I hit a point while I was in New Zealand where I was worried I’d be bored and friendless when I got back to the US so I agreed to join a beach volleyball league with my roommates. It was pitched to me as a social sports league with low-pressure volleyball matches and a sponsor bar with drink specials after each game. It sounded great and combined two things I used to be very good at: sports and drinking.
I was a basketball player through high school and dabbled (six time undefeated intramural champion) in college. Since sports were such a big part of my childhood, I always kind of feel like an athlete. This leaves me with a good work ethic, a team mentality and a competitive drive; all fantastic life skills. But it also leaves me with the belief that I’m always in game-ready shape. Which then in turn leads me to do things like box jumps. I did these all the time as a 17-year-old shooting guard preparing for the upcoming season with high hopes for a state championship but have fallen and skinned my shin three times doing these in my 20s. To my athletic credit, thought, I did treat them with ‘walking it off.’
Yes, the athletic mindset runs deep into my subconscious, and tricks me into thinking I can pick up any sport, at any time and be good at it. This trickery became all too present in the first game of our “extremely casual” volleyball league.
My roommates wanted to go early to “warm up.” Didn’t they know I was a (semi) successful high school basketball player and 6-time undefeated college intramural champion? I was going to be a natural. But instead of any athletic abilities setting in, reality did.
I’m in shape but I’m not in ‘hold a poised squat for an hour’ shape, or ‘shuffle in ankle deep fiery sand’ shape. I’m not in ‘able to hit the ball where it’s supposed to go’ shape and I’m definitely not in ‘don’t touch the ball when it’s already out of bounds’ shape.
Was I imagining my beach volleyball debut to involve Olympic Gold Medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May stumbling upon our match, taking note of my talent and fighting over who would partner with me in the 2016 summer games, sparking a feud that would last decades? Sure, of course. But that’s just athletic confidence.
We had two games that day, six matches and we lost them all. It wasn’t long into our first game that I knew beach volleyball wasn’t my calling, so I diverted my skills and focused on the ‘extremely casual’ aspect because second to being a true athlete I am NOTHING if not extremely casual. But was I too casual?
Was taking the popular baseball jeer ‘eh batter, batter, batter…’ to ‘eh server, server, server…’ too silly? Was laughing loudly when the other team’s terrible serve landed out of bounds two courts away too goofy? I left the courts knowing I hadn’t nailed ‘flawless athlete’, unsure if I nailed ‘casual athlete’ but confident I would nail ‘drinker’ at the post-game bar. I was going to show these extremely casual volleyball players what an extremely advanced drinker I am.
But then all the time spent in the sun caught up with me and there was a line at the bar and the music was loud and I wanted to get up early the next day to run errands and did I really want that hangover? Who was I kidding? I’m no longer a stellar high school athlete and I’m no longer a binge drinking champion. I gave up. I left the bar, grabbed a burrito and went home. Because I’m A FANTASTIC BURRITO EATER.
Some things never change.