August 19, 2009

Play Ball?

Those of you who regularly enjoy Hilary's stunning photography over at The Smitten Image will probably recognize this cute character as Benny. As will reader's of Frank Baron's amusing blog Baron it All, where Benny makes frequent and hilarious appearances.

So... quick quiz. How does that photo make you feel?

a. Happy and Joyful about Life
b. Amused
c. Energized and Active
d. Suddenly Extremely Affectionate Towards All Living Things
e. Guilty and Uneasy

What?!!? Why is "e" even a choice? Who could possibly feel guilty and uneasy looking at such an adorable photo?

Er, Crabby McSlacker, that's who.

So what's that all about?

Well, first off, I did feel a, b, c, and d first before I settled into e. I'm human, after all.

But if I could capture the weirdness that went on in my head when I looked at that picture, it would go something like this:

Oh, I love that picture, that doggy is so cute!

He's having a great time with that ball.

Because he's playing. It's a game! That looks fun!

Dogs like games.

Hey, you used to like games too!

Remember, Crabby, you would play lots of outdoor running-around games when you were a kid? They're called "sports."

Sports are great exercise.

Remember soccer? You liked soccer.

You get credit for doing cardio and even intervals when you're playing soccer! And it's way more fun than the treadmill.

You are always talking about how much you hate going to the gym.

Hey, why don't you ever look for a chance to play soccer or tennis or dodgeball or something fun instead of going to the gym you hate?

Because you are lame, that's why.

Fear of Failure

Part of the reason I never get around to finding a pick-up soccer game, or a kickball league, or a racquet ball partner, or whatever, has to do with logistics and laziness. I'd need to find something casual and friendly and flexible and not too advanced and not too far away. To find something like that would require effort and diligence and some plain good luck. But that's not the only thing going on.

Because a few years ago I discovered, get this, a weekly pick-up soccer game three blocks from my house consisting of friendly middle-aged women! If the Exercise Gods were trying to devise a tempting sports endeavor for me to try, it couldn't get much better than that. I played soccer as a kid, and a little bit in high school. I wasn't great, but I was reasonably comfortable kicking the ball around.

So I bought a pair of cleats, went three or four times, and that was it. I started making excuses and stopped going. Even though I had fun playing a good percentage of the time I was on the field.

Why did I start to dread the Sunday morning games? I guess it was a combination of shyness, perfectionism, and fear of looking like an ass. The fact that I did not actually do anything glaringly ass-like did not seem to lessen the fear that I would.

I just did the normal screwing-up that anyone who is "average" does when they play a game. I kicked the ball where I did not mean it to go; I failed to stop players from the opposing team from sailing right by me with the ball; I passed to the wrong people at the wrong time. I also did good things, too, like score goals or steal the ball away from better players. And while I was new to the group (and the other women all knew each other already), they weren't snotty and standoffish, they were very personable. I'm sure the pre-game chatting I found awkward would have gotten way less stilted and more fun over time.

However, despite having mostly a good time at these pick-up games, I'd still dread going the next week. It felt like something that was "good for me" but a little too scary. Since no one was making me go, I stopped.

Which I know was a stupid move. Had I hung in there, I'm sure I would have eventually gotten perfectly comfortable and enjoyed myself more and more each time. And nothing in the world beats exercise you enjoy! When I have a great run it's the best feeling in the world. Endorphins + smugness = unbeatable.

Anyone Else?

A while back, I wrote a post about the current trend of team sports being eliminated from P.E. classes, called: "Gym Class Memories: Happy, or Heinous? And if you haven't read it, the best part is the comments: some funny and also heart-rending tales of miserable gym class experiences. I had no idea how bad it could be! But reading the comments, I also found that there are lots of people who love participating in sports and lots and lots of other people who hate participating in sports. And I could understand both viewpoints! I can't help wondering if I'm someone who could learn to love sports again, if I could just get over myself and stop worrying about screwing up?

Boot Camp Lessons

So I mentioned earlier in the summer that I've been going to a "boot camp" class twice a week, which is something of a departure for me. While I'm no fan of calisthenics, it's been a great reminder that company and camaraderie when you exercise can be, well, motivating.

Duh! I know this is not a revelation to most people, but I'd forgotten that.

Being neurotic, I still managed to feel a bit of "performance anxiety" in an exercise class where no one gives a crap what anyone else is doing. But I got over it pretty quickly, and now only dread the jump squats and the burpees and the suicides, not the imagined judgments of others about how well or poorly I do them.

Who knows, maybe if another pick-up soccer game played by middle aged women happens to locate itself within blocks of my house... next time I'll take advantage of it!

