Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Loved Volleyball Once

I played volleyball in sixth grade; I was a Blessed Sacrament Comet dressed in my red-and-white uniform and bulky white knee pads. I still have a team picture somewhere. I was a decent player but never played again after that year.

I loved it.

Fred scored some tickets to the NU Volleyball game last night (wherein we gave Texas Tech a healthy, corn-fed beating) and I tried to remember why I never played this sport I enjoyed beyond sixth grade. In seventh we switched from private school to public and ---


I don’t remember her name, but I can picture her plain as day: my seventh grade gym teacher. Always in a tee-shirt tucked into her high-waisted warm-up pants, she had short hair in tight curls (perm?) and she – SHE – made me forever hate participating in sports.

It all started during a friendly game of field hockey in which we were explicitly told to catch the ball before it went out of bounds so that the game wouldn’t get delayed. I was running after the ball when my fellow teammates yelled let it go! It’s out! while the teacher’s voice played in my head don’t let it go out! As it rolled out of bounds, I quickly retrieved it only to get yelled at in the most inappropriate way from across the field.

Hey Girl!
Girl in the PINK SHIRT!
Why did you let that go out?
I said not to let it go out!
Get the ball, PINK SHIRT!

And my drive was gone in a matter of seconds. I didn’t want to be called PINK SHIRT ever again so I just stayed out of the light, hanging back as far as I could to still get the passing mark but not have to be called out again. I often wonder two things: would I have felt different had she used my name (mine seemed to be the one she didn't know), and does she remember this incident?

I sealed my fate later that year while playing volleyball. I was desperately trying to avoid having to hit the ball.

And then it happened.

The other team hit the ball and up-up-up it went into the giant lights and it was gone. I swear it took a solid 45 seconds before it came down again – right on top of my head, smacking me so hard I nearly fell down. I got it again.

Why didn’t you hit that?
Why weren’t you looking?

Not a quick check to see if I was okay and no acknowledgement that we were all sort of looking around wondering where the heck that ball went. (Has she ever tried to look up at an old gym ceiling, stare into the lights and find a volleyball?) I failed her again and she let me and the entire class know.

I never played – or wanted to play – team sports again after that.
And I wonder if she ever realized what an effect she had on one student.

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