I was reading all the time. And then I was writing. And then I was blogging. And then, before I knew it, I was making money blogging. Throughout the rest of high school, college and my young adulthood, I latched onto something I was much more interested in (and frankly much better at) than swimming. Reading and writing enveloped me, and I raced through words much faster than I’d ever been able to race through a pool.

I don’t think you have to get cut to find your calling – that’s just me. I’m sure there are plenty of well-adjusted, friendly human beings who never got cut from a team. Getting cut, however, was a change of pace I’ll never forget. It molded me into something I hardly even knew I wanted to be, which is far more exciting than any 200-meter medley I’ve ever been a part of.

Photo by Noukka Signe

11 thoughts on “On Getting Cut from the Team”

  1. Life’s lessons are different for each of us. For some getting cut would have made them more determined, for others (like you) it would change their course. There is no single right answer. Our responses to life’s challenges are ongoing – we create our own meaning over and over again.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  2. Dear Kristina

    One thing which is not clear, in relation to the title, ‘On Getting Cut’, and the initial stimulus to read your article was, how did you get cut, where were you cut, and in what circumstances? Neither do you explain how this ‘cut’ affected your life or sports performance. Pain, anxiety, treatment, disfigurement?

    There is an enormous difference between getting a superficial skin injury and one requiring blood transfusion, surgery and many stitches.

    A more accurate introductory sense of perspective might have helped the reader to get a better picture of your social observations, in relation to your injury, the swimming team, and your present writing enterprise.

    I spent more time looking for the above than reading your conclusions and still couldn’t find an obvious connection.

    With respect, there is a fundamental lack of interconnected structural logic with your piece, in my view.

    From my sports background, I thought you were initially referring to improving your muscle definition for some body building competition, which is more my familiar territory.

    Considering your audience’s ability to visualise what you are writing should be any writer’s first priority, not just telling your story as a stream of consciousness. Don’t you agree?

    Kind respects


    1. Paul, getting “cut” means she didn’t make the team…she was not physically wounded. Because of that, the rest of your critique is difficult to take seriously.

      Kristina, I appreciate your article and took many positive thoughts away from it. So often we think we just KNOW what we are meant to do or be – only to have our “fate” altered by someone else’s choices. You reluctantly moved on – you rolled with the punches and found yourself living a life as good or better than what you once thought you were destined to. Bravo!

      I don’t read The Change Blog in search of literary perfection but I found your piece to be well written, clear and concise. You reminded us that good can come from disappointment.

      And Paul? Thank YOU for the reminder to make sure I fully understand something before criticizing!

      1. Dear CC

        I am not sure that the “thank YOU” is meant sarcastically, but no matter. Thankfully, I have an exceptionally thick skin, having endured Asperser’s Syndrome all my life.

        It is because of that I have to take great pains to make myself understood unambiguously, and likewise ask questions to make sure I’ve understood the other person.

        I am not detracting at all from the learning experience of the young lady author, far from it, merely pointing out the cultural linguistic differences which commonly lead to unnecessary misunderstanding and conflict. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language” :)

        1. I apologize Paul. In my rush to defend the author I did precisely what I assumed you were doing. I was critical of you without fully understanding the situation. I jumped to conclusions and should not have made assumptions.

          I really was not being sarcastic when I said thank you. I just didnt realize the irony that was about to unfold! Now, I’d like to sincerely thank you again. Your candidness has reminded me that people and situations are not always as they appear and I am not always as kind as I’d like to believe!

          Humbly Yours,


          1. Dear CC,

            Once again, thanks for your feedback. No apology is necessary, as no intentional cruelty was perceived.

            I suppose, because of my condition, I do tend to be unconsciously pedantic and this can cause some people to take umbrage.

            All human conflict would cease if we could put aside our Australopithecus afarensis egos and Cro Magnon posturing.

            From Homo Sapiens Sapiens we have evolved into Homo Nonsapientis Egocentralis

            Give us another 4 million years and who knows..?

            By the way CC, please don’t use the expression ‘Humbly Yours’. I am not royalty and you are not my servant..! Otherwise, it sounds a bit affectatious ..?

            Kind regards


  3. Today’s lesson in A Course in Miracles is “I don’t perceive my own best interests.” That is so true about so many things in life. My daughter is going through a very challenging time right now, and blames herself for choices she made in the last year that led to this difficult time. I try to remind her that she does not have any idea how this will play out in the future. Perhaps the choices she made, although painful right now, will lead her to something she will treasure in the future.

    That doesn’t ease her pain right now, and I don’t doubt that getting cut was a tremendous disappointment at the time. But remembering that we can increase our suffering by the stories we tell ourselves, what the Buddhists call the suffering of suffering, can sometimes help us keep a broader perspective when things are tough.

    Great post.

  4. For me it was being a child victim of a cult that got me to revisit my past. Writing about our past hurts is a great form of therapy. I blog about writing as therapy and other creative works.

  5. I agree that little wounds and minor cuts can be very painful especially when we are young… the best thing is transforming your agony into words that breathe and expressions that speak.

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