Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm a baller (soccer baller, that is)

Honestly, the first title that came to me was "What can I say? I'm good with balls (soccer balls, that is)," but I figured it might be a bit much. I mean, I don't want anyone getting ideas about me. So tonight was supposed to be my first soccer game in like 10 years, but it got canceled. Yup, I got all geared up, burned a few calories walking around the wrong field trying to find my team, and then finally got there only to have a transformer blow and start a small fire, necessitating turning off all the field lights. Oh well, gives me more time to practice. So this post was supposed to include all about my first game, but unless you want to hear a more blow-by-blow account of the transformer incident, that's going to have to wait another week. But I did have some thoughts I wanted to share about soccer and me anyway.

I've played soccer almost as long as I can remember. My parents started me out like most little kids do in a few different activities to see which I liked best. Dance (ballet, tap, and clogging) was a dismal failure. To this day, the kindest thing my mom can say about my dance days was that I looked really cute in the costume. I think all I need to say about gymnastics was that my "cartwheel" involved me putting my hands on the floor and rotating around in a circle. T-ball was okay, but not really my thing. I was scared of that hard little ball, a fear that has never really gone away. In middle school we had 3 days in gym class where we didn't have to participate if we didn't want to, and I always took those days during the softball part of class. But when I started playing soccer, I found my thing. I started playing soccer when I was 5 and I kept with it all through the end of high school. I can't really say that my soccer-playing prowess was evident from the start. Like all little kids, I just moved as part of the pack up and down the field following the ball. But around 8 or 9, it started becoming more obvious that I had some talent. Those muscular thighs that I usually hated were awesome at kicking balls long distances. I once scored from mid-field while playing defense (even cooler since it was on my birthday). And the weird thing was that although I was a pretty timid kid in general, I was anything but on the soccer field. I'm not really sure why, but I was usually one of the more aggressive kids on the field. When I was having an "on" game, I felt like nothing could stop me.

It would take several more haircuts before I finally realized that hair that short does not work on a round face or curly hair. Maybe cute on a 7-year-old, not so cute on a 16-year-old (even minus the bangs).

This picture is known in my family as the "bulldog picture." I was growing my bangs out and consequently bore a strong resemblance to a bulldog (at least to my siblings and me). Of course, this is the picture that every known relative would also display for years.

In this way, I guess I don't really have the typical chubby kid's story about hating gym class and sports in general. Soccer made me feel confident as an athlete, especially later on when I started to play on traveling teams and school teams that you had to try out for. I even took extra elective gym classes in school to try new sports like tennis and volleyball. But if you've read my blog at all, you know that I can be ruthlessly harsh on myself. I drove myself hard to try to be the best soccer player I could be. I think part of it (besides the natural tendency I have) was because I was bigger than many of the girls on my team. I felt like I had more to prove. I had to prove that my weight didn't affect what kind of player I was.

I guess the role of genetics in weight is somewhat evident in my childhood. I think people tend to blame genetics for too much of their weight struggles (which is kind of a pet peeve of mine), but there is no doubt that genetics do play a role in weight.  I was a very active kid with a set of parents who have both struggled with weight to different degrees. Especially in the later years, I had soccer practice almost every day. While I didn't have an especially great diet, it wasn't really any worse than most kids and probably better than a lot. I even liked vegetables. And yet, I was always chubby anyway. What I think is really sad looking back though is that I didn't think that I was just chubby. I thought I was FAT. I thought I was huge. I looked in the mirror and saw somebody gigantic. But in 7th grade at 5'1", I remember weighing around 145 lbs. In the chubby range, but in no way fat. Sometimes I wonder if it was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had felt fat for so long, and finally I eventually WAS fat. I finally actually looked like that gigantic person I had seen in the mirror for years.

The one time the wind actually cooperated with my hair.

So I played through high school and a few casual intramural games in college, and then I let soccer fade from my life. Looking back, it seems weird to think that something that played such a huge part in my life all of a sudden had no part in it all, but life got in the way. I was busy. I think I got it in my mind that soccer was a kid's game and I wasn't a kid anymore. But I never stopped loving soccer. In fact, when I was going through a rough time a few years ago, one of the first things I randomly thought of was that I wanted to play soccer with my dad. So we went out to the field together one weekend. By that time, I was nearing my heaviest weight and it was hard for me just to walk out to the field, much less really play. But we kicked around the ball some anyway. It made me sad that even though my feet remembered what to do, my body could no longer physically do it. Then a year later when I decided to make a change and lose weight, I remember thinking that I wanted to be able to really play again. I saw where there were adult team sign-ups this spring a few weeks ago. Like always, part of me doubted myself. I thought I would make a fool of myself. I would look stupid. I wasn't in good enough shape. After all, I wasn't 18 anymore. Like always, I basically just thought I wasn't good enough. But I signed up anyway. I signed up because I really do love soccer and I love how it makes me feel. And kind of because I'm really tired of always doubting myself and being scared of failing. For most people, signing up to play adult soccer is probably not really a big deal. But it is a big deal to me because I know what I have gone through to get to the point where I can do this, and I know just how many fears and doubts I have pushed aside in order to sign up and just. do. it. (should I call this my Nike moment?) I'm never going to take for granted being able to play because I will always have the knowledge in the back of my mind that there was a time not too long ago when it was a complete impossibility for me. Here's a picture of me in my uniform tonight after the aborted game. On a somewhat related note, those uniform shirts were freakishly tiny, like to the point where we were kind of wondering if they were children's sizes. It gave me flashbacks about not fitting in things. I spent several productive minutes with my elbows out in the shirt stretching it out though, and I think it will work now.

And no, I am not aware of how my team got the name "Rusty Buckets." Kind of different, I know. More to come when I actually (fingers crossed) get to play next week!

1 comment:

  1. I will tell you now what I have always told you before your games: the most important thing is to have fun and if any girl from the other team tries to get past you--TAKE HER OUT! I love you, sweet girl.