Thursday, November 1, 2007

Warming Up

I came into work at 7:00 a.m. this morning because at 3:00 p.m. I'm leaving to go see my baby sister's sectional volleyball game in some godforsaken small town in Southern Illinois. If I don't post tomorrow, you can assume I'm lost in the hills somewhere with banjos playing.

Volleyball is pretty much the only sport I can watch for more than five minutes. Even sitting in the stands, I feel something tug inside me when I watch them play. I scream at the ref. I call the ball out with them. I yell side-out, even though rally scoring kind of makes the term obsolete. In general, I make a complete ass of myself because I want more than anything to be in the thick of the game instead of living it vicariously.

So many of my memories in high school are tied to the sport. When in other aspects I felt like I didn't fit in, being good at volleyball was my identity. The court was the one place where I felt confident, like I was appreciated for being myself. It was where I bonded with the girls who would become my friends. I remember silly things like wearing matching Nike headbands (an aside: I saw a woman wearing one at the gym the other day--these headbands were not as cool as we thought), braiding each other's hair before games, eating jars of disgusting baby food on the way to road games (b/c we heard it was a good source of light-weight protein), and being terrified of our coach's bad driving. I remember warming up before games with Stephanie and trying to beat our record number of passes without dropping the ball (I think, it reached over 500 at one point). I remember all the little superstitions like not washing our knee pads when we were on a winning streak, wearing my "lucky" maroon hairband, and not cutting our fingernails the day before a game. I remember salt and pepper, quick hits, and queens of the court. I remember how the team from the Mennonite school in Arthur, IL was our biggest rival and the few times we beat them. I remember the day in practice when I hit my chin on the floor during a diving drill and bled all over the place (I still have the scar from that one). I remember that invincible feeling of flying through the air and the snap of my shoulder muscle when I put the ball down. I remember the thrill of competition and the high of winning.

In some ways, cheesy though they may be, I could credit the Lady Falcons with teaching me about the fine line between competitive spirit and teamwork, the value of pushing myself, and maybe even the most basic "girl power" feminism. Even though I haven't gotten a chance to play competitively in years, even though all those "priceless" varsity letters and trophies are god-knows-where in my parents' garage, no other experiences of playing in college or later in leagues has ever quite matched the magic of that little high school team.

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