May 4

An Open Letter to New Athletes

Dear New Athletes,

You are about to start one of the most demanding–and possibly one of the most fun–activities you will ever attempt in your life: playing sports.

“How hard can it be?” you ask.

Trust me. It’s harder than you would expect, but lucky for you, I have some advice.

Try everything. The world of sports offers endless opportunities for young athletes. Who knows? You might be the star soccer player. How about the best swimmer? What about tennis, softball, baseball, golf, hockey, basketball, lacrosse, football, gymnastics, or volleyball? The best athletes play multiple sports, and if you try different sports, you will probably find something you like a lot. I’ve played several different sports, and I’ve finally found the ones I love, which couldn’t have been done if I didn’t experiment with my options.

Don’t get discouraged. During your sports career, you will make mistakes. I’m sorry if you were planning to go through life and never mess up at anything, but here’s the truth: nobody is perfect. Professional athletes can make mistakes just as often as amateurs can. And that’s okay. Mistakes are how we learn, how we grow, how we become better at the things we do. You might have coaches or even teammates who don’t see things that way, but don’t get down about it. Nobody does everything right. You are not the only one who makes mistakes.

Speaking of coaches, you should listen to yours. They are there to help you. They give their time to come to practice and help you get better, and –most of the time– they know what they’re talking about. If your coaches give you instructions, follow them. If they give you advice, take it and apply it to your playing. It will help you get better. I promise. I’ve had many a coach in my days of playing softball and basketball, and I know that they sincerely want to help you improve your game.

My final piece of advice for any of you daring to enter the world of playing sports: have fun. I know, you’ve heard that one a million times, but it’s true. If you can’t have fun, then there’s no point in doing what you’re doing. If you aren’t enjoying playing your sport, you’re doing something wrong. Make friends on your team, and sports will become that much more fun.The kids on your team may become some of your life long friends. I’ve made friends from different school districts and different cities, all through the sports I’ve played.

So there you have it. Your guide to surviving the crazy world we call playing sports. Maybe I’ll see you when you go pro.

Sincerely,
Ava

April 20

DI

This post is going to be a very long one so you might want to take a bathroom break or something before you start reading it. Just a warning.

For those of you who don’t know, DI stands for Destination ImagiNation, which, in my best explanation, is basically a creative thinking competition.

I have never done DI before, but this year my friend Nora invited me to be on a team with her and my other friends Sophie, Natalie, Ingrid and Leah. My other friend Martina would have done it with us, but she is a very amazing dancer and didn’t have time ☹️.

Whithin our first few meetings, we had decided on a team name: the Rainbow SNNAILs. If that confuses you, SNNAIL is all of our initials. Why did we choose to put rainbow in front of that? I don’t know. We just did. Don’t ask me why.

DI has several different challenges, but the challenge we picked for our team was the scientific challenge (aka “Top Secret”), and we had to make a skit and also come up with two codes and make a gadget that is is disguised as something else but performs a “secret task”. Our skit is about animals in a zoo that go missing, and one character has to dress up as an animal to find out where the animals are being taken. That’s the short version. I would explain everything else a little bit more, but that would take way too long and this post is already going to be long enough.

We worked so hard and for so long, and the day finally came when we had to present our skit to a panel of judges. In order for us to go to the next level of competition, which is called state, we had to achieve first place in regions, which was the level we were in at that time.

After we did our performance, we had to do a thing called an Instant Challenge. This is how our Instant Challenge went: we had no idea what we had to do, but we’d been practicing old Instant Challenges for weeks. We had to sign a piece of paper saying we wouldn’t tell anyone what out challenge was, so I can’t reveal that information just yet, but it was a building challge (as opposed to an acting challenge). It went okay–or so we thought–but we would just have to wait until that night at the award ceremony.

We finally went to the award ceremony and……… drumroll please………
WE GOT FIRST PLACE!!!!! It was an amazing feeling, and now we got to go to the state competition in Lubbock!

