To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them.
Along with therapy and different group activities, I began to venture into the world of sports. This was a tricky process. Some held my interest more than others.
The world of physical activity is its own form of therapy. Sports teams in particular are a unique platform to teach skills and develop as a team and on an individual level. You get to learn good sportsmanship and cheer on teammates.
I believe the first major attempt was tap dance. Go big or go home, right? Trying to find a sense of rhythm, I’m sure, was challenging as well as imitating the movements my instructor demonstrated. But I hung with it for a bit. I just remember dropping out right before the big performance. Stage fright can be paralyzing.
My brother played soccer. I’d go to his games. I might have spent more time playing around the bleachers, but I was still there! It was probably wanting to be like my brother that nudged me toward joining a team. I don’t remember specifically, but I’m willing to bet that’s how it happened. I don’t recall being very active on the field. Probably a little fearful of the ball hitting me. I did, however, play multiple seasons.
I recall a few rounds of trying to fish. I remember stopping at the bait shop to buy worms. So gross! And to be encouraged to pick one up? Even more disturbing. I don’t think I ever tried to bait my own hook. But we got out there on the lake. I think Mom joined us at least once, but usually it was me, dad and brother. We never kept anything that we happened to capture from the water. Everything was thrown back. I may have caught a few small little fish, but I mostly remember casting the line and capturing the tree behind me. NOTE: If ever there’s a song that truly illustrates the power of the father-daughter relationship, it’s this one. Watch the video and grab some Kleenex.
Learning to ride a bike was an adventure for sure! I remember seeing a photo of me in the front yard with my bike ready for battle: Helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, long sleeves and with my soccer shin guards tucked into my socks. What a sight! I sure needed that protection. I doubt that bracing myself for a fall came naturally. I eventually got the hang of steering myself and remaining balanced. Later on, about the third grade, I even joined my brother and his friend (6th-graders) riding to school. It was a 3-4 mile ride round trip, and we managed it unsupervised! I’m sure Dad went with us once to map out the course, but we went to school on our own.
For a while my family belonged to a pool in town. I loved being in the water! Swimming was just so much fun. And like many girls my age, I’d make up all kinds of Little Mermaid story lines and pretend to be Ariel. I enjoyed rounds of Marco Polo or throwing sticks and swimming deep to collect them. I doggy-paddled with the best of them and eventually took formal swim lessons. Properly learning how to dive into the pool, however, was not appealing at all. I could not convince myself that going head first was a good idea.
Part of the allure of the pool membership was having access to tennis courts. Dad would play a little; I think it was mostly getting out and hitting the ball. He tried to give me some instructions for swinging the racket and following through after making contact with the ball. Alas, tennis was another short-lived effort.
I joined Dad on the golf course for several years. At first it was a chance to spend time with him as we made our way through 18 holes as well as an opportunity for early driving lessons. But eventually he taught me how to swing the club and hit. We took snacks and drinks with us and made an afternoon of it, so it was a great bonding opportunity … no matter how many times the ball veered right or left. I really enjoyed the game for a while. But somewhere along the line, I had it in my head that I wasn’t a good player. I had gotten convinced that those par scores were meant for everyone, no matter your age. So as a 10-year-old, or thereabouts, hitting 10-15 strokes a hole, I thought I was a bad player. (I’m guessing here, but that average sounds about right. I remember writing down lots of 8s and 9s on the scorecard, yet I’m pretty sure I had a tendency to group a few strokes together. Four or five attempts on the putting green translated into one stroke.) I didn’t ask and I don’t remember anyone explaining that the course guides were geared toward adults. I know that seems obvious, but young kids can get strange ideas in their heads. I had great timing with giving up golf because it was soon after receiving my own set of golf clubs for Christmas. Whoops!
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.
The activity that eventually stuck for an extended period of time was basketball. Once again, my introduction to the sport was through Dad. (What didn’t you do, Dad?) He was part of a league early on. My brother and I went to watch him play. I remember bringing lots of books with me to the gym, so it was during my preschool years as I was learning to read. Mostly looking at pictures, but that’s how you start.
My brother and I entertained ourselves as we watched from the bleachers … quietly. We didn’t do any bleacher racing or cause other commotion. In fact Dad remembers that we would sit there and hug on each other.
Fourth grade was the year I finally joined a church league basketball team. I believe that was the year we were The Flying Nuns! (See, the Catholic Church can have a sense of humor.) I was very timid on the court. I was afraid of hurting others, of getting hit by the ball. The whole experience was completely overwhelming. Dad remembers that I cried through the first game and eventually had to be taken off the court.
But something was sparked. Something kept me engaged. I worked at it and improved. The summer between 5th and 6th grade, I participated in a one-week female basketball camp at the local college. The first day, everyone was lined up by height and divided into groups based on height. I was the second-tallest in the group. There were seasoned eighth-graders and maybe even high school girls at the camp. (I honestly don’t remember where the age-cut off was for participants.) I was placed with kids much more advanced in skill and much older. I did not like it. It was intimidating for sure, and it made me feel even more out of place.
Mom took me back for the second day, and I would not budge from the car. Eventually the coach came out to talk with me. Once he understood how uncomfortable I was with where I had been placed, he assured me that adjustments were expected as part of the evaluation process. So I got moved to a different group, where I towered over most of the girls but at least our skill levels were more compatible. That made a huge difference! The rest of the week was much more enjoyable, and I learned a lot! I even walked away with a trophy for being Most Improved!
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
As much as I need to give myself credit for trying different sports, my parents deserve just as much by not saying “but you just quit such-and-such. Why would we invest in more equipment and lessons, etc., when you’re probably going to quit this, too?”
Not every sport or activity is a good match. You have to try things out to see what works. And I’m grateful my parents were willing to experiment, too.