Anyone else ambivalent about competitive sports? Or do you just plain love 'em or just plain hate 'em?


  1. I'm a weirdo, 'cause I enjoy going to the gym.

    But I would love doing an impromptu sport if invited and I had the time, but all that planning and organizing is a bore. And it would have to be a laid-back, non cut-throat type of crowd.

  2. If I had ever had a dormant love for participating in team sports, gym class killed it "dead, dead, deadski".

    I exercise at home, where the equipment is not the latest and greatest, the classes consist of a DVD teacher who will not pass judgment, but you can't beat the operating hours and convenience.

  3. I am not a team/competitive sports type person. If it is all for fun, great BUT most team sports involve the need to win.. DUH BUT I just hate how it turns into no fun when you are not winning OR you don't meet the needs of the team in terms of being good or good enough for them. Like your first commenter, I don't like the cut throat stuff!

    I had gym in school & I think activity is great for kids. I still felt the same about the cut throat stuff BUT with kids getting heavier every year, getting them to move is important!

    I love the gym for the weights, machines & cable machines. I do my cardio there & at home BUT I do it because I need to & it is good for my heart/lungs & all BUT I just am not a cardio fan. I amaze myself cause I do quite a bit....

    OH, the pic... that dog made me smile! CUTE!

  4. I am not so excited about soccer though I joined a dance class a few years ago and had a fantastic time. I was freaked out by everything at first. What should I wear? Will people look at me? Are my thighs going to burst into flames from rubbing together? I survived. And no smoke came from my thighs.

    I also met a witch and she's teaching dance starting in September so I'm going to take a dance class from a witch. I hope to be skipping 'round the caldron during a full moon, tossing eye of newt and gird of loin.

    Aren't you jealous? I wonder if Anton LeVay plays soccer?

  5. I never was much good at competition sports.

    Last kid picked... "Oh, you have to have her on YOUR team, we had to take her LAST time..."

    Yeah, me and Layla Welch... I can remember entirely too many PE classes and recess in which the "captains" (aka the popular kids who were good at sports) would nearly come to blows about who HAD to have us on their team.

    I don't have too much in the awkward conversation moments, tho, because I'm fairly good at relating to people; now that I'm not in middle school anymore!

    But I've never really been interested in team sports. Except a brief stint in college where we played laser tag. But my team played to lose. Seriously. The first game we did, the other team was all dressed in black, with camo face paint and took everything SO Freaking Seriously that we just couldn't help it. We suicided ourselves, mocked them endlessly, had long drawn out death speeches and went out of our way to lose, but at the same time, make it entirely UNFUN for them...

    eh... come to think about it, that was pretty damn funny.

  6. I've never enjoyed team sports - being the shy type who prefers to hang back and not be noticed if I can help it, team sports tend to be intimidating. Definitely no love lost there. I know some people find solitary exercise boring, but I prefer it.

    I did have a similar experience with Tai Chi class though. It was something I'd always wanted to try, and a few years back a guy that I worked with got a friend to start up a class. I convinced Husband (though he was Boyfriend then) to go at first, but eventually it was just me. It was terrifying for me to walk into that room every time, but once things got going I always enjoyed the class.

    Then we had our wedding coming up. Then we bought a house and were moving. The class took up most of Sunday afternoon, so I was skipping it because I didn't have time. The more time went by, the harder it was to convince myself to start going back and I never did. Which is a shame, because I did really like the class and the instructor. Now it's back to being one of those "someday I want to..." things.

  7. I prefer to exercise by my own self. I was picked last or next to last in gym and not good at sports. If we could have spent gym class doing exercises I would have been happy. Perhaps it's those memories, or the fact that I don't do well with others, but I just don't care for team anything. Watching it? Yes. Being in on it? Umm, can't I just shave my tongue instead? It's less painful.

  8. i like team sports ... but i'm realizing when they're informal and fun. the summer softball league i participated in this year was fun, but still marginally awkward.

    what i miss is drop-in hockey - team sport without the commitment. too bad it just hasn't been fitting into either brandon's or my schedule. :(

  9. I've always disliked team sports/activities for the same reason that Leah stated. I'd far more prefer to find a good DVD or TV show with which to exercise than venture out to a class.. shudder.

    Thanks so much for the linkage. I'll thank you on Frank's behalf too. He's up at the cottage with Benny right now.. lucky dog! Frank.. not Ben.

