Friday, February 20, 2009

Get Back on Defense

When I was a kid I played games all the time. I tended to succeed most in the unorganized neighborhood games like kickball, whiffleball and freeze tag. I was damn good at freeze tag and in elementary school I ruled at kickball. I was one of only two kids to kick a ball over the fence, bouncing it off the roof of the house next door - but I am about five years ahead of myself. Real sports were just hobbies, but they became more official when I was signed up to play several actual sports in organized leagues. At age seven I joined Greater Hamden Baseball Association (GHBA) and Hamden Soccer.


From the start soccer didn't seem like a good fit. I never watched it on television or talked about it with my friends. For my birthday earlier that year I received a soccer ball and a soccer "activity set," which consisted of some different colored cones to set up as the goal. People assumed I loved soccer because if anything, I was always polite about receiving gifts. Sweaters, belts, things I already had - I reacted like it was the greatest, because it was for me. Maybe I should have opted for honesty with the soccer gifts. It soon became plainly obvious that I was not cut out to be a soccer player for one specific reason: the running.

Baseball was good for me because you could stand around in the field and wait for something to happen. I had a very active imagination and would completely zone out sometimes in left field. I would pick grass, throw my glove in the air and try to catch it, or pretend I was a big league pitcher during the down time.

There was no down time in soccer games. From whistle to whistle, the kids ran after the ball from one end of the field to the next. It was fun at first, but I quickly grew tired of the fruitless pursuit. I wasn't the fastest kid nor was I the best kicker. Somewhere in my head, I was the smartest, and I devised a plan. I would wait on one end of the field, it didn't matter which, and after all of the other players ran to the opposite end and back, I'd be the freshest runner. My aim wasn't to score a lot of goals or play excellent defense. I just wanted to kick the ball as hard as I could. It didn't matter if I kicked it only once per game, I wanted to wail on it and see how far it would go.

As smart as my idea was, it made for lousy home videos.

"Go after the ball!" my father would yell as I stood by myself, 20 yards away from anyone else.

"They're just coming back here anyway," I would say back, kicking up some clumps of grass.

I was either the smartest seven year old on the field or too lazy for soccer. You'd think that by conserving my energy so by the time the ball was back on my end I'd be the only one able to run full speed, but of course that never seemed to matter. Seven-year-old kids have insane amounts of energy, and the idea of any of them becoming winded in a twenty minute soccer game was idiotic. I only played soccer for one season.

After soccer ended, I followed in my sisters footsteps to various activities that she had tried and enjoyed. First came ice skating, but I was terrified to let go of the wall. Then came gymnastics, which I only really liked because there was a trampoline involved. I enjoyed baseball, but once went an entire 22 game season without getting a hit. When I hit a growth spurts in the fourth and fifth grades, I became the tallest kid on my JCC basketball team. Unfortunately, these growth spurts came at a time when I had not yet switched to boxer shorts. I also believed that there was some kind of aerodynamic advantage in playing in sweatpants. This resulted in me having to stop every ten seconds to pick my underwear out of my crack and there's plenty of video of that splendor.

What do I play now? Kickball. The same game I loved from the start. The same game I was great at during elementary school. I guess my journey as an athlete was more of a 18 year feeling out process that resulted with my gut instinct being the correct choice. Unless of course an adult recreational freeze tag league opens up anytime soon.

1 comment:

Amy said...

This is my favorite post yet! We Luries aren't exactly known for our commitment to organized sports. Mine were: ballet, ice skating, gymnastics & softball. What about the rest of our neighborhood games? Shoe & Shea Stadiums? :)