I had to laugh when I read that Robert Hruzek wanted us to talk about what we had learned from sports. I mean, does he really want me to dredge up the time I tried out for the 6th grade softball team…and got cut immediately? The broken tooth I have from being hit by a bat on the playground in fourth grade? Holding the record for the highest 9-hole round of golf on the high school team (100 strokes. 2 years on the team)? Being on the football field all four years in high school (marking band, tuba)? Taking pictures of a track meet to find out if I could shoot pictures for the local newspaper (couldn’t)?
Somehow, I’m not sure what I learned from sports…other than to quit trying.
But then we had a son. And our son played soccer. For years. Which meant that I watched a lot of soccer. And learned something about the game as I tried to help him practice.
Finally, when a couple other dads were putting together a team to play indoor soccer in the over-30s, men’s C league, I decided that I would come off the sports bench one last time.
It was an interesting experience. It would have been more interesting if it had been an over-40s league. There were some guys just barely over 30, and they had actually played soccer. In college. Fortunately, some of them were on our team.
In the couple seasons I played, I got my first bloody nose. I got my first dislocated jaw. I got my first goal. I had a t-shirt with a number on it. I never threw up. I got really really tired.
And I learned that sometimes even incompetent players are at competent as the players on the other team.
I usually played defense. My strategy was to stay between the ball and the goal. Because I assumed the person with the ball knew what he was doing, I never tried to kick the ball, I just tried to stay between the ball and the goal. After all, if I tried for the ball and missed, the other guy would be past me and could score.
My strategy usually worked, but it was not very courageous.
One night I decided, for reasons I do not know, to go for the ball. The other guy and I arrived at exactly the same time and rather than letting him take it, I went for the ball.
And I won it.
In fact, I dribbled downfield and passed across to the far side and…the other guy missed the goal.
But still, I tried and won the ball.
I have carried the feeling of that moment into very many other situations. Since that moment, I have had other moments of almost holding back and then I attacked the ball. Sometimes I win it. Sometimes I don’t. But I am less timid that I was before that night (on average). And it’s kind of fun.
I quit after two seasons. They folded the B and C leagues together and the play was more serious than I could handle. And I was tired of playing at 11:30 on Friday nights.
However, after my first four and a half decades of athletic failure, I finally learned something that changed my life.
Regardless of who wins, sometimes you just have to play.