A Dreaded Team Sport Revisited

Tom and I are going to play in his company picnic volleyball tournament next Saturday. I’ve been to three practice sessions. This is a big deal because (1) I hadn’t played volleyball in twenty years and (2) in school I was a complete failure at all team sports for the entire twelve years. I could swear that the various rules were never taught—people just seemed to know them. And I couldn’t concentrate on the progress of a game, instead staring into space and then ducking the ball as if I was being shot at. This made the other kids yell at me a lot.
Tom’s volleyball friends welcomed beginners, so I summoned my nerve and started showing up. After six years of trying various workouts, including a year and a half of boxing classes, I’m more confident of my athletic abilities. I thought, well, at least I know I’m in good enough shape to lunge for the ball if that’s the best I can do. I’m pretty sure I won’t be afraid of the ball any more, because in boxing we routinely fling around a 10-pound medicine ball and I have little difficulty with that. I might as well try.
I’m really glad I did. During the first game of my first practice session, I found myself mentally gushing, “I love volleyball! I’m going to join a league this winter!” (And then asking myself, “Have you lost your mind?”) I turned out to be as competent as any beginner. I make my share of mistakes and my share of good passes and sets just like everybody else. I can now tell the difference between “those guys are hogging the ball” (which hasn’t happened very much) and “I can’t be allowed to take the ball because I’m a pathetic player” (as it seemed in school). Another happy discovery is that nobody minds if I ask to have a rule or a play explained. Another is that I’m now able to concentrate a little better on the action—though I do have a hard time remembering the score.
Enjoying a team sport and finding a whole array of rewards in it has been a new experience that I never thought I’d have. I thought I’d missed out on it for good. Even if we don’t play any more after this weekend’s tournament, I’ll have a lasting new perspective. I won’t be afraid of team situations, and I’ll be able to look for the fun in them.
Revisiting something I used to dread, and changing my feelings about it 180 degrees, were made possible by my six-year exploration of various fitness activities and goals. That exploration, which was tentative at first, allowed me to try out new physical skills on my own terms. My relationship with a supportive spouse has also helped me feel secure going into situations that made me nervous, even when he wasn’t going with me. And nothing was quite so nervous-making as the thought of playing a team sport with people I didn’t know. Now I’m looking forward to playing in a tournament, something that four weeks ago I never would have dreamed of doing.
What formerly intimidating activity have you re-evaluated and come to appreciate?