Somewhere in the middle of my thirties, this became my motto. I may not initiate adventurous activities, but I’ll usually agree when someone else suggests them. It’s my way of combating my extremely strong impulse to stay home and read a book. “Want to go rock climbing? Hiking? Spinning? Join a Synagogue Board?” “Why not?” “Do a nude photo shoot while nine months pregnant?” “Why not?” (That’s a whole other blog post.) “Run a 5K or a triathlon?” Um no. I have my limits.
This is how I found myself playing soccer.
I love exercise, and I like team sports, but skill has always eluded me. All I have is endurance and a distinct lack of shame. Our friends Hosie and Sarah spearheaded a weekly pick-up soccer game that runs from April until the snow makes it impossible. Their intention is to show kids that sports do not always have to be organized. Whoever comes, plays: kids and adults, veterans and newbies. We split up into teams and thankfully no one is called last.
Many of the kids are fast and agile, and they’ve been playing all year, so they’re good. They are, however subject to I’mhotandtireditis, and therefore don’t last as long as the adults. On the other end of the spectrum, some of the kids spend the whole game freaking out about non-existent bees and making shadow puppets of Nosferatu and Cthulhu. (OK, that’s just Ted.)
Many of the adults are also shockingly good. How does this happen? How did they get fast and skilled, and where the heck is their fear?
It’s a great challenge to be appropriately aggressive with the adult players and gentle with the little kids. We feel terrible when we mow down a 7-year-old, which happens with great regularity. On the other hand, they have no qualms about taking us out. Last year, Chuck jammed his father’s pinkie finger by kicking the ball into it, and he eventually needed physical therapy for it. (There are physical therapists that specialize in hands. They have very cool equipment.)
Nearly 45 years of self-preservation does not aid one when playing soccer. Apparently you’re not supposed to duck or side step when the ball comes flying at you. This sense of self-preservation kept me alive and my bones intact for this long, it’s hard to give it up now. Further, I know full well what I’m supposed to do when the ball comes to me. (I even successfully coached a soccer team once. My strategy: see that kid over there that’s really good? Stay on him and don’t let him score. It was the opposing team’s only loss that season.) When I get the ball, there is no link between my brain and my body, and the brilliant kick I have planned usually goes quite wrong, or not at all. Plus, when there is a bunch of people running at me, all strategy flies out of my head, and once again, that pesky self-preservation kicks in.
Let’s not even get started on the “off sides” rule. It’s enough to keep me on defense forever.
I persevere in this soccer madness because it’s great exercise that I can do with my family and friends. I get to see my husband’s mad soccer skillz. Well, they’re madder than mine. And Chuck’s actual soccer skills. I’m improving slowly. I’ve actually learned to trap the ball before kicking it, and occasionally I manage to successfully pass it to a teammate. I’ve also had a few assists and miraculously scored a goal last season. Nonetheless, I plan to get a t-shirt to wear to the games that reads: “I’m an excellent writer, I can get through a killer spin class, and I make a great pie crust” just to help maintain my self-respect.