Memoirs of an Athlete

10 Oct

Someone once said you should do one thing that scares you every day.

(I believe it was the guy who’s usually the cashier on duty when I’m buying tampons at CVS. He always mutters, “Holy shit, holy SHIT, do one thing a day that scares you, Enrique!” when I hand him the box…I guess one racks up a lot of wisdom when one comes face-to-face with the logistics of female hygiene.)

On Wednesday, I did about ten things that scare me. And they all had to do with…VOLLEYBALL.

Had you conferenced me on Wednesday afternoon and asked, “Sophie, how many things would you rather do than play volleyball,” I would have responded with 8,099,874,872.333444 things. Seriously. I used all of my roommate’s printer paper to type up my official list of things I’d rather do. (One of which is “Kill the environment by using all of Laura’s printer paper.” I am a terrible person.)

But that was the Wednesday afternoon, unenlightened, boring version of me. And today, you are hearing from the empowered, athletic, embarrassingly sore version of me. She’s cool. She can flip cars and shit.

When my friend Ryan texted me on Wednesday afternoon asking if I could sub for a girl on his intramural volleyball team, I let out a loud snort in the library. This did not go over well with the group of bitter figure drawing(?) students who were drawing pictures of stop signs on a white board:


I snorted because sports with balls are to me as hot tamales are to someone with IBS. They’re triggers for uncomfortable, embarrassing memories.

Naturally, I was worried that playing volleyball would unleash a whole army of memories and leave me sitting in a corner, eating a pint of Half Baked ice cream and mumbling things like “You shoulda had that one, Sophie” and, “Why are you dancing, we’re supposed to be running, Sophie?” and, “Sophie, stop eating the Big League Chew. There won’t be any left for the other girls, and also, you’re up to bat!”

To be honest, my first and probably biggest concern about volleyball had to do with finding a volleyball-appropriate outfit. I nervously texted my friend, Andie, wondering what to wear so I wouldn’t “show up in the opposing team’s colors”…which is my way of pretending to have legitimate, athletic wardrobe concerns, when really I just wanted to know if I was expected to wear ass-bearing shorts or regular ones.

My fears of athletic attire inadequacies go all the way back to elementary school.

In first grade, I opted to show up to school scantily clad on a day that we had gym class. The immediate panic I felt upon learning that spaghetti strap sundresses (who let her out of the house?) and Mini Mouse shoes (guys could never focus on my face when I wore those shoes) were not appropriate for gym class reemerges every time I put on my Mini Mouse shoes. (Don’t worry, I only wear them to dinner parties. I learned my lesson about gym class!)

Because of my wardrobe choices, I was forced to borrow some extra gym clothes from the nurse’s office. Any athletic ability or inclinations I had were neutralized that day by mystery crotch basketball shorts, a tattered Pokémon t-shirt, and giant basketball shoes that were clearly meant for a fifth grade boy whose parents had never stopped feeding him whole milk.

Long story short: we were playing soccer. I heard someone yell, “Sophie, over here!” I kicked, a shoe flew, Scott took a shoe to the mouth, and we lost the game.

So soccer wasn’t my game (although, I could eat those half-time oranges faster than an escapee from Alcatraz, let me tell you) and loosely fitting gym clothes were my Achilles heel.

Hence my wardrobe fears.

My second prominent fear regarding volleyball concerned the physical risk factor. In seventh grade, I had a science teacher who played a lot of volleyball. For the first few months of class, I thought she was so alternative because she had the black and blue “artistic tattoos” all over her wrists.

Wow, academic and artsy, I thought. My role model.

It turns out that her “artistic tats” were really just HUGE bruises from an excess of vigorous volleyball games for “business professionals who want to make friends outside the workplace.” You can imagine my disappointment…

If a practiced volleyball player bruised her wrists – and even broke them, occasionally – due to volleyball, what was to prevent me from the same fate? (Actually, a worse fate because we all know I’d somehow manage to break my femur.)

So that was my second apprehension: physical harm. (You’d have to enlist a psychologist to figure out why “booty shorts or regular shorts” would come second to “serious bodily harm.”)

My third fear involved the actual playing of the sport.

For much of middle school and high school, I managed to pass gym class by befriending the teacher, mentioning that my dad was the 2005 Home Run Derby winner, pretending I was injured from my “vigorous participation in cross-country practice,” and blaming the placement of the sun for blocking my vision and making it impossible for me to see what I was doing.

In reality, my friend Maddie and I used to stand in the gym or on the field, talk ad nauseam about the “Wicked” soundtrack, and giggle every time we made an error. (Actually, we were quite a good badminton team…but people always forget about badminton champions.)

I learned to use the skills I do have – lying, bragging, and socializing – to make up for one that I lack: coordination.

But I couldn’t lie my way out of this game! I needed to challenge myself! I needed to conquer my fears! I needed to finally be able to say that I’d “gone to the gym during my time at BU”!

So, I enlisted my friends, Emalie and Leanne, and we headed to the courts. (Those were courts we were playing on, right?)

And you know what? It was fun!

Sure, I was unaware that I didn’t need to violently attack the ball with the inner portion of my arms every time it came my way and that just hitting it with my hands would sometimes suffice…and sure, it took me an entire three games to finally realize there were positions that were rotating and that my teammates weren’t just moving around to prevent blood clots and to experience a change of scenery…

And sure, every time I yelled things like, “Yeah guys, we’ve got ‘em!” and “Hell yeah, let’s do this!” I sounded like a manly, overly enthused mom watching her son or daughter compete in a national chess championship…

But I played and it was fun and now I have a new career goal.

So you see? Even huge, big, scary, seemingly insurmountable fears like PLAYING IN A COLLEGE INTRAMURAL VOLLEYBALL GAME can lead to great successes.

Okay, time to go buy some tampons so I can help Enrique overcome his own fears.


One Response to “Memoirs of an Athlete”

  1. Taylor Yates October 14, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    Omg I can so relate with this. Growing up, I was NOT athletic…and still am not. I remember climbing rope day. Bad memories.


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