I started up my tennis lessons again last week. I never even held a tennis racket in my hands until two years ago when a couple of friends asked me if I wanted to join them for a “Tennis for Dummies” class (that is not really what the sports club called it, I just thought the title seemed appropriate).
I had recently left my job and had some free time so I thought, Why not? If Serena Williams can do it, how hard can it be? Right?
(Have you seen that girl’s muscles? I am still waiting to get arms like that.)
So I joined and let me tell you, I stunk! Terrible! But it was fun and pretty much we all stunk together, so it was okay. Fast-forward to now, I am probably just a hair above stinking, so my teacher told me to try the next level up class (I think she is like Mrs. Puff on SpongeBob and I am the sponge/student she is trying to get rid of).
That is where I was last week. I felt unsure of myself, really wanted to skip the whole thing, pretend I was ill or had something glamorous like tennis elbow, but I forced myself to go and during the warm up… it became pretty obvious who the Uber players were and who the not-so Uber players were going to be. Guess where I fell…
After the warm up, the instructors told us to pair up a with a partner to begin the real playing, and then it happened …
A flashback to those gym classes of so long ago…
Picking teams, picking partners, the shifting of feet, sideways glances, praying you aren’t picked last, or hoping you aren’t paired with so and so…UGH!!
Suffice it to say, I made it through. I was sweating like a pig, and couldn’t move my arms the next day (Come on Serena arms!) but it was fun, and sorry Uber players, like Arnold and Charlie Sheen, I will be back.
That recent experience really made me think, and was a good reminder for me as a parent, as to what it is like to be put in a situation where you don’t feel ready or comfortable. How it feels not to know other people in the group. To have to try and prove yourself even if you know you aren’t as good as the others. How it feels not to be picked first. Or maybe even at all….it pretty much sucks.
My oldest son George is a natural athlete. I am not trying to brag, I am just stating a strength of his. Since he was in the womb he has been athletic. I remember him kicking and shooting hoops in- utero and I was like, “What the hell is going on in there!” My stomach constantly looked like some weird scene from Alien, and I swear I saw a Nike sign tattooed across my stretched skin. He walked at nine months, and ran at nine months, one day. I wanted to get a helmet for his head because was so small with his big baby head careening into everything.
Finally he was old enough for organized sports, and had a place to put all that energy. Thank God! And he loves it. Sports is his niche. Maybe not everyones niche, but definitely his.
He does well, he tries hard, he dedicates himself, but there are times like anyone when he fails…and he gets down on himself.
I wrote the story below, The Baseball Game, after I heard him say how much he stunk at something when he didn’t make a team he was vying for. After I wrote it, I read it to my youngest son, Teddy.
He said, “I like it, and I get it. Georgie is George and Andy is me, isn’t he mom?”
No pulling the wool over that kid’s eyes.
I wrote this story for my oldest son, and for the kids that love sports. Those that put their heart and soul into each game. Those that cheer when they win and cry when they lose. I also wrote it for those kids who don’t always do well in sports, or who really just don’t have an interest in them. I know those kids too. I get it. And it hurts when you are picked last or not at all.
The Baseball Game
George was the biggest kid in fifth grade at Highland Elementary, and the fastest and the strongest, and the coolest.
And no one thought he was cooler more than Andy.
Andy was the smallest, the slowest, the weakest and definitely not the coolest kid in fifth grade at Highland Elementary.
Everything George did was cool.
He never cried, never. Not even when he stapled his hand in art class. He just waved his hand in the air with the big staple sticking out and everyone cheered, except Mrs. Pritchard who looked like she was going to faint.
Andy poked himself in the eye with his pencil by mistake once. He cried and Mrs. Pritchard fainted.
George landed a triple flip off the high bars at recess and everyone cheered, except for Mrs. Pritchard who turned really pale and had to go sit in the shade with an ice pack on her head.
Andy tried to hang upside down on the low bar for ten seconds, but he fell off after eight seconds, busted his nose, chipped a tooth and scraped his knee. Mrs. Pritchard fainted.
George always wore his baseball hat backwards and his pants real low, just like the teenagers at the high school. Andy tried to wear his pants low once but they just slipped off in the middle of gym class and everyone laughed at his Captain Fantastic underwear.
And George always hit home runs in baseball. Always.
At the end of the school year it was a tradition for the Highland Fifth Graders to play the Harris School Fifth graders. The winning school got bragging rights for a whole year. Harris School had won five years in a row. That was a lot of bragging to listen too.
But, this year everyone just knew Highland was going to win, after all they had George.
Game day came. Highland School filled the bleachers to the right, Harris School filled the bleachers to the left.
“Batter up!” Yelled Mrs. Pritchard, the umpire.
The game began. It was hot. It was sticky. It was awesome. Strikes, home runs, kids sliding in, kids getting out.
Finally it was the bottom of the ninth inning. Two outs, bases loaded, Highland was down by one.
George walked to the plate.
“Georgie, Georgie!” The whole school cheered.
This was it! They were sure to win now! The crowd roared with excitement.
George readied his bat, and tilted his head. The pitcher wound up, and…
“Strike one!” Called Mrs. Pritchard.
“Ball!” Called Mrs. Pritchard.
“STIR-IKE!” Yelled the umpire, adjusting her face cage.
George shook his head, gripped the bat tighter, glared at the pitcher, and took a deep breath.
The pitcher wound up again and,
George swung! He swung hard! He swung fast!
Straight to centerfield! That ball was going, going….
The center fielder from Harris School began to run. He ran! He ran fast, his glove stretching out, out, reaching, reaching and… PLOP!
The ball landed right in his glove.
“You’re out!” Mrs. Pritchard managed to yell, right before she fainted from surprise.
A loud cheer rose from the left side of the field. Harris School had won… again!
The Highland fifth graders all sat in silence.
Was it possible? Did it really happen? They had lost? George was out?
George sat with his head in hands as all the students silently filed past. Everyone left. Everyone that is, except for Andy.
Andy scooted down from the stands and sat quietly next to George.
“I stink,” muttered George, shaking his head.
Andy scooted closer and sniffed, “No you don’t,” he said.
“No, I mean I stink. I stink in baseball! I stink! I stink at everything!” said George, a tear slipping down his cheek.
“Wow, that sure is a lot to stink at,” said Andy.
He thought for a moment.
“You don’t stink at everything.”
“You’re really good at stapling your body parts.”
“You’re really good at scaring Mrs. Pritchard.”
“And you’re really good at chewing with your mouth open.”
“I do that?” asked George.
“Sure, everyday at lunch,” said Andy.
“Is it gross?” asked George.
“Yeah, sort of, but in a really fascinating, disgusting, cool sort of way,” said Andy.
They sat together for a while.
“Want me to teach you how to play baseball?” said George.
“No thanks, I already asked that kid from the other team to teach me tomorrow,” said Andy. “But you could help me launch my sonic rocket to the moon.”
“Sure, why not,” He said.
He reached over and turned Andy’s hat around backwards. “Know what, you’re pretty cool.”
“And you know what,” said Andy, turning his hat back around and wrinkling his nose. “You do stink a little.”