Now, I’m two years removed from the game, and I wouldn’t trade those moments of sadness and frustration for anything.
You know what? That’s life.
Sometimes, you are going to put every ounce of your being into something, and it’s not going to work out exactly the way you wanted it to.
Get over it.
No, I never became a starter. But I did have the best experience of my life.
I learned lessons that I never would have learned otherwise.
When I walked off the field at the Women’s College World Series in 2014 after Florida beat us in the championship series, I had no regrets. I was truly thankful to the Game for everything it gave me, and I didn’t expect anything else from it.
I had experienced so much team success at Bama, and that truly was enough for me.
Little did I know, the Game would give me the biggest personal reward of all two years after I walked off the field.
I chose to go to law school after I got done playing. The legal market is pretty tough right now, and jobs can be hard to come by.
If you want to work in a law firm, the best way to secure a job for after graduation is to get a Summer Associate position.
Most firms hire law students the summer after their second year of school, with the intention of extending a full-time offer after the summer is over if you do a good job. Competition for these positions is fierce and the interview process is lengthy.
After living in Tuscaloosa for my whole life, I have been itching to move to a big city.
When it came time to start applying for Summer Associate positions, I knew that Washington, D.C. was my top choice geographically.
The problem was that it can be pretty hard to get your foot in the door at D.C. law firms.
They do not typically recruit students from Alabama, tending to get their Summer Associates from more “prestigious” schools. Side note: I would put my school up against any in the country and am so thankful that I ended up there. But I digress.
A family friend of my family is a partner at arguably one of the best law firms in the world, and I expressed my desire to end up in D.C. to her.
She graciously offered to set me up with another partner at her firm who knew a lot about the D.C. market.
I was thankful for any help that I could get, and booked a flight up to go meet with him. I had nothing to lose- I wasn’t even thinking about asking this man for an interview.
He was just going to give me some advice on how I should go about applying to smaller D.C. firms that might be willing to interview a student from Alabama who was not at the top of her class.
As it turned out, he ended up being the Hiring Partner- in charge of hiring all of the firm’s Summer Associates.
Well, lucky for me, he happened to Google my name before meeting me for breakfast. When he did, he found a Tuscaloosa News feature article that was written about me during my senior year.
The article basically told the story that I’ve been telling you here: that I was a hard worker and always tried to be a good teammate.
The Hiring Partner brought it up at breakfast, saying that those are the qualities he looks for when hiring law students and that it’s not often that he has tangible proof that someone possesses them.
He then proceeded to ask me “if I was opposed to interviewing with them.”
The firm flew me back up to D.C. the next week.
I had five 30 minute interviews with different attorneys.
The first four went very well. I walked into my last interview with one of the attorneys that was on the recruiting committee (so it was really important that this one went well).
He was a big sports fan, so we immediately started talking about softball.
He asked me if I had played much, and I truthfully answered no. Then I got THE question: “What did you learn from that?”
There is not a single interview question in the world that is more suited for me than that one.
I proceeded to explain to him for over 45 minutes precisely what I learned from being a role-player throughout my four years at Bama, rather than a starter. Resiliency. Selflessness.
How to take pride in your role, whatever it may be. What it really means to put the team first. I walked out of his office knowing that it was the best I had ever done in an interview.
Two days later, the Hiring Partner called and offered me a job. I lived in D.C. for the summer, working at the firm, and loved every minute of the experience. I was surrounded by former Supreme Court clerks, attorneys at the very top of their fields, and genuinely wonderful people.
On paper, I had no business being here. I do not have the same level of qualifications that my fellow Summer Associates had. Yet, there I was. All because I chose to keep working hard even though I wasn’t seeing the results that I wanted.
My coaches and teammates noticed.
A reporter chose to care about a story that almost no one else would. And then, of all things, someone Google’d me.
Do not tell me that the Game doesn’t know.
So, to any players out there struggling with being a role-player: keep working hard. Keep putting the team above yourself.
Keep trusting your coaches. Believe me, I know that it hurts at times. But the Game sees you, and it will reward you.
It won’t always be in the way that you wanted or pictured it, though. Sometimes the reward will come years later, in a way that will have a much greater impact on the course of your life than getting more playing time ever will.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jordan Patterson is a former University of Alabama softball player. She is currently in law school at Alabama.