Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My First Love

As much as I'm sure you're all dying to read the story of how I fell in love for the first time, my boyfriend knocked me up and then ran off with my gay BFF, leaving me pregnant and alone, and without a TV show to document it, {that never happened}, this is a love story of a different nature. Watching the Olympics, and Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh in particular, has me remembering a long lost love of mine that I haven't thought about for YEARS. Truly, the first time I remember falling in love with something at a very young age outside of music was the first time I picked up a volleyball. Before the 4th grade, it had been all basketball and soccer in my life. As much as those sports were fun, I just played because that's just kind of what you do when you're 7-years-old. Saturdays were full of chasing a soccer ball around a field, caught in the middle of a cluster of kids, and then going home and playing "HORSE" at the hoop in the driveway until Mom said it was time for dinner. Or something like that. But when I began playing volleyball, I started actually wanting to improve my skill set and enjoying practicing. It's a bigger deal than I think most realize- finding something of your own at a young age to care about & pursue. For me at least, it was a big shift. I went from doing things simply because it's what everyone else did, to identifying myself as a volleyball player and seeing a future for myself in the sport. {Turns out- at 5' 6", there wasn't much of a volleyball future to be had for me. But we'll get to that.}

From the get go, my parents were 100% on board with this volleyball obsession. My Dad even coached my team in 5th grade. It wasn't that I was great at the sport or anything- I really wasn't- but I just loved playing. I loved that every year, we learned new skills. First it was the basics- bumping and setting. Then it was learning how to hit, and in turn, how to dig. And then came blocking. Oh, blocking. The sport was never boring. The older I got, the more there seemed to be to learn. Blocking patterns, slide hitting, liberos, etc. I jumped in feet first to the sport. In middle school, I started doing summer camps at the University of Toledo, determined to master all the skills. It was then that I got it in my head that I wanted to play volleyball in college. I didn't realize exactly what that meant, but I knew I just didn't want to stop playing... ever. {BTW- I totally thought this would happen. Like, I was going to be a college star volleyball player. Oy.}

In high school, I started playing in travel leagues, which are a whole different ball game. WAY more intense, SUPER demanding, and kind of perfect for me at the time. This meant I was playing volleyball year round- summer training for high school volleyball, regular HS volleyball during the fall, and travel volleyball in the winter/spring. Barely any breaks at all. Strangely, given how much I loved the sport, I was never that great. Really. I'm not just being self-effacing. You know how some people are just naturally athletically inclined? Yeah, that was NOT me. But I tried SO hard that it sometimes made up for my lack of natural ability. But not always. My goal was to be a powerhouse outside hitter, like Destinee Hooker, if you're watching the Olympics. {I can't even with that name. Like... I just can't.} I was almost there- I usually played backside, which is on the right side of the court. For some reason this position just worked better for me. I grew to love this position, especially because it meant that I got to block the outside hitter on the opposing team. Blocking was my favorite. Nothing compares to the feeling of stuffing the ball right back in the hitter's face. I know that sounds gruesome, but it's true! It's a wonderful feeling. Even still, I was pretty inconsistent and got in my head way too much and self-sabotaged. That's the worst thing you can do as a volleyball player. So I wasn't exactly the greatest. But man, did I love it.

As much as I was obsessed with volleyball {and I really was} it started to feel like a LOT of pressure for me to handle. Playing year round barely gave me any time for little else but sleep & volleyball. Around this time, I was also hyper focused at getting great grades and joining every club and extracurricular possible to get into some crazy amazing college. {Looking back on it, I would tell my 16-year-old self to calm the hell down, goof off a bit more and focus on having fun and being a kid instead of getting into some fancy schmancy college. But it all worked out in the end, so whatever.} Eventually, everything kind of boiled over and I was majorly stressed out and unhappy. I had to choose- I could keep playing, putting everything else on the back burner, or I could focus on getting my shit together outside of volleyball and preparing for college. Up until this point, I still had aspirations of playing college ball, despite my mediocre skill set. But it was almost like it clicked in one day while I was playing in high school- I would NEVER play college volleyball, no matter how much I wanted to- it just wasn't going to happen. First of all, I'm 5' 6" on a good day, and my vertical isn't great. So why continue playing a sport that wouldn't help get me into college, if college was my end goal? In the end, I decided to stop playing volleyball during my Junior year of high school. Bummed? Definitely. But it was the right choice for me at the time. Saying goodbye to volleyball wasn't easy, and I remember crying about it on more than one occasion. But it's weird how your life just fills in the holes. Soon, volleyball was a sport I "used to play" and I didn't think much about it.

Well that was, of course, until I started watching the Olympics. Watching Team USA play indoor and Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh play beach volleyball, my heart swoons and I remember exactly what it was about the sport I loved so much. Everything about it makes me smile now. The spandex shorts & knee high socks, the knee pads, running suicides at practice because I forgot my volleyball shoes {one of my teammates once said she thought our coach was actually going to murder me because I kept on forgetting my shoes. Ooops!}, digging drills, getting called up to practice with the varsity once when I was a Freshman {I died}, eating a crap ton of candy after the games, the burn on my forearms after a dig, sweating my ass off at practice, coming up with team cheers, wearing our jerseys to school on game days. Everything about it was so much fun. Thinking back- it all just makes me so extremely happy. I SO loved being part of a team. But I usually don't get the itch to play again. Until recently. After watching match after match of volleyball during these Olympic games, I am finally starting to feel that itch to play again. Really really. This is a pretty big deal for me. Now, I'm not considering dropping my life and trying to make the Olympic team or anything- HA! Never going to happen. But I would really love to pull out the old vball and making my Dad pepper with me again. I would even consider playing in a rec league or even a beach volleyball league when I'm in LA. I'd definitely have to work on my skills a bit, but it could be fun. Even though I wasn't ever "the best" when I was younger, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy playing now as an adult. {Yep, I called myself an adult. It's about time, right?}

Rediscovering old loves is tough. Whether it's an ex-boyfriend, an old friend, a band you haven't listened to in years, or an old sport from back in the day- they're all bound to bring up some emotions. To this day, when I listen to Tegan & Sara's So Jealous, I am immediately reminded of driving to school my senior year of high school & I feel incredibly nostalgic. This resurgence of love I'm feeling for volleyball is doing the same thing- making me feel like an awkward little teenager, hoping the coach puts me in, and waving to my parents sitting up in the stands. Ah, those were the days. Call me dorky, but I can't wait to pick up a volleyball again & fall in love with the sport all over again. What about you guys? Any long lost athletic loves that you're remembering now that the Olympics are on? Were you all Sporty Spice back in high school?

image via; design by cheeky cheeky

3 comments:

  1. Awww! I looved reading this.. I played volleyball in high school during the summer. It was super fun.. And I was one mean server. I hit that ball like Mr. Universe...But it was just a season in life and looking back I'm glad I did it. I wish I would've played more, like you..But it was super fun while it lasted...

    Janette
    http://janettethejongleur.blogspot.com/

    PS. The "5'8" on a good day" part made me laugh.. You're funny!:-)

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  2. rediscovering old loves IS tough. I hope that you fall in love again with volleyball

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  3. Jup, I have it too. Not with volleybal ofcourse, but with gymnastics. I did it for five years and now I'm cursing myself that I ever stopped.

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