I am supposed to be cleaning up dinner, but instead I am going to relive my glory days right here, right now. That’s right I am going to have my Al Bundy moment in the sun…somebody.please.stop.me.
I really did not want to go there…ever. I am usually quite happy pretending that I didn’t play sports and that I don’t still have a crazy competitive nature coursing through my veins. I also like to pretend that I didn’t used to compete at a very high level because it makes me feel better when I come in dead last in pretty much every Crossfit WOD that I have ever done regardless of who seems to be in class that day (this past weekend an eleven year old sprinted the old lady shorts right off of me!). If I pretend that it didn’t happen, then I can pretend that I never wanted to play in the Olympics anyway and that every time I hear the National Anthem my heart wouldn’t go pitter patter…every.single.time. But pretending, or full-on denial, will eventually catch up with you.
And yesterday, that river in Africa (denial) caught up with me. It all started by me innocently watching the USA women’s indoor volleyball team spank up on the Brazil National team in the morning, and then began to intensify as the women’s beach pair put some smack down on the Czech team in the evening. By the end of that match it all came rushing back and I found myself glued to the television unable to sit down, with a sixteen month in my arms and a four-year old by my side chanting USA! USA! USA! We even made a “noodle tambourine” (sing those two words to the tune “Yellow Submarine”) for extra noise. What fun! Oh, and a bit of sting…
To say that I miss my sport would be right. To say that I still wish I was playing competitively would also be right. To say that I am too old to play with any level of intensity without blowing out both of my knees would be spot on. I completely loved my experience playing volleyball competitively and although the road wasn’t always easy, it was always rewarding. Watching those games yesterday, without even knowing their individual stories I could see their unpaved roads to get to that moment. I could see the countless hours they spent in the gym practicing or in the weight room working out. I could hear their feet beating against a track during a sprint workout. I could see the intense look in their faces when they knew everything was on the line and then the big crazy celebration when the ball landed in their favor. I could hear the coaches from the sidelines yelling players names and I could see their furled brows in frustration when a ball hit the floor or a big giant hitter tipped one too many balls resulting in points for the other team. I could still smell the gym. I could feel the leather on my own forearms passing a hard driven jump serve and I could hear the pop of the same ball coming off my hand as I hit it inside the block for a kill. I looked wistfully as teams came together after each play and again when they huddled together for time-out. The sound of a whistle echoing off the walls of a big gym reminded me of games won and games lost and then again as I remembered my last game altogether. The whole lot of us coaches, players, trainers, assistants, everyone coming together for a common cause. To win. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away.
There’s a reason I don’t talk about it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. A love of my life that has been replaced with a much bigger love – husband, children, family and service. I assure you, my new love is indeed bigger, but there will always be a place deep down that will remember the feeling of an all-out, all-consuming fight to beat the other team.
It is hard to even try to write what this feels like. But, I know it exists. I know it exists when a friend doesn’t make Olympic trials and I can feel that disappointment. I know it exists when another friend finds it difficult to transition to “real life” after a few season of playing professional ball and I remember what it was like to sit in a cubicle eight hours a day and feel like there had to be more than this. I know it exists when I find myself teaching my baby girl to high-five after every point and when my son picks up a volleyball and my goodness he has a great arm! I know it exists when I want to encourage each and every young athlete to follow their hearts and follow their dreams and to not let anyone discourage them no matter how far they feel from their goal. I know it exists when my husband (also a former volleyball player) and I still run our own commentary when we watch beach or indoor volleyball and when I kinda almost cry when they win the gold.
Let’s face it…I cry.
And I’m kinda glad that it never goes away. It’s just a huge reminder of how blessed I was to be a part of so many different teams. A huge reminder that I had the opportunity to meet and live life with so many different, wonderful, amazing, talented and passionate people. And to still have most of those people in my life to this day. Really, nothing like it.