Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sporting Life

When you go to an extremely small school like I did, you get the chance to participate in any extra-curricular sport (or activity for that matter) your heart desires.  At St. Francis there were no cuts from teams or really any competition at all because every kid that was willing to join a team was most likely necessary for the team's existence.  And because I am a "joiner" and had always liked to play fun games, I found myself playing every sport that was available at my school from 5th grade on--volleyball, basketball, softball, and cheerleading.

I was always one of the tallest kids in my elementary school classes, so when I joined the basketball team, the coaches mistook height for talent and moved me (along with my friend Jessie, who was actually athletically inclined) up to the varsity team.  I'm sure that my coaches soon realized their error when I not only scored points for an opposing team, but had a bad habit of stopping to apologize to people that I fouled.  I just thought I was being polite, but strict adherents to rules of play did not seem to agree with me.  Also, whenever I realized that I had made a mistake in a game (which was pretty frequently) I would again stop and look to my coaches with both hands in front of my mouth with an expression of shock.  My parents had to be so proud looking down from the stands.

Volleyball--I am the third from the left in the top row

Cheerleading was fun, but there would be downtime during games when I was very likely to go into a daze.  On one such an occasion I was startled back to reality when a basketball came speeding directly into my abdomen with such force that it knocked me into a wall.  Apparently my fellow cheerleaders and most of the players, spectators, and coaches in the gym that day had been screaming out a warning that could not pierce through my reverie.  Then there was the minor problem of my not being able to do a cartwheel during the year where a cartwheel played a central role in our competition routine.  Thank goodness no one (that I know of) videotaped this routine so that I don't ever have to have a mental picture of how terrible my "cartwheel" was--my imagination provides me with a picture that is bad enough.

Cheerleading--I am directly in the middle

During softball season my lack of quick reflexes kept me relegated to the outfield, where I didn't get much action, but rather discovered a nest of ground hornets.  When I was up to bat, I usually hit a never-ending series of foul balls.  But my dear, dear coach never seemed to get visibly frustrated while he talked me through instructions for straightening out my swing.  (To my fifth grade mind, he was how I imagined God would be.)

Me, Weeze, and Jessie at a softball game

The funny thing is that no matter how lacking my athletic skills were, I genuinely enjoyed participating in all of these sports and always had fun.  Except for that time the extremely obese softball umpire drank my whole water bottle during a game, my memories of my early sporting career are all fond ones.  In fact, just before I graduated from the eighth grade, I became the first ever recipient of the St. Francis Student Athlete Award, which rewarded me for participating in every sport and continually making good grades.  No where on the plaque did it mention that I was any good at these sports--but maybe the point was that I didn't let that stop me.

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