All throughout my younger years, I would run rather than walk, jump rather than stand still. I was the fastest kid in my class, earning letters in high school track and field when I was in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. (Oh, the horrors of hips and what they did to my fleetness-of-foot… but I digress…)
Because I was such a bouncy kid, it was natural for me to want to play sports. I tried tennis (visions of Wimbeldon danced through my 10-year-old head), track (at which I was pretty good, until the afore-mentioned hips got the better of me), volleyball (a sport I still enjoy, even though I don’t play it often), and basketball.
I am not tall. I am not particularly confident when it comes to team sports. And I definitely did not like being jostled around by other people when I was a kid. These days, I play ice hockey, so my feelings on jostling have obviously changed. Bear with me.
Basketball was one of those sports that people in my hometown did in the winter. There wasn’t much else going on in northern Minnesota in the winter for girls. This was just post-Title IX, so in theory we could have pushed for more sports teams. But really, when the boys didn’t have a hockey team, and the wrestling room smelled as bad as it did, we were happy for the opportunity to play basketball.
Except for the fact that it caused me anxiety. Bone-crushing, searing anxiety. I would beg my parents not to come to games. Being on the court was terrifying, because at any moment, someone might throw me the ball. And then I would have to do something with it. Like dribble, or pass, or, god forbid, SHOOT.
I played basketball from the time I was 10 until I was 16. That was the year my family moved from the little town in northern Minnesota to the Twin Cities. I was going to a local Catholic high school, and pretty happy to be playing sports there.
But the year I was 16, in 10th grade, I stopped playing basketball forever, thanks to a girl named Jenny, her poorly placed foot, my weak right ankle, and an amazing leaping rebound. After a disconcerting POP, a volley of swear-words directed at pretty much anyone within 50 yards of the north gym, and a phone call to my folks, I ended up in a cast for six weeks, and have been able to sense rapidly dropping barometric pressure in the atmosphere ever since.
It probably would have been less painful to just tell my folks how much I hated playing basketball and quit the sport entirely, but I’ve only recently learned that telling the truth in situations like that is easy.