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4 May 2002

II've decided that this is going to be one of my most productive weekends in a long time. I'm doing a good job so far at 4 PM; I put more than an hour into cleaning my room, and a couple of hours into starting the 3 essays I have to write for my take-home midterm. And even my breaks can be productive; that's why I'm writing this now.

I've been trying to work on other parts of this site lately, since up until now I've basically just come in and added a journal entry every few days. I've done a little bit of design (and will do more when I get another chance to work on a computer that will run PageBuilder a little faster than mine and with fewer crashes), and I'm also attempting to "diversify content." I've done a little work on the page I started a little while ago with song lyrics and quotes I like. And I'd like to do a page of quotes of things my friends say, like Matt's . This, however, would involve me remembering these things and writing them down. I will, however, attempt it. I'm trying to think of other things to add-- any suggestions would be welcomed!

So the day before yesterday, I finally played in my first official PARC soccer game. I've been to a number of practices since the beginning of the quarter, but the first game was canceled due to thunderstorms, and I didn't get back to campus from home in time for the second. My general impression is that I like the practices a whole lot better. Out on that big field during the game, with my friends and dormmates really caring about the outcome, the consciousness of my inadequacy stares me in the face in a way I can generally push aside when we're practicing.

I have never, ever, ever been good at sports. I don't know whether as a small child I was only mildly worse than the other kids before they all started to improve, but my father's stories about six-year-old me running in the wrong direction on the soccer field and forgetting to chase after the ball might suggest otherwise. Once I got the fundamentals of soccer, I don't recall any sense that I was particularly atrocious, but I always knew I was below average. As for softball, I could never field worth a damn-- I don't recall ever catching a ball hit in the air, and when I did block a ball rolling on the ground, I would throw it in the rough direction of first or second base and the other girl would have to chase it. (For information's sake, I played a position they called "short field", which is basically like shortstop except it's between first and second base. So it really shouldn't have been much of a challenge to accurately get the ball to first.) As far as hitting, my main advantage was that I was a very short child. (This should not suprirse you.) Young pitchers really had a hard time finding my strike zone. And since whenever I tried to swing I would end up striking out-- even weak ground balls were rare-- I ended up standing there with the bat on my shoulder. I got on base about as often as the other girls on my team, and despite the pleas of my father and my coaches, I refused to try to hit.

I played soccer until 5th grade, I think, and softball until 6th. By that age, some of the kids on the rec league teams were starting to shine, and I was getting self-conscious enough of my inadequacies for it to not be fun any more. And it didn't help that by this point it began to become obvious that my little sister, three years younger than me, was a talented athlete. Especially at that age, we were intensely competitive, and if my nine-year-old sister was going to keep proving herself better than me on the soccer field and the softball diamond, I would just drop out and stick to the things I could beat her at. Never underestimate the affront to the dignity of a preteen of someone three whole years younger being better at something.

So junior high and high school passed by, and as my sister joined the traveling soccer team and went to fast-pitch softball tournaments across the northeast, I tried to select units in gym class where people couldn't see how horrible I was. (Damn the state of New Jersey and gym every day for six years!) It was hard to avoid, though. Whatever the sport, be it basketball or volleyball or swimming or ultimate frisbee, I was slow and awkward and uncoordinated.

Beyond being a clumsy person, one of my problems is that I have very, very, very little stamina. I wonder if some component of this is natural, since even people who don't appear to train or take part in any sort of physical activity still have much more endurance than I do. But I certainly don't do any training to improve my natural condition. I don't really work out at all. Since I don't have to worry about being overweight (at least not at this point in my life-- I'm convinced that unless I develop some sort of discipline, when I'm older I'll be very fat, since my mother was thin when she was young too), I'm horrible about any sort of focus on being in good shape. I eat all sorts of junk food, and I practically never exercise, if you don't count walking all over campus and the many stairs I seem to climb. This results in me getting winded after so little effort you wouldn't believe it. It's really somewhat pathetic.

So part of my decision to play soccer was in order to get some exercise, because I feel like I need it. And another reason is to not let the voices in my head beat me. Whenever I'm doing any sort of athletic activity, there's a constant refrain in the back of my head. "You're worthless. You're useless. You suck. You look pathetic. Everyone's laughing at you. You're so terrible. You should stop, you should leave, you should never come back."

Our first couple of practices, I managed to suppress this for a good portion of the time and enjoy myself. A big help was that, since playing among ourselves results in teams of six or seven, we were playing on a small field. This frustrates the PARCers who end up booting the ball out of bounds over and over again, but it's better for me because it means shorter kicks and less running. My major failings as a soccer player are my speed and endurance, my fear of the ball coming in hard above my waist, and my lack of understanding of strategy. Okay, and I also can't kick very far. Beyond that (because those aren't big factors or anything, right?), I'm not too bad-- and scrimmages with small teams on small fields minimize those factors.

Of course, when we played our game, those beautiful voices in my head harassed me the whole time. Not only was I getting out of breath and exhausted, but I felt like I wasn't contributing at all, and was failing on things I should have been doing. Everyone else seemed to understand the strategy of the game so much better than I did, and everyone else seemed to have something to contribute to the team besides me. The only thing I could find to hold on to was that as a sixth girl under rules that require five girls on the field at all times, I was at least allowing people who could help us get a little rest. Then again, I retorted internally, any of my teammates could probably do better tired than I could rested.

And then when we practiced yesterday, I felt worthless again. There were only seven or eight of us, and we were playing another group of people at the field we were practicing at, who we did very well against. But there was just something about watching my teammates do so well together that made me feel like an idiot for not helping more. "You're horrible at this game, why are you here?" kept echoing in my head, only dying away for a few minutes after the maybe three or four productive things I did during the whole hour and a half. And every time the ball came towards me high and I flinched, moved out of the way, even ducked, I felt pathetic and was sure everyone else was looking at me, either laughing at me or disgusted at how terrible I am. There were a couple points at which I considered dropping out of soccer altogether.

But you know what? I'm not going to let this beat me. I have way too many insecurities as it is, and this is a stupid one. So what if it's true that I'm awful at soccer? That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me as a person. This is an IM team, something people play on for fun, and just because a lot of people on the team are good doesn't mean that I have to be good to play. And besides, how am I ever going to get any better unless I practice? It would be nice to have some sort of athletic endeavor to be semi-decent at. Besides, I can't be completely terrible; three separate people have asked me, "Have you played soccer before?" If I have some sort of basic skills, then things like strategy, endurance, and getting over that damn fear of the ball can come with practice. Besides, soccer is fun when I'm not feeling self-conscious about it. I'm going to stick with this, and I'm going to have a good time with it. And I'm going to practice and get better.

 

Last updated 23 October, 2002

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