Weeks later, after more practicing and perfecting our performance, Leah, Ingrid, Natalie and I piled into a car and drove the six hours to Lubbock. It was a long ride, but it was still fun. We stopped at a really good place for lunch, and we wore pajamas for the whole trip.

We stayed in a hotel in Lubbock that was pretty cool, but their pool was closed, so that was sad.

When we competed in Lubbock, there was a different Instant Challenge than from regions–but I still can’t tell you what it is–and it went pretty well, we ended up getting the second highest Instant Challenge score out of 25 teams. Then we had to perform our skit for what might be the final time.

We were so nervous, but we were also super prepared. This was our moment, and we couldn’t blow it. And we didn’t. The judges laughed at all of our jokes, everybody remembered all of their lines, and we had to code and decode a message during the performance and we got it right!

After that was all over, we went out for lunch and then dessert. Then we hung around the hotel for a while and received our scores.
They were AWFUL. At regions our skit had recieved 204 points, and we thought that wasn’t very good. This time we only scored about 150 points. We were doomed. We all thought so. There was next to no way we would be among the five teams that went to globals in Tennessee.

We went out to dinner after a while, and then went to the award ceremony. It was SO LONG. We sat in the bleachers, waiting for three hours to see if we were announced. And we were. The Rainbow SNNAILs had taken 5th place, and were advancing to globals!

WHAT???!!! This was amazing! We screamed, jumped out of our seats, and ran across the stadium to receive our medals and trophy. It was the best night ever.

So now we get to go to Tennessee for globals, and I’m sure it is going to be tons of fun. DI has been an amazing experience, and I am hoping to continue it in years to come.

 

April 7

Road Trips

The car is hot. And you’re tired of sitting for so long. And you can’t sleep because of the ride is so bumpy. And there’s no WiFi. Road trips are AWESOME.

I am aware that some people aren’t a fan of sitting in a car for long periods of time, but for me, road trips are an amazing experience, even if you go on the same one multiple times.

Going on a road trip feels like a cool adventure. A loooooong adventure, sure, but and adventure none the less.  You wake up early, pack up the car, start up Google Maps, and then head for the nearest gas station because you forgot to fill up yesterday. Most of the time my family leaves around noon, after we eat lunch, because, honestly, some of the restaurants you find on road trips have food that is less than desirable.

When you go on a road trip you have to stop at many different gas stations to go to the bathroom or fill up the tank, and this has led my family to some interesting places. Some gas station are really bad. They smell horrible, the bathrooms are disgusting, and the best food the convenience store has is powdered donuts–not that powdered donuts are bad or anything– but they could do a lot better than that. Other gas stations are amazing, especially one: Buc ee’s. Buc ee’s is more than just a regular gas station, though. (Aside from having an awesome name and a beaver as a logo.) Buc ee’s is HUGE! It’s about the size of a grocery store, there are free samples, and there is never a line for gas pumps or bathroom stalls. They have amazing fudge and jerky, too. Buc ee’s is every road-tripper’s best friend.

Another great thing about road trips is the anticipation of the destination. We drive to Oklahoma a couple times every year, and we are always excited to see my grandparents when we get there. Last summer, we drove to Colorado, and even though the trip was very long, it was still fun because we got to stay in a really cool place in Colorado. Even thought the journey is half the adventure, you can still be excited about your destination on a road trip.

So when you look past the surface of the road trip, past the long hours in the car, past the smelly gas stations, and past staring out the window at corn fields, you see the better side of road trip: the sense of adventure, having fun in the car with your family, and, of course, Buc ee’s. So next time, instead of dreading your 10-hour road trip, try to have some fun.

March 3

Why Texas Winter is Awful

With “Let it Snow” playing on the radio starting in October, candy canes lining the grocery store aisles, and Christmas trees everywhere you look, it’s hard not to feel a Christmas spirit in the air–and a hope for that winter snow. But we live in Texas, and when temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees in December, you start to realize a crucial fact that all Texans have learned: Texas winter is awful.

