I thought it might be fun to talk about my insanely awesome athletic skills. I’m a Texas girl, and everyone here in the Lone Star State should know how to throw a football, identify an offside penalty, or at least jump a hurdle or two. So naturally, my parents were ecstatic to have a tall girl like me on their hands. There were so many possibilities.
But reality came crashing down when I dribbled the ball down the court the wrong way, and broke both my wrists (at the same time) in a very polished backward fall. And there was that one attempt at softball, where my uniform never got dirty and the opposing team just aimed their bats in my general direction to see the ball land directly next to my ankles. One summer my parents put me in a soccer league, which required an insane amount of running, of all the crazy things. They even tried to enroll me in ballet, but I argued with the teacher about why I needed to learn all those silly positions. I felt – more like deserved – to be leaping across the room in toe shoes after three weeks and fall in the arms of well-muscled men wearing tights. Duh.
But one day, things changed. Tennis came along. This was something I could practice alone and advance at my own speed. I actually liked it. Seeing a glimmer of hope that I might lead a normal life and not become a colossal choir nerd, my parents enrolled me in private lessons. They drug me across town to the country club with the rich kids so I could attend tennis camp and bought me little tennis skirts with blue and yellow stripes. I wasn’t that great, but I stuck with it, and in time I (barely) improved.
In high school, the tennis coach had pity on me and allowed me to play on the varsity team. After all – I was a funny sort that kept everyone else’s spirits high. I considered myself the team mascot, since I never won a match but got drug along to all the tournaments. I kept everyone on the bus laughing and encouraged them to keep on smiling (“It’s just one game! You’ll do better next time! Tally Ho!”). Okay, so I didn’t actually use the words tally ho, since that sounds strangely English for a blond Texas girl, but you get the general optimistic mental picture. I played games occasionally, but no one watched because they always knew I’d lose. But I didn’t care because it was jolly fun to smash the ball across the net and watch my opponent race to catch it. I’d eventually hit a fly ball or miss altogether, which would cost me the match, but I considered those just minor setbacks. I just needed to work on my consistency.
The Fall of my freshman year of college, dewy with hope and a youthful optimism, I rolled up my sleeves and hit the court with a bucket of balls and my old tennis racket. It was a good stress reliever, the weather was warm, and I was suddenly filled with the reality that I could actually play. It was so clear – like a vision laid out in front of me. All those years of goofing off and I had a talent hidden underneath that finally blossomed like a beautiful flower. I was a tennis player. This was my destiny. I was born for this.
That wasn’t true, of course. I totally sucked. I think it might have been heatstroke.
So fresh with my newfound love of tennis, and the reality that I just might compete at Wimbledon if I darn well set my mind to it, I contacted the athletic department. I was going to try out for the Texas Tech University Tennis Team. Yes, I was available to meet with the coach for an information interview. Yes, I was more than happy to work out with the team. And yes, why of of course I could play tennis at a very professional level. State championship? Well, no. But I have many, many participation ribbons. That should count for something.
For a month, I got to eat at the athletic dining hall, and made many friends with people from Sweden and Missouri and other far-off places. I was fascinated by the whole experience and soaked it up with vigor. I rolled up my sleeves and ate chicken-fried-steak with the best of them. I ran laps and said “hell yeah suckahs!” and wore the perfect grimace on my face when faced with a tough opponent.
Then, I had to hit the ball. Just some simple forehands and backhands and volleys at the net. Nothing difficult or challenging. Whoops, I said the first time around, covering my mouth. How funny! Did I hit that ball clear over the side wall? I’m terribly sorry. That just never happens. And then began the comedic efforts of one who cannot actually play tennis at the college level, bumbling and running and jumping and missing and having a terrific ‘ol time. The girl from Sweden just looked at me like I just recently landed on this planet.
The coach was so incredibly sweet, and pulled me aside after a few days to give me the tragic news. “You didn’t make the team,” she said. She offered some terrific advice, like perhaps years and years of lessons. Or an arm transplant. Perhaps a racket that hits the balls for you. Or sticking with choir. I thanked her so much, and hugged the Swedish girl. I smiled my big Texas smile. “It’s just such an honor,” I said as I held my hand to my heart – not sure why since playing tennis isn’t at all akin to fighting in Iraq. “Thank you all so much for this opportunity,” I bellowed, my eyes full of tears. But by this time they had turned their heads, back to playing tennis. Glad to get the crazy girl off the court.
This, my friends, is what happens to a young girl with an inflated since of self-esteem with absolutely no talent behind it. I went on to do fulfilling and wonderful things in college, like being a Resident Assistant in the dorms (is that pot I smell, mister?), singing baroque music in the concert hall (oh the beauty, oh the harmony), or meeting my friends in the dining hall for chicken strips (how do they make this gravy so yummy?). I had a very dorky useless boring amazing college life, and I don’t regret for one day my near-brush with athletic fame and fortune.
I think the lesson to be learned here is to never give up. One day, you’ll realize what you’re good at and quit making a fool of yourself.
But what’s the fun in that?