Friday, April 20, 2012

Picked Last....

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

           -Walter Bageholt

Remember that horrible feeling with the coach or gym teacher would pick captains, and then have the captains pick the players for teams? The shame and humiliation on getting picked last??

As a child, playtime was fun. I went outside and played. Whether it be, kickball, softball or war games, I played until I was tired and then I went home for supper or bed. Playing, for the sake of playing. At sumer camp we would swim, boat and canoe, again it was fun and recreational.
(Cousin Jeff, sister Laurie and I. Long Island Maine)

Then, something happened on the way to middle school: coaches and teachers would segregated players.  The alpha players were picked by the coach. Then these alpha players would pick the teams. My "ah-ha moment " happened when I was in 5th grade.

Coach "W" was the coach of the Orioles little league baseball team in the town that I lived in. In the spring, I attended all of the practices. It was fun. I was with kids my age, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and enjoyment of playing. Mind you I was not good. Couldn't throw a ball to save my life ( later in life, I discovered I had a slight vision problem that I was able to correct with eyeglasses), but nonetheless, I enjoyed being there.

The first game was approaching, and Coach  "W" distributed all the uniforms. I remember these uniforms were white and green, and I was excited to be getting one. The coach came to my house, and he did not have a uniform for me, I asked him "why?" The coach said: because we do not have one FOR YOU. I asked him, "what should I do the day of the game", and he replied. "you don't go to the game". I said, "what about practice next week", He followed with "you don't go to practice" .

It was that point in my life I found out the cruel reality of competitive sports. I was not good enough to play in a small town little league with my friends. I felt embarrassed and shamed. I developed an instant dislike for the game. My parents recognized this, and swiftly got me involved in other activities: music,  etc. The day Coach "W" came into my parents house and sat in their mid-century couch and told me I couldn't play little league haunted me for a long time....

Then something happened on the way to becoming  middle aged.....I started to run. I ran, for the sake of running. I knew I could run as a kid. But I never ran track in high school or college. I thought I was not good enough. The shame of little league left me with a horrible feeling. Something in my head, said I would be picked last, or I would be snarled by the coach. However,  I could run. I guess it was the embarrassment I wanted to save myself from by not participating.

When I turned 40, I started to run, little by little. I ran in my small Maine coastal town. I remember 10 years ago, local people would clap as the fat guy would run by for his 1.5 mile loop. Slowly, by slowly I ran. Then one day I noticed my pants went down a size. I was jazzed. I increase my mileage, and intensity of running. Then more weight fell off. Finally I decided to run a 5k race in Fort Lauderdale. I was nervous. Would I be the last guy to finish?? Was I good enough? I had no idea. The race was a 5k. I ran the race and finished. It was my first race and I was 42 years old, it was then that I got the bug and realized, I can do this.

Its been almost a decade and I run virtually everyday. I have participated in countless races in Ogunquit ,Fort Lauderdale and other locations. I swim with a Master's Swim program in the winter in Fort Lauderdale.  Something happened on the way to middle age, I think it's a case of "adult onset athletics", and I am glad it happened!

The lesson in life? Next time someone tells you that you "can't do something", take pleasure in doing it!

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