Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life of a Blogger (5): Sports I've played

Life of a Blogger is a weekly meme hosted on Thursdays by Jessi at Novel Heartbeat.

Ahhhh, sports. 

I love to watch them and talk about them, but for the most part, I've never really been good at most of them -- but that didn't stop me from giving most of them a whirl.

When I was little, I tried out competitive roller skating. It was my dream to be like my idol, Kristi Yamaguchi, and then Tara Lipinski, to go to the Olympics. Roller skating didn't have the Olympics, but it was still competitive and fun and I was really good at it. But it was also incredibly expensive and I lost a couple coaches in quick succession and didn't really have someone consistent working with me all the time, so left that behind when I was about 8 years old. Eventually, I tried and loved ice skating, which I was also good at, but after competing in roller skating, my parents told me that I couldn't compete. 

My closest friends in middle and high school were all athletes. They loved basketball, volleyball, and softball. The great thing about going to a small school -- and when I say small, I mean, less than 1200 kids in the whole district, about 100 kids in my class, and no more than 600 kids in any school at one time -- was that if you wanted to try something, you could. There weren't enough kids to make up teams if they did a lot of cuts, they'd kill the programs. So you could give it a try for a year or two. It was one of the few things that was good about going to a very small school. So I gave a lot of things a try because my friends were.

I tried basketball in seventh grade, but spent most of the time on the bench given that I could not dribble, run, and breathe at the same time. Part of my problem was also remembering the plays. I sucked at that. It just was not my thing. 

I also played volleyball all through middle school. I was okay. I don't think my brain was hardwired for that sport. Now, I'm actually okay. But at the time, my friends nicknamed me "Rocket" because when I bumped the volleyball, I put way too much swing into it, and in our very old gym with extremely high ceilings and lots of rafters, I often gotten the volleyballs stuck in the nooks and crannies of those rafters. That was around 1999 and 2000. The last time I was in the middle school gym was to vote this past fall -- one of the balls I know I knocked up there, about two and a half stories up, is still caught. And that was my contribution to the volleyball program in my school district.

I was actually really good at softball. I started playing in a city league when I was about ten and I was great at it. I understood the sport well because I loved baseball and had watched it my whole life. My dad coached me and I loved it. I played until I was 14 years old. When I got to high school, I wanted to try out for the team, but I'd had mono for three months that year and my doctor said my spleen was still too swollen and there was a significant chance I'd rupture it. I think I might've had a good chance at making varsity my first year if I could've tried out -- I was a great hitter and I was pretty good defensively, particularly at third base and I was also okay in right field and at first base. 

So why didn't I try out my sophomore year? 

Well, in the fall of my sophomore year, I switched dance studios and I really started to fall in love with ballet, hard. Suddenly, I was at the studio a minimum of four days a week, sometimes six. I was dancing 30-40 hours a week. And softball just wasn't feasible.

One sport I did really love and did well with was cheerleading. I had strong legs from dancing, so I could jump really high. I had good motions and for awhile I was able to fly because I was still tiny. Once the boobs came in, that made things more difficult. I did cheerleading for four years -- seventh and eighth grade and my first two years of high school. Here's a picture of me in the homecoming parade in 1998. I am on the far end. I'm brushing my hair aside and have a gigantic pom pom in my hand. 

I ended up leaving cheerleading in my sophomore year. I loved it, but once I made varsity, I was harassed and hazed by my teammates. I was a rule follower, a "goody goody", and I didn't really connect or relate with a lot of the girls on my team. I was hazed, teased, harassed, bullied, and basically tortured for being shy and different than the rest of my teammates. It caused me too much anxiety and I left it behind.

But I did love it, and for the past eight years, I've been coaching it -- and making sure none of my athletes struggle the way I did. At the moment, I'm not coaching. But I hope to at some point in my future.

Ballet provided a much needed relief for me. All of us came from different schools, so it didn't matter who was popular where. We were at a small, but very good and growing studio with great teachers who became like second and third moms to us and mentored us. I could go to the barre and cry my whole way through if I needed to and just let out the emotions. We all supported each other and took care of each other. And it was my escape from high school, where things were mostly cruel.

During my junior year, I gave pom pon a try. In Michigan, "pom" is different than cheer. It's like a combination of dancing and kick line, but still in a really sharp, stiff manner, kind of like cheer motions and dancing. I really loved it and I was made captain. I was on a team with a bunch of non cliquey girls and I really enjoyed it. Plus ballet and pom fed into each other really nicely. Most days, I'd go to school from 7:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m., go to pom practice until 4:30 or 5 p.m., then get in the car, eat on the way to dance, change into leotard, and dance for 4-5 hours. On nights when I didn't have pom, I went to the studio right after school and warm up or take class with a younger group of girls to slowly warm and stretch my muscles. Sometimes I taught the class or subbed for my teacher. And then I'd get home around 10:30 p.m., eat a late dinner, do some homework, fall asleep around 1 a.m., still in my leotard and tights, then get up at 7 a.m. and do it all over again and I was happy with that. Here are a couple pics from my pom days ...

In my senior year, I didn't play any sports. I focused solely on dance. And that continued through to my second junior year of college (I was a double-major, so I was set to have two junior and two senior years, based on credits I'd earned, though I wasn't able to finish due to injury and illness). I danced at my college, I got a little bit of a scholarship for it, and that's what made me the happiest.

In 2008, though, I got injured and we found out I had a degenerative condition in my joints that made them stretch out, but not go back. I had eight surgeries between 2008-2013, then found out I had leukemia. I still need more joint surgeries. I did try to ballet class in 2010, but it didn't work out -- my knees just couldn't take it anymore. But I would go back and do it all again in a heartbeat -- the studio was my second home and it's something I miss horribly. My identity has always been that I'm a reader, a writer, and a dancer. And it's hard to separate myself from that, even now that it's been four years since I took a class. Here are some of my favorite pictures from my dancing days. I have hundreds from when I was little, but I don't have access to those photo albums right now.

I also loved bowling while I was in college. I was terrible, but I loved it. There was a Greek bowling league, so I played on it for awhile and really loved it. I actually have a Hello Kitty bowling ball that all the fraternity guys LOVED to use. They swore it helped them knock down the hardest splits! Here's a couple pictures of me with my sisters. The first is with my big sister and my twin at a bowling fundraiser, the second is of me our bowling league with some of my sisters ...

Nowadays, I love yoga and pilates. I'm finally getting to the point where my oncologist might let me resume yoga if I do it at a nearby cancer center where it's meant for cancer patients and it's very slow and easy. I just have to wait 'til this liver thing is sorted out and I'm not in much pain. I couldn't handle it right now if I wanted to.

So those are the sports I played. And if you tell me ballet and dance in general (I also did tap, modern, and jazz) aren't sports, we can't be friends. Because when I was dancing, I burned as many calories in a day as Michael Phelps does training for the Olympics. 

What sports did/do you play?


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