  10. I like them when they are for fun. I payed ball until it got too competitive and they wouldn't let us girls actually do anything. I don't care if I win, as long as I try. I'm hoping to get into a soccer league this winter to keep active...I have an irrational fear of breaking my leg tho. I know of 2 people who ended up with surgery due to breaking their legs in soccer...
    I'm signing up for a boot camp class this fall and looking froward to it. Working out in a group is a lot of can encourage each other. Something about having someone expecting me to do more right there in fromnt of me eggs me on to do better. When I'm on my own it's easier to "fudge" the workouts :)

  11. Even when I enjoy the gym, I hate the gym because it's not something you would have done in the first place if you didn't know it was good for you. As soon as we slap on that "I have to because I have a desk job (or a job that does not require you to do burpees) and I don't get any exercise otherwise" label, we hate it, even if it turns out to be fun.
    I've joined CrossFit, which is just like your bootcamp. Pushups, jumping squats (with weights!), pullups, suicides, burpees, deadlifts, push presses, ring dips and situps... you get the idea. I love it because my workouts are short (under an hour every time), intense, and give me results even though I only go 3 times a week. The bonus is that CrossFit is for everyone. Pregnant? Obese? Skinny mini? Never lifted a weight before in your life? They'll work around all that. Which is great because when I started I could barely back squat 35 pounds.
    I still half dread going :P But I'm definitely the kind of person that NEEDS a class or something intense to make me keep going.

  12. A dance class led by a witch sounds awesome!

    And I kinda wish I hadn't heard that bit about soccer and leg-breakage. I hadn't even thought of that!

    Interesting that so many of you can find the "fun" in regular exercise and gym-going. Other than running or dancing to good music, the rest of it is much more like "work" to me, which is why I feel lame for not seeking out more alternatives that I used to enjoy.

    Love that everyone is so different at finding creative ways to get fit!

  13. I like sports! Getting exercise that way would be ideal, I think, but it's not as practical as I wish it could be. Those are "the good old days!"

  14. Never was much into team sports and I would be terribly intimidated to try one now.

    I used to care what my workout classmates thought of my burpees, but I hate them (the burpees, not the classmates) so much that I just flop on the ground and slowly get back up - they are the devil, I'm telling you! Afraid to ask...what are suicides (and please don't tell my trainer)?

    P.S. That dog is cute and made me a and b!

  15. I am not a fan of team sports. I don't even love running with a running group! The closest I ever came was when I was on the dance team in high school for one year. I loved the dancing but hated having to put up with my teammates.

    Strangely, I don't mind fitness classes. Although, I'm currently signed up for an adult swim lessons class and I'm kind of freaking out about that.

  16. I was never any good at sport, but I would like to do something now... I suggested to my husband that we get tennis rackets, since we have a court on the estate where we live. He said that I could be the target! He's so competitive! So, for now I will indulge in solo pursuits...

  17. I'm surprised at all the other commenters who were also the last person picked for a team. What would the 'captains' do if we /all/ showed up for a game? Their poor brains would probably collapse under the strain!
    Good post, Crabby!

  18. Wow. It seems I'm in the minority here. I'm a competitive sport junky. The more cut throat the better. Volleyball and ice hockey being my first choices, football a close third. (And yes, yes, I am a girl...) Losing just seems to drive me to try harder/improve myself.

    Unfortunately life in the sticks does not lend itself to playing such sports at my age. (As a teenager/school attending student yes.) So I plop my butt on the treadmill. And I hate it. (And competitive running holds no draw for me. Why anyone would *want* to run a marathon is beyond me.)

  19. I like classes for the socialization/motivation reasons you mention. But don't do well with competition. Probably b/c I was always the last one picked. Or maybe not the last one, but close....

    The thing I don't like about classes, tho, is one of the reasons I do them. I take them because they make me keep at whatever it is for an hour or so. But I start looking at the clock about 15 minutes into it. It's a miracle when I find one that goes by really quickly. I'm hopeless, I guess. :)

  20. I do not play sports. Do. Not. When a ball comes flying at me at the speed of light, the only logical thing to do is duck or run away. You don't run TOWARD it! Who thinks that's normal??


    No really, I seem to lack the coordination gene, at least as it relates to sports. And since I too am afraid of looking like Mayor Spazzy McSpazzy, the spazziest spazzy in Spazzy-town, I'm too afraid to try. That might bother me more if I felt like I was missing out on something, but in this case . . . not so much.

  21. I like competitive games (role playing, cards, boardgames), just not sports. I lack proper hand, eye, and foot coordination. Therefore, for the safety of everyone concerned, it's best I sit out those games.

    Wait...does beer pong count?

  22. I LOVE team sports. I'm currently playing softball and volleyball, but I also do dodgeball, soccer, and kickball when they're in season. It's working out + socialization + fun! (And I am not all that good, but I have a great time so I don't care). I'd never played soccer before, and it's totally my favorite thing now.