The first thing that makes Texas winter so amazingly unamazing is the complete lack of snow. One day in elementary school, school was cancelled because of ice. Not snow, but ice. Real exciting. It snowed one day in kindergarten, and that was the most amazing time of our lives. I used to live in Colorado, and in the winter snow was everywhere. But here in Texas, just too hot for snow to fall. And when it does get cold enough, it’s just one of those dry, cold, windy days when the wind cuts through your many layers and stings your face, sucking all of the warmth out of you. Good times. When there is snow, there is tons of fun, but in Texas, that doesn’t happen. I haven’t seen snow in Texas for a long time, and I’m getting impatient.

Another thing that makes Texas winter is so bad is the temperature. Can it go below 60 degrees please? Winter should be sitting at the table, drinking hot chocolate, and huddling around heaters. Not playing outside, sipping on ice cold sodas, and asking for someone to turn the AC up. That’s just WRONG. And I DO. NOT. LIKE IT. It is very  annoying to see the sun shining outside during winter break, when it should be hiding behind a cloud. Winter should be cold, and Texas is hot. It shouldn’t work like that! I can’t enjoy winter when it’s 90 degrees and sunny outside, but I sure will try.

So while Christmas carols are on the radio, I’ll be drinking my hot chocolate on a sunny day. But that’s okay. I still love Texas even though the winter here is undesirable. The next time I see snow, I’ll be grateful for it, and won’t take it for granted.

February 9

Catching

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my positions in softball is catcher. You know, the person that sits behind home plate and tries not to get hit in the face mask by a not-so-soft softball zooming towards them. That’s me. And I love it.

The first game I ever caught in went like this:
Coach: “Ava, put the gear on. You’re catching today”
Me: “Okay…”
So I put on the team’s catchers gear: shin guards, chest protector, helmet, glove (catchers helmets and gloves are different than normal ones). It was an…interesting experience, –and, quite honestly, not a very good one.

But I grew to love the position. The catcher can see everything that’s on the field, and that leads to an important job of being sort of the field leader. People say I’m quiet, but at catcher I can yell very loud if I want to.

You may think there’s nothing more to being a catcher than, well, catching. But there is. I mentioned earlier that the catcher has to be the field leader, and that’s true. It’s the catcher’s job to made sure that, when the ball is hit, everyone knows what they have to do. If the runners on base are faster or slower than usual, the catcher needs to let the people in the field know where to throw the ball to try to make a good play.

One of the things that can turn out good for a catcher is throwing the runner that’s trying to steal second or third base out. When this is achieved, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But you have to do it right. First, the batter has to not hit the ball, because how is the catcher supposed to do anything when they don’t even have the ball? Then you actually have to catch the ball, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Once you’ve caught the ball, shift your feet and throw. Sounds fairly easy, right? NO. Have you tried throwing a softball from home plate to second base? That’s 84 feet, 10.25 inches. Now throw it accurately. Preferably very low to the ground so that the short-stop can catch it and tag the runner. Easy? Not really, but it sure is fun when you do it right.

Probably my favorite thing about catching is that you get to know your pitchers really well (shoutout to Jill). You warm up with them, you struggle through games with them, you become friends with them. You call their pitches, catch their strikes, and comfort them when they get down. This is probably the best thing about softball in general: the friends I’ve made and will hopefully never lose.

So thank you softball, thank you catching, and thank you Coach Bill for that fateful day when you told me to get the gear on, it changed my life.

February 2

Why Fridays Are Awesome

The bell at the end of Wildcat Time rings, the hallways are filled wall to wall with students trying to make their way to the front doors, and finally, finally, after years- sorry, I mean after days– of waiting, we are free. And we have Friday to thank for it. You have to admit it: Fridays are the best.

