Saturday was our first day back on the sand volleyball court with Tom’s coworkers since last year. This is our third year of playing. It was a bit much to do that after Suffer on Saturday and I was ready to quit after three games of 25 points.
I found that I hadn’t lost anything over the winter—not that I was very good before. I make some good plays and plenty of mistakes. This is equally true for almost everybody we play with, with two glaring exceptions. One is a guy in his 20s who is a natural star athlete, quick and light and gifted with aim and power. You can tell he tries not to hog the ball too much. The other is a guy about my age who is really good at volleyball and is one of those people who both hog the ball and get irritated with the mistakes of his inferiors—let’s call him B.
B. drives me crazy. Last year, my second year out there with Tom and his teammates, I grew more and more aware of his critical remarks. “Just one or two more steps and you would have got to it! Move fast!” “If you don’t hit the ball, it will fall to the ground!” This isn’t personal. He does this to everybody. He also acknowledges good plays. But it’s such a downer to see him get impatient and critical! I think he gets tired and cranky and doesn’t know when to quit. I don’t know why he doesn’t just find or organize a better team to practice with. There are lots of teams and willing players at their company.
A few things are different for me this year. For one, I now know everyone’s skills, quirks, and social habits very well, so playing with them is less of an unknown. And second, this year I’ve been going to CrossFit, where people are exceptionally supportive and positive. I now feel that everyone in sports should be that nice. A team sport like volleyball is different from the mostly individual skills we use at the gym, and our workouts aren’t exactly a sport anyway because they’re not very competitive. But still, I’m playing volleyball for fun just as I’m trying out gymnastics and weights for fun, and so my complaints about B. have suddenly crystallized.
In any case, I can’t stand it when people hog the ball, running all over the court and getting in front of people. Then the one time they don’t hog the ball, it comes to your position and you don’t get to it, they’re irritated. You can’t expect less-skilled players to hone their moves if you hog the ball, and if they expect you to hog the ball, they’re not ready when you don’t. And the other problem I have, whether it’s B.’s fault or mine I’m not sure, is that I can’t tolerate feeling that my mistakes are being cataloged and I’m seen as someone who needs to have the ball hogged away from her.
I also don’t see any point in playing if it’s not fun and if I can’t expect to improve my skills because others won’t stay in position. So after Saturday’s experience, I’ve pretty much decided not to play this year. Trying a team sport was a big challenge for me two years ago and took a lot of nerve after my experiences in school. Now I can say I gave it a good try and if I acknowledge that I prefer solo sports and just working out, I can accept that without feeling like I don’t know what I’m missing or I have a chip on my shoulder. Also as Tom reminds me, if I’d like to see my workouts as a sport, I can just imagine challenging B. to a pull-up contest. I’d bet on myself in that competition.

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