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The Power of the Human ‘Being’

Coach Heyl with the cross country team at Summer training in Mammoth

“You have more to give.”

In an eerie silence disrupted only by the screeching of sneakers on the volleyball court, my teammates line up on the sidelines to run “suicides” — the notorious succession of sprints and the punishment behind the facade of “conditioning.”

Hands on my knees, sweat drenching my jersey, I grimace as a teammate throws up and her complexion begins to pale. The dizzying blur invading my vision is snapped back into focus by the blow of a whistle. My coach screams, “you have more to give.” Sideline to sideline, “you have more to give.” The ball hits the floor, “you have more to give.” A teammate misses a serve, “you have more to give.”

In the name of grit, we learned to put our bodies on the line, rain or shine. Every. Single. Time. As if our fatigue was a crime. As if we were fine.

So I began to believe that I had more to give. As I laced my shoes admidst the pouring rain and braved another day; as I studied for hours upon hours while my eyelids beckoned me to rest; as I had nothing left to give, I told myself I had more.

Burn out is learned. It is not relegated to the volleyball court. Permutations of this mindset are pervasive in this capitalistic society that incessantly demands more. Worth is attached to productivity, like cling wrap it sticks to our skin and becomes our identity.

And the greatest paradox lies in the fact that we treat ourselves like machines, chasing our “American Dream,” when no one expects a car to run without fuel. It is cruel, the way we rationalize our productivity and drown in our responsibilities.

So after years of competitive volleyball, I eventually quit and joined the cross country team. I distinctly remember that day — It was a hot summer day when I insisted on running on a pulled hamstring. It was on this day, as I limped through warmups, that Coach Heyl yelled from across the field, “Stop. Running.”

There is power in walking instead of running, resting instead of working, saying no when everything within you is screaming, work harder, be stronger, don’t falter.

We need to stop treating ourselves as if we are expendable — as if this is sustainable. Mercilessly depleting our bodies of life as readily as we deplete this earth of its resources.

We lack care for the human being. And relegate it to the human doing.

But here’s the thing. It does not make you weak to rest when you are tired, it makes you strong. It does not make you fragile to break down, it makes you human. It does not make you lazy to respect your body, it makes you humane. Sometimes, we have nothing left to give. And in those moments, the best we can give is to walk, not run.

When I came back from a long hiatus, Coach Heyl welcomed me back to the team with a big hug and warm embrace. “We missed you,” I remember him saying. What I didn’t say was that I came back for my family, my “ohana.”

But the truth is, I needed to take my own advice. Running wasn’t good for my health, and I had to learn to overcome my fear of letting go of a community so important to me.

When I finally collected the strength and officially quit, he simply smiled and said:

“You will always be a part of our family.”

Coach Heyl, if you are reading this, I would like to say:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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About the Contributor
Emi Sakamoto
Emi Sakamoto, Staff Writer
Hi, I'm Emi Sakamoto, a senior at CCHS. Through a concentration in opinion pieces, I hope to uproot various social issues and explore them through a dynamic lens. Aside from Journalism, I preside as the 76th Chief Justice of California, Co-President of Speech and Debate, English Curriculum Director of One Step Ahead, Treasurer of Vote 16, and founder of Poetry4Progress.

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