Here’s why:

You know you had a long week. You had to wake up early to go to basketball practice or to catch the bus on time. Which means that you had to go to bed earlier than you would have wanted to. But not on Friday. When Friday night finally rolls around, you can do whatever you want. You can watch a movie with your family until 10:30 and it’ll be no problem, because you can sleep in the next day. You can go hang out with your friends and go somewhere without worrying about making it home for bedtime (or you could be antisocial and lock yourself in your room and read for a long time). And having the ability to do any of those things is AWESOME. It gives you so much more freedom than you would have on an average weeknight, and in turn you can have a lot more fun and be way more relaxed. Seriously. WAY more relaxed. Why?

Because homework. The second reason Fridays are amazing is because you don’t have to worry about the homework that is due the next day. No math pages due, no vocabulary packet, no project on the respiratory system to stress over (at least not for tonight). You can be totally lazy, and- face it,- us teenagers just want to be lazy. Friday nights are stress-free because of this ability to be lazy. This is the total counterpart to any other weeknight, where you have to work on your homework and not have any fun. And not having fun is just, well, boring. And we don’t want boring. We want lazy Friday nights.

So instead of pulling all-nighters to finish that math homework, Friday lets you pull an all-night movie marathon. Fridays are the stress-free, chill out, do nothing nights, and that is down right awesome. Sorry Mondays through Thursdays, but Fridays are the best!

 

January 26

An Interesting Phenomenon

I have noticed something weird going on, you might have noticed it too. Here is what I have noticed: I will have never, EVER, heard of something or someone, but as soon as I hear about them, they are EVERYWHERE. I’m not kidding. This happens to me a lot. 

For example, my family recently watched The Help starring Octavia Spencer. I’d never heard of Octavia Spencer before, but after we watched The Help, she started showing up everywhere. She was nominated for an Oscar. She was in the new movie Hidden Figures.

Do you see what I mean?

Not convinced yet? Fine. I’ll give you another example. 🙂

My friend sent me a recording of her singing the song Closer by The Chainsmokers. Good song. Never heard of it. UNTIL….. I was in the car and I heard it on the radio about 500 times! WHAT? I’d never heard of this song before, and all of a sudden it’s all over the place!

This is kinda weird. Does anyone else notice this or is my brain just being weird?

I actually have a possible explanation for this phenomenon. These things I never noticed before, I actually might have noticed before and just don’t remember it because I wasn’t paying any attention to it. I’d seen the Hidden Figures trailer before we watched The Help, but I didn’t recognize Octavia Spencer as an actress in Hidden Figures. But when I saw the Hidden Figures trailer after we watched The Help, my brother and I both recognized her as Minny, or her character in The Help. Closer may have been on the radio before and I just didn’t remember hearing it until after someone had sent a recording of it to me.

 To prove I’m not crazy, I did some extensive research on this topic-

Personal screenshot

I know that you are amazed by my researching skills.

But anyways, this phenomenon is actually real. It is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, and it is actually pretty interesting. It’s caused by unconsciously paying attention to a new word, phrase, or, in my case, person or song. This causes you to notice these knew things more often than you normally would. Pretty cool, right?

I’m just glad I’m not going insane. It’s pretty cool that this is actually a real phenomenon, not just something my brain made up. It’s pretty cool, I think, that this weird phenomenon actually exists. It’s even cooler that this blog post lead me to learn this!

 

Question Time! Have you experienced this phenomenon before or am I just losing my mind? If you’ve had this happen to you before what was it that you had never heard of until it was suddenly everywhere you looked?

January 11

Turning the Game Around

Last Thursday, the West Ridge basketball team faced off with our rivals: Hill Country.

My team had won by a lot last time, and although we tried not to be, I am sad to say that we were probably at least a little overconfident.
That was a mistake…

We were down, 8 to nothing, and our confidence had already been dampened. Things were looking bleak. Very bleak indeed.

That’s when coach called a timeout. She told us we needed to get our heads in the game and focus. We needed to score some points.
We all wanted to win this game. We wanted it bad. We didn’t want to humiliate ourselves- after all, we had been so sure of a win.