  23. I loved playing doubles tennis - until some of the substitutes starting taking the game way too seriously. While I'm not a great player I am a good one who can hold her own. But when the Alpha Dog sub with superior skills would show up I knew she'd start criticizing every mistake I made as she set about marking her territory around the court. Who needs that sh*t when you're trying to have fun. Sadly, because subs were becoming too frequent, I quit too and now play singles much less frequently.

  24. Also not one for team sports. My favorite gym classes were the obstacle courses, 'cause we only competed against ourselves. (Plus, we got to swing on a rope and land on a 5-foot tall mat. Fun!!!!)
    I do like group exercise. (Which is good, seeing as I'm a group exercise teacher. If I hated it, that would REALLY suck, lol!)
    And, Crabby, I think you need to cut yourself some slack. It's OK NOT to go to soccer, and to not like the gym, and all that stuff.

  25. Oh, and to make yourself REALLY happy, go on Amazon and look at the cover of "Secrets to Happiness" by Sarah Dunn. Best bookcover EVER!

  26. I love team long as they're fun and not too competitive. But "not too competitive" I mean that I like people to do their best and not scream and duck and flail their arms when the ball comes toward them, but if they try and miss it, it's not a big deal (I'm missed enough in my time that it's all good).

    I play kickball and dodgeball mostly, because I find the normal sports like softball and volleyball to be too competitive. I was on a kickball team where the captain would play the same guys every inning and relegate the remaining five spots or so to the 15 girls on the team. I defected pretty quickly.

    I also switched dodgeball leagues recently - the old one would have people streaking the ball 100mph and getting all red in the face over ref calls, whereas the new one has people cheering other teams on and being much more laid back.

    I think it's more the people and atmosphere than the actual sport that make it fun.

    I'm really bummed that I can't play kickball this fall :(

  27. Sometimes I like games, other times I really don't. I'm playing rec league soccer and it's fantastic because our team is just our group of friends- we're playing so that we can see each other a couple times a week; otherwise, weeks go by without all of us getting together. So it's purely social, which takes a lot of the stress off if you (*cough* I *cough*) aren't that good at it!

  28. You just inspired me to go to the gym and get a pick up game of B-ball. I've had the same issues with competitive sports because when I was a kid, my parents wouldn't let me get involved in them. So going into adulthood, I never had the confidence to get involved in any. I'm gonna give it a shot now.

  29. Team sports aren't my thing. I'm better at competing against myself/old records, because I know that I should be able to at least tie them.

  30. Another last kid picked, right here. I couldn't run, I couldn't throw, I couldn't catch, I couldn't do a whole lot of anything. When I started tae kwon do as an adult it was different--I could beat the hell out of things, and discovered that I am flexible enough to kick people taller than myself in the face. Then I got out of the military and went to work in retail (gag spit spit) and so much for that.

    I played Amtgard (live-action fantasy RPG that contains combat with padded weapons) for a while, which I was also good at. And then my group shriveled up into teenagers who were too cool to show up in garb and just wanted to beat the hell out of each other with padded sticks, and then it disappeared altogether. :(

    I like running, I like cycling, I like sports where one competes as an individual with maybe a group or a team backing one up, but actual team sports can bite me.

    Also, I have always had and still have to this very day a completely irrational fear of getting hit in the face with a volleyball. I've never actually been hit in the face with a volleyball. I don't know why it freaks me out.

  31. I was second last picked always, but I really loved the rush of playing with a team. Not that I actually got my hands, or feet on the ball very often. But running around like crazy chasing a ball is a lot of fun.

  32. Fear of looking like an ass? Making excuses to go do the thing you like? Whaaa?

    You should read this: "Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong" -Peter T. Mcintyre

    And once you have confidence, competence in everything else just follows.

  33. I could care less what people think of me as I exercise. I can't stand gyms but that is because they are so full of crap. Too long to explain or go into here. I have a gym in my garage. Gyms are everywhere too. Te local park (I use it sometimes) can be a very tough session.
    I guess I am abnormal because I actually like it. I enjoy the challenge. I like the feeling of accomplishment. The way it makes me feel and look.
    Now if only the REST of my life came that easy!

  34. Love the pic with the dog, soo cute! I miss playing soccer.

  35. What a cute doggie! I can tell that the owner of a pooch like that must be intelligent, articulate, amusing, good looking and a wee bit of a fibber.


    I played organized baseball for a few years when young and both loved and hated it. Loved it when I got a hit or struck some guys out. Hated it when I struck out myself or made an error. But all in all, it was good for me.

    Thanks for the link!


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