I don’t know whether it’s the winter season – trying to burn off all those extra holiday calories – or my season of life: Yes, middle age, I suppose, and trying to hold on to a vestige of my youth. But I have once again decided to participate in women’s volleyball.Now, don’t get too excited and start picturing Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. Well, go ahead. But picture both 10 years older, Misty in mismatched sweats and Kerri with 20 pounds of lingering baby weight. And if they’re on the opposite team, they’ve brought along their 6-foot friends who don redundant sports bras and slap each other on the behind like linebackers.Last year was my first season of volleyball in 20 years. The rec center held open gym for two Sunday afternoons before the season officially began. I went to the first one, met most of my team, and proceeded to drill with the same intensity that I had applied in high school. Which is to say: I broke a sweat but still managed to look ridiculous.That evening, I was also pretty sure I had broken my ankle. About an hour after I got home, and after approximately two hours of standing at the net and jumping like a Jack Russell who needs to go out, I found that I could not put any weight on my left leg. Considering that my husband was to report for work in 12 hours, leaving me alone with three kids, I was slightly panicked. Also, I could not pinpoint the exact moment when said break had occurred. Was I in such an adrenaline-fueled zone that my brain had failed to register a bone fracture? Or was I secretly overreacting, hoping for a day of bed rest and a plateful of whatever Christmas cookies were still in the freezer?Apparently, I had sustained not a serious injury, but more of a corporeal protest to resuming that level of activity after two decades. I enjoyed an evening of immobility, and by morning I was back to normal. Inexplicably, I decided to go back the next weekend.This time, I had my kids in tow. Mistake. Being so young, and perhaps spatially challenged, they could not comprehend the boundaries of the volleyball court. They ran onto the court in the middle of play; they ran across the back line as the other team was serving. Then they disappeared under the bleachers and came out with two handfuls of gum wrappers and discarded hair bands. I think I played volleyball that week. Two Sundays down, seven to go.The third week went better. Phil came and wrangled the children. My team had started to gel, and we managed to beat one of the more brutal-looking groups. We figured out what each of our strengths was. Cathy was good at reading the play and getting us into position. Reenie was a great server. I handled blocking at the net and looking utterly stunned at any other position.Week four, we got killed. Ditto week five. We didn’t practice: None of us could muster the courage to admit that volleyball mattered enough to commit to a midweek practice session, and besides, most of us were too busy driving minivans hither and yon to work it in. No wonder I was better back in high school. And no one can prove otherwise.This is not a Cinderella story, and there certainly was no end-of-season comeback with a poignant musical score. Naturally, the linebackers won the tournament. Our team simply showed up each week and played mediocre volleyball. Sometimes we won. Sometimes we lost, and sometimes we were just trying to get out of there so that we could start dinner.With such enthusiasm, it’s no wonder we’ve all decided to play again this year. Hey, we’re not Olympics-bound, but at least volleyball gives me a good excuse to get off the couch – or, sometimes, to stay on it and eat cookies.
Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
Net effect of volleyball? We survived the season
Erica Batten is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Erica? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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