And that’s why I wanted to talk about turning the game around.

We won against Hill Country because we could turn the game around. We came back from losing and prevailed.

You have to turn the game around. Not just in sports, but in life.

If you have a grade in a class that you aren’t happy with, turn the game around. Go in for tutoring, study hard, get help. Turn the game around and get a grade you are happy with.

Turning the game around is always possible, even when you think you don’t have the ability or the power to do so. We didn’t beat Hill Country without believing that we could. And when you believe you can, you can.

So even when the game isn’t going your way, believe that you can turn the game around. Then do it. Because you can. Because you believe you can.

My challenge to you is this: if there is something in your life that you want to change, turn the game around.

All you have to do is

Believe

December 9

Give Thanksgiving Some Love!

I know that Thanksgiving was kind of a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but I still want to write this post.

I have a message for HEB and some other stores:
NOVEMBER FIRST IS NOT CHRISTMAS!!!

As soon as Halloween is over, HEB has Christmas candy and decorations out. And I just don’t get it. I mean, I appreciate the holiday spirit, but PLEASE. Give Thanksgiving some appreciation. We eat more food on Thanksgiving than on Christmas, that alone should be reason enough not to sell all things Christmas the second Halloween is over. There are a few Thanksgiving plates and stuff like that, but you can hardly find it amidst the mountains of red, green, and Christmas trees.

I feel bad for Thanksgiving. It’s just not recognized enough. I know not everyone celebrates it, but not everyone celebrates Christmas either.

Despite the lack of representation in the grocery aisles, everyone LOVES Thanksgiving. You get to hang out with family members you might not see often, there’s only two days of school, and of course, there is more food than you could possibly want, with leftovers for a week. What could be better?
Apparently, peppermint flavored anything, chocolate, and candy shaped like a Christmas tree. That’s what every grocery store seems to think.

Why don’t we have Thanksgiving decorations? People go all out with Halloween and Christmas decorations, you can hardly see some of the yards in my neighborhood! But decorating your yard for Thanksgiving? No! There is the occasional inflatable turkey outside a house, but these are too rare.

Thanksgiving is a special time. It reminds us of how blessed our lives are, and that we need to be grateful. We get to see other family members, spend time with them, play with them, and yes, eat food with them. 

Thanksgiving is wonderful, so give it some love!

December 1

First Impressions

It’s interesting, really, how much of a difference a first impression makes.

Take my free throw story, for example. The first time I shot a free throw during practice (or tryouts), I made it. After that, everyone thought that I was the Free Throw Queen. But, I’ve never made another free throw when I needed to during practice, so you can tell that I’m not super amazing at free throws.

First impressions make a difference with how I think of people too. If we meet and you were nice, or if I see you doing something nice or considerate, I will generally think that you are a good person. But if you were mean to me when we met, or if I see you doing something rude, watch out, because I really don’t like you now.

Seriously, though first impressions are everything. Job interviews. Applying for college. First Impressions make all the difference. If you screw those up, good luck getting into college or getting a job. Sometimes you make the wrong first impression, though. Nerves, anxiety, not being yourself. These can all leave and impression that you don’t want, but sadly, that’s the only chance you get for a first impression.

Now I will talk about vegetables, because that’s totally related to what this post is about.

Vegetables actually are related to this post. How? Because. I used to like pickles, probably because I liked them the first time I tried them, but then I stopped eating them. When I tried a pickle again-kind of a first impression- I didn’t like it. Now I don’t like pickles.

But taste doesn’t really work like that. Over time, you can grow to like or dislike something. The same kind of thing can happen with impressions. Sort of. Your fist impression of someone might not be very good, but as you get to know them, your opinion of them might change to a good one. Or, you might think someone is nice when you first meet them, but then you realize they weren’t as nice as you thought they were.

And that, my friends, is my blog post about how first impressions and vegetables are related.

If this is the first blog post of mine you’ve read…

Then how’s that for a first impression?