I have never been good at sports. Ever.
Starting back as far as I can remember, I had no talent in athletics. In elementary school, at recess, everyone would play four-square or wall ball, and I too, would play. Whenever it was my turn, I did my absolute best, tried my absolute hardest, but never stayed in more than a round or two.
Wanting to be like my friends, I signed up for Swimming, Soccer and Tennis. My two older siblings excelled in these sports, and I thought I would too. After many years and countless lessons, I was still one of the weakest players on my team, and never made a goal, or won a tennis match. I never got an “A” swim time on my recreational swim team.
While time passed, and I continued to do poorly at sports, I excelled in dancing. I loved ballet, and I wanted to be a prima ballerina. But, as I advanced as a ballerina, the ballet world soon became unwelcoming and highly competitive, and not being a competitive person, I decided to quit.
My uncompetitive nature is another reason I did not excel in sports. Although I like winning, I am not willing risk seriously hurting myself to win. In addition, in a lot of the sports I played, there was a continuous risk of injury, and I have never liked to be in any type of physical pain.
Overtime, I continued to try sports. For many reasons, playing a sport in high school was a good idea. I needed to get in shape and meet new friends. In my junior year of high school I joined the Cross Country Team. During the next two years, I was in the best shape of my life, met a lifelong friend, and had a lot of fun. However, I was the slowest person on my team- even slower than the Freshman. I soon became the only Senior on JV. Although this was disappointing and somewhat embarrassing, I still was proud of myself and the goals I set for myself as a runner.
When I started college, there was a lot of hype over inter mural sports. EVERYONE played at least one inter mural sport and it was by far the best way to meet people. Knowing my past and (painful) experience with all sports, I decided not to play. I did not want my first introduction to people to be me. I did not want to be known as this terrible teammate that they have to compensate for.
Post college and into the working world, sports and athletics have lost their glamour. Most seem to go religiously to the gym for exercise and to bars to socialize. I was happy with this stage of life where everyone worked and didn’t play sports. Finally, I could move past athletics as a way to socialize and I could meet people in different arenas.
This all changed when a rather new friend of mine asked me to play a charity dodgeball tournament. I quickly responded something along the lines of “Thanks, but I really suck at sports and you do not want me on your team. I will totally hurt your chances at winning.” She was persistent, and did not accept no for an answer. She convinced me that it was all in fun, and that she wanted me on the team and it did not matter if I sucked.
I believed that she was sincere, but I felt that she was going to be in for a surprise when she learned just as bad as I was.
Soon, the charity dodgeball tournament was right around the corner. My friend organized a practice so our team could meet and we could practice our dodgeball skills. I went, so nervous, because they were going to see just how bad I was. The practice went better than I expected, but it became clear that I was very bad at throwing the ball at other people (which is essential for dodgeball). So, I decided that the next day (at the tournament) I would focus all my energy on dodging the ball.
Well, it turned out that we were in for more than we bargained for. The teams we played against at the tournament were part of a league, and they played dodgeball all the time and had a bunch of strategies and were very good. We didn’t do very well, but I did succeed at not getting hit that often- and jumping out of the way. I was happy that I wasn’t that bad and that I stayed in to be last more times than not.
Afterward, upon reflecting on the tournament I concluded a few things:
1. Dodgeball was a hell of a work out- I was dripping in sweat.
2. There were a lot of single guys playing.
3. I was O.K. at dodging the ball – probably since I had been dodging balls in sports my whole life.
So, I decided to join a dodgeball league. There is a sport and social league in my city that offers a variety of sports in a casual atmosphere. Within in a few weeks, the league started, and immediately we started playing games. I was having a ton of fun- meeting new people, strengthening my current friendships, and ahem- playing a sport.
Since I am terrible at throwing the ball at people, I am not a huge target, and I usually stay in the game until the end. Also, as my friend told me, I am “squirrelly” and usually the other team can’t hit me. If you are the last player on your team you get to try to make a half court basketball shot onto the other team’s basket (the dodgeball game is played on a basketball court). If the last player on the team makes the half court basketball shot, all of your team members get to come back in the game (if you are the last player, then all of your team members have been hit and are out of the game).
Many times I have been the last player. And many times I attempted the half court shot. And many times I did not make the shot. But, that was okay with me. In the weeks I was playing, no one ever made the half court shot.
One game, in the middle of the season, I was the last player on my team. It was me versus about 7 other people. Fortunately, I had all of the 6 balls on my side of the court. Not worried about getting hit, I could take my time at attempting the half court shot. Since my arm strength is non-existent, I throw the ball through my legs, old lady style.
I focused all of my energy on this shot and let it go – then I watched it fly through the air and swoosh! Go right through the basket. Nothing but net. I was sincerely shocked. I could not believe that I made the basket. I stood there for a few seconds, starring while my cheering, happy team rushed on the court, picking up the balls, and chucking the balls at the other team. It took me a moment to realize I had to pay attention and not get out. With in seconds, my team destroyed the other team and we won that match.
As we prepared for the next match to start, my team celebrated my basket with me, giving me high fives and telling me I did a great job. I had to hold back my tears of joy.
On the way home, I called each of my parents and gave them the news. Both times, my parents cried with me rejoicing the event.
I celebrated for a few days, telling everyone about my half court shot. I was so happy to have done it, and knew it was a fluke, once in a lifetime thing.
Until a few weeks later.
At my dodgeball game two weeks ago, I made another half court basketball shot. Another one! I really, truly couldn’t believe it.
So, here I am, two days away from my last game of the season. And, I couldn’t be sadder that it’s over. Of course I am signing up for the next league (that starts in November), but still, I’ve never cared this much about a sport before, and I hate to see it end. It’s been such a wonderful, emotional experience; I can’t believe that it’s gone by so fast.
I may not be the best athlete in the world, but I am certainly not the worst. And, at age 25, I guess you can find a sport you are actually good at and really love.