This time last year Faith Rocha was preparing to tryout for the eighth grade volleyball team. A bunch of her friends played on the team and it seemed like a match made in heaven. Middle school is the first time that most kids have to go through a tryout in order to make it onto a given sports team. Rec leagues have room for everyone and club teams more often than not recruit the players they want or in some way morph the local all-star team into a club team of their liking. There is a reason for this — we don't want our kids being told they aren’t good enough until they are emotionally ready, or in most cases, until the school only has so many uniforms and spaces on the bus.
Faith is a hard worker. As her father Manny puts it, “She is not one that things come easy for but she busts her butt and she is a kid that gives you 110 percent in all that she does.”
Rocha is a soccer player by trade. She plays year round on one of the most successful girls club teams in the area. She has become accustomed to success, not because it has been given to her, but because she has worked for it.
“I don’t really like failure because I work hard at what I do, like with everything I do, I work hard,” Rocha said. So when her friends encouraged her to come out for the volleyball team, even though she is admittedly not a volleyball player, it didn’t seem like something unattainable, but she knew it would be difficult.
“She was very humble about it even during tryouts, I will say,” Rocha’s mother Holly said. “Because the whole time she was saying, ‘You know what mom, I’m not sure I’m going to make it. There are other girls that have been doing this so much longer and they are so much better.’”
After a few days of tryouts, it was time for the coaches to make their cuts.
“So I go up and they tell me that I don't make it and that was just a huge loss for me because I do usually make sports teams because I work so hard at them,” Rocha said. It was her first time not making a team in her life. She felt angry, sad, and for the first time she was told that her best wasn’t good enough.
“I think the hardest thing for a parent is to see your child feel defeated,” Manny said. “But what was so phenomenal about this experience was that you try to teach your child that so that when she is an adult, she has those coping skills so that she can understand that you can't win all the time, you know, that's not possible.”
This is a familiar place that many athletes in middle school find themselves in and they are often faced with a choice. Do I give up? Or do I keep trying? Rocha kept trying. She briefly joined a club volleyball team before she realized that it really wasn’t something for her.
“Then my other side of friends groups asked me to join cross country,” Rocha remembers. She was an excellent soccer player so cross country made sense. Cross country could improve her stamina, it could help her with her speed, so she decided to give it a try.
“I went to a meet and found out that I was actually kind of good at it, so it just kind of worked out,” Rocha said. “God has a plan I guess.”
“Kind of good at it,” is putting it modestly. In the same year she picked up the sport, she broke the middle school's record for the mile by running a 5:24. In each of her races she finished somewhere on the podium (meaning either in first, second or third). She liked running so much that she went out for track and excelled there too.
Fast forward a year and Rocha is now a freshman at Atascadero High School and she is currently running cross country.
“This kid literally fell in love with cross country,” Manny said. In her first meet with the high school Rocha finished third for Atascadero and 26th overall in the frosh/soph heat.
“When she went out for cross country and starting doing well at it, it was like ‘wow,’” Holly said. “It was like that old adage, you know, when one door shuts another one opens is completely true, and that's how it was for her.”
Rocha sets a perfect example for young athletes: Don't get discouraged because you don’t make the basketball team, or the soccer team or the volleyball team. Keep working hard and you will eventually fall into something that you love. When asked if she is pleased with the way everything has turned out, Rocha responded, “I am very happy I didn't make the volleyball team because I wouldn't be where I am today.”