I Don’t Get to Play in Volleyball Games Because I’m Short; Former National Captain Yoshie Takeshita Set an Example

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female high school student. I like playing sports and have been a member of the volleyball club since junior high school.

But because I’m short, I haven’t been able to play, not only in practice matches but also actual games.

In junior high school, many of my teammates were in the same grade as me. The ones who got to play on game day were almost always the tall students and those who had been playing volleyball since elementary school.

I almost never got the chance to play. But I had no complaints because I enjoyed the practice and they were better at volleyball.

I’ve been working hard in the high school volleyball club, thinking the fact there are no more than 10 students on the team would make it more likely that I’d get to play on game day.

But the students who usually get to play on game day are still always the ones who are taller than me. It’s such a shame: even though I’m not so different from them in terms of ability, I don’t even get to participate in practice matches because of my height.

When I brought it up, the coach just said, “Well, I’ll think about it.”

My coach seems incapable of imagining how depressed and frustrated I feel when I’m at home. I’ll probably end up finishing club activities without getting the chance to play in almost any games, and that’s so frustrating. How should I deal with this problem?

— K, Tokyo

Dear Ms. K:

You are a strong girl who doesn’t show frustration at school even though you feel irritated at home. I can feel that you truly love sports. I also feel a sense of camaraderie with you.

I myself am 150 centimeters tall, and there was a time when I was troubled by my height.

As a fellow short person, I’d like to advise you to avoid being overly preoccupied with your height. You said that your height makes it hard for you to play in games, but that’s just an excuse.

Yoshie Takeshita, former captain of the Japanese women’s national volleyball team, is 159 centimeters tall. She was almost 30 centimeters shorter than the rest of her teammates. Nevertheless, she contributed a lot to the team as a setter. Just think: she must have worked harder than all of her teammates.

By the way, I used to do 3,000 sit-ups every day when I was a marathon runner, thinking that increasing the length of my stride would give me a competitive edge over taller athletes.

It wasn’t simply abdominal training that gave me confidence; it was practicing something only I could do.

Volleyball is about teamwork. I want you to hone your skills to the utmost, such as by using your voice more than anyone on the court and becoming the best receiver.

Please do your best and aim to be a small giant.

— Akemi Masuda, sports commentator