Fall 2014: “Digital Empathy” Middle School Winner Bowie Shreiber

Read Bowie's essay, "Combating the World Suck of Baseball Tryouts with Awesome," that tells how he was able to brave the excruciating world suck stress of baseball tryouts with the guidance of his coach, Mr. Gardner.


Bowie Shreiber, a student of Emily Bengels at Readington Middle School in Whitehorse Station, New Jersey, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “How The Real Teens Behind ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ Are Bringing Empathy to the Internet” by Christopher Zumski Finke, a story about the now-millions strong Nerdfighter movement and its dedication to “increase awesome and decrease world suck.” Finke shares how the first-ever, safe, inclusive Internet community mobilizes acts of kindness and empathy toward others.

Writing Prompt: Parents often label the Internet as a hotbed for cruelty and bullying. Nerdfighters prove the Internet can be used for good, that it can be a place to create community that combats negativity—or “world suck”—with “awesome.” What are some ways—digital or otherwise—that you get strength and support to fight world suck with awesome?


Combating the “World Suck” of Baseball Tryouts with “Awesome”




Last year, I tried out for my middle school’s baseball team. I am very passionate about baseball. I always try my best, want to be the best on the team, and I’m always excited for a game or practice. However, this was not the case with the middle school team. As tryouts were creeping closer, I was a nervous wreck. Lucky for me, we had an unimaginable winter with tons of snow. After the snow melted, the fields were soaked. I was relieved when tryouts were postponed a week. Throughout that week, I wished they were canceled.


I was so stressed when Monday came. I was supposed to stay after school for tryouts. What If I’m not as good as everyone else? What if I’m so bad everyone makes fun of me? What if my friends make it and I don’t? These were the questions I pondered as I stood in the hallway, waiting to enter the gym. The first day we didn’t do much. The field was still too wet. The coach, Mr. Gardner, had us warm up, throw to each other, and run laps. Most people were joking, laughing, and talking with each other. However, I was not one of them. I was too busy concentrating on having perfect form, even while running and warming up.


I think Mr. Gardner, who was also my gym teacher, might have noticed my edginess. On Tuesday, after gym, he held me after class to talk. I knew he liked me, but I was afraid I was in trouble or that I did something wrong. Instead of chastising me, he started talking to me about baseball. “You’re a great young player with lots of talent,” he said to me. “But you need to have more fun. It’s just baseball. So what if you don’t make the team? There’s always next year. You just need to have fun, and I guarantee tryouts will be easier.”


Mr. Gardner’s words really inspired me. From then on, I tried to relax and enjoy the tryouts. I still attempted to do my best, but didn’t make being perfect as big of a deal as I did before. I had a great time and made it more about playing baseball with my friends rather than trying to ensure myself a spot on the team. I ended up making the team, and even though we weren’t very good, it was a great experience.


Mr. Gardner unintentionally acted like one of the Nerdfighters in Christopher Zumski Finke’s YES! Magazine article, “How the Real Teens Behind ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ Are Bringing Empathy to the Internet.” Nerdfighters try to combat “world suck” with “awesome” by being kind and having empathy for others. There is nothing good about middle school baseball tryouts. They’re nerve wracking, stressful, and everyone is worried about making the team. Mr. Gardner recognized my nervousness, and the world suck of baseball tryouts, and fought it with awesome. He reminded me that playing baseball is supposed to be fun and encouraged me not to worry so much about the outcome. Even now, when I play baseball, I think of Mr. Gardner and focus more on having a good time with my friends because I know these times will not last forever. I still try to be my best, but worry less about being the best, and that feels awesome.



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