Play Ball?


Those of you who regularly enjoy Hilary's stunning photography over at The Smitten Image will probably recognize this cute character as Benny. As will reader's of Frank Baron's amusing blog Baron it All, where Benny makes frequent and hilarious appearances.

So... quick quiz. How does that photo make you feel?

a. Happy and Joyful about Life
b. Amused
c. Energized and Active
d. Suddenly Extremely Affectionate Towards All Living Things
e. Guilty and Uneasy

What?!!? Why is "e" even a choice? Who could possibly feel guilty and uneasy looking at such an adorable photo?

Er, Crabby McSlacker, that's who.

So what's that all about?

Well, first off, I did feel a, b, c, and d first before I settled into e. I'm human, after all.

But if I could capture the weirdness that went on in my head when I looked at that picture, it would go something like this:


Oh, I love that picture, that doggy is so cute!

He's having a great time with that ball.

Because he's playing. It's a game! That looks fun!

Dogs like games.

Hey, you used to like games too!

Remember, Crabby, you would play lots of outdoor running-around games when you were a kid? They're called "sports."

Sports are great exercise.

Remember soccer? You liked soccer.

You get credit for doing cardio and even intervals when you're playing soccer! And it's way more fun than the treadmill.

You are always talking about how much you hate going to the gym.

Hey, why don't you ever look for a chance to play soccer or tennis or dodgeball or something fun instead of going to the gym you hate?

Because you are lame, that's why.



Fear of Failure

Part of the reason I never get around to finding a pick-up soccer game, or a kickball league, or a racquet ball partner, or whatever, has to do with logistics and laziness. I'd need to find something casual and friendly and flexible and not too advanced and not too far away. To find something like that would require effort and diligence and some plain good luck. But that's not the only thing going on.

Because a few years ago I discovered, get this, a weekly pick-up soccer game three blocks from my house consisting of friendly middle-aged women! If the Exercise Gods were trying to devise a tempting sports endeavor for me to try, it couldn't get much better than that. I played soccer as a kid, and a little bit in high school. I wasn't great, but I was reasonably comfortable kicking the ball around.

So I bought a pair of cleats, went three or four times, and that was it. I started making excuses and stopped going. Even though I had fun playing a good percentage of the time I was on the field.

Why did I start to dread the Sunday morning games? I guess it was a combination of shyness, perfectionism, and fear of looking like an ass. The fact that I did not actually do anything glaringly ass-like did not seem to lessen the fear that I would.

I just did the normal screwing-up that anyone who is "average" does when they play a game. I kicked the ball where I did not mean it to go; I failed to stop players from the opposing team from sailing right by me with the ball; I passed to the wrong people at the wrong time. I also did good things, too, like score goals or steal the ball away from better players. And while I was new to the group (and the other women all knew each other already), they weren't snotty and standoffish, they were very personable. I'm sure the pre-game chatting I found awkward would have gotten way less stilted and more fun over time.

However, despite having mostly a good time at these pick-up games, I'd still dread going the next week. It felt like something that was "good for me" but a little too scary. Since no one was making me go, I stopped.

Which I know was a stupid move. Had I hung in there, I'm sure I would have eventually gotten perfectly comfortable and enjoyed myself more and more each time. And nothing in the world beats exercise you enjoy! When I have a great run it's the best feeling in the world. Endorphins + smugness = unbeatable.

Anyone Else?

A while back, I wrote a post about the current trend of team sports being eliminated from P.E. classes, called: "Gym Class Memories: Happy, or Heinous? And if you haven't read it, the best part is the comments: some funny and also heart-rending tales of miserable gym class experiences. I had no idea how bad it could be! But reading the comments, I also found that there are lots of people who love participating in sports and lots and lots of other people who hate participating in sports. And I could understand both viewpoints! I can't help wondering if I'm someone who could learn to love sports again, if I could just get over myself and stop worrying about screwing up?


Boot Camp Lessons

So I mentioned earlier in the summer that I've been going to a "boot camp" class twice a week, which is something of a departure for me. While I'm no fan of calisthenics, it's been a great reminder that company and camaraderie when you exercise can be, well, motivating.

Duh! I know this is not a revelation to most people, but I'd forgotten that.

Being neurotic, I still managed to feel a bit of "performance anxiety" in an exercise class where no one gives a crap what anyone else is doing. But I got over it pretty quickly, and now only dread the jump squats and the burpees and the suicides, not the imagined judgments of others about how well or poorly I do them.

Who knows, maybe if another pick-up soccer game played by middle aged women happens to locate itself within blocks of my house... next time I'll take advantage of it!

Anyone else ambivalent about competitive sports? Or do you just plain love 'em or just plain hate 'em?


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