A letter to my younger self—A blog by JR Sam Mendelsohn

Well Sam, here you are. Beginning the second semester of your junior year being a student athlete at the place you have learned to call your second home. Did you ever think you would make it this far? Absolutely not. But are you incredibly happy with your decision to continue to play the sport you fell in love with at the mere age of 10? Absolutely. Let me tell you, the journey has not been easy and you have most definitely struggled, but the opportunities and people that this sport has brought into your life have made it all worth it.

Let me begin by saying thank you. Thank you, 10-year-old Sam, for taking the chance and trying out a new sport that was completely foreign to you. After multiple years of being on a strict softball and basketball regimen, you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried out volleyball at a summer camp. You were terrified, unsure, and timid, but you did it and became captivated from the moment that ball bounced off of your forearms. Granted it was a simple free-ball pass and probably did not look all that great, but you felt eager to learn and ready to improve. You knew it would be a challenge, as you witnessed girls only slightly older than you master the skills that you hadn’t even tried yet. But you stayed confident and focused.

Your love for the game became so strong that you chose to let softball and basketball go in exchange for trying out for a club volleyball team. That choice definitely was not an easy one for you to make, but you will soon come to realize that letting go of the good in your life can sometimes lead to great, new opportunities.

Trying out for a club team is something that I also admire you for. You knew it would be nerve-wracking and scary, but you worked hard and took in all of the feedback you were given to make the team that you wanted. Upon meeting your new teammates and coaches and working with other players, you will come to realize that you will be, without a doubt, the shortest person on all of your teams. High school, travel, summer leagues, and college—yep, you will be the smallest one on the floor. You will get constant comments, in abundance, about how small you are and how “interesting” it is that you chose to play a sport “only for tall people”. But, you will come to laugh them off and use them to fuel your fire. It took a while for you to get used to them and brush them off, but once you were able to take what people said and put it behind you, amazing things happened. You almost enjoyed hearing people doubt you because of your size, whether to your face or behind your back. It made you only that much more eager to lace up your shoes and get out on the floor to compete. This will become a part of your life as a volleyball player and you will begin to live by the quote, “I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong” by your all-time favorite athlete Derek Jeter.

Once high school hit you will be stressed most of the time, it is just the person you are. You try to squeeze everything into your schedule and struggle to say “no” to anything, ever. These 4 years will put you to the test, and even though in the moment you think you cannot handle it, you do, and come out a better person than you were when you started out. Juggling varsity practice at school, club practice, AP and honors courses, SAT/ACT prep, drivers ed., and making time for friends and family will definitely take a toll on you. Your busy schedule makes you question your love for the game and if it is all worth it. I remember these moments like they were yesterday—you in tears over how stressed out you are on that 30-minute drive to club practice. But, the second you stepped on that sport court, the pure liberation you felt became like an addiction for you and is something you look forward to constantly. The hours you put in in the gym and the endless nights you stayed up late studying will make you the person you are today—so keep up the hard work.

Oh Sam, if only you knew how perfect Geneseo is for you. A few years ago, when this decision seemed like the hardest one of your life and you could not decide where to go, you felt completely lost. You couldn’t decide if you wanted to play in college, what your major was to be, or how close/ far you wanted to be from home. The nights spent tossing and turning over what decision would be the right one for you would wear you thin. However, once that choice was made to play volleyball at Geneseo, you became the happiest girl on the face of the planet. If you knew what you did now, there wouldn’t be any questions asked about where you wanted to go to school—it would be Geneseo 120%.

Once your decision was made you were on cloud 9, but just you wait Sam—it is most definitely not all rainbows and butterflies. You took your time in adjusting and feeling comfortable with being yourself, but trust me, once you let your guard down you begin to bond with the people who will become your friends for life. Quickly you learn that you will need to push yourself 10x harder than you thought you ever could. In the classroom, weight room, on the court—every aspect of your life will require you to work that much harder. But, once again you found a way to enjoy every experience and face every challenge head on—ready to adjust and eager to do what it takes to succeed.

These past 3 years have been a true testament to your character as not only an athlete, but as an overall human-being as well. The responsibilities that you have been granted and your drive to be a supportive, competitive, and caring teammate, continuously put your physical and mental strengths to the test. Some days you have failed, some days you have succeeded, but you always enjoy every opportunity and continue to feel blessed that you are able to call yourself a member of the GSUVB family. This program has changed your life forever and the people you have grown to call your family influence your life every single day.

It most definitely has not been the smoothest ride, but every decision you have made has led you to this moment, exactly where you need to be. Thank you for trusting your heart and believing in yourself.

Oh, and one more thing. I know you think the whole “sparkly headband side ponytail” look is super cute, but I think you’ll be fine without it.

old vb pic