I’ve never considered myself an “athlete.”
Though, from ages 8-14, I tried pretty much every sport I could. Basketball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, ballet, jazz, tap dancing, cheerleading, volleyball, swimming, even rodeo riding*!!
*I actually have two second place ribbons from my rodeo riding days. Thing is, I’ve only competed in one “Play Day Rodeo” (aka practice event) and there were only two people in my division, so 2nd = last place. Also, I think there were three events that day and I DQ’d one of them because I was completely clueless about how to steer the damn horse around a pole. Whoops.
I did gymnastics for several years, competitively. I really enjoyed it too. The uneven bars were my favorite because swinging on them felt like playing on a jungle gym to me, but I never did earn a high score on them. I was worst at the vault. I’d run as fast as I could from the start and then as soon as I got semi-close to the stationary block of leather at the end of the runway, I’d freak out and slow down and my subsequently weak jumps could never take me high enough to get over the pommel horse. My mom used to always laugh quietly when I vaulted in a competition. I don’t blame her one bit! When I started getting taller and well, less flat chested I realized that competitive gymnastics was really for people that were about a foot shorter and resembled more of a rail than a growing young woman. Aka, not me.
Side note: Was I ever flat chested? Oh yes I do have a vague memory of being about 6 or 7 and looking in the mirror after a bath, pushing my skin together and wishing that my boobs would stick out more than my stomach… guess I got my wish! Let that be a lesson, be careful what you wish for!
I also played soccer for many seasons. I loved running after the ball, seeing my friends twice a week, eating oranges during half time and getting a sweet trophy at our end-of-the-season pizza party. But when my teammates started playing in the big fancy competitive league instead of the low-key “everyone’s a winner” YMCA league that I liked, I dropped out. Intense competition just wasn’t for me. It scared me and I never felt good enough. Also, as I got older, the boobs became a problem again. Surprisingly, I didn’t discover the magic of two sports bras until just a few years ago. Now I can run without pain in my chesticles – YAY!
I also had a short stint with volleyball in 7th grade. I tried out and made the JV team for our grade level. I was excited to be a part of a team and though I hated waking up super-early for before-school practices, I’d venture to say that Volleyball and the notes I passed back and forth during class to my best friends are what got me through that awful year of puberty + divorce + moving out of my dad’s house and into my grandma’s house and then later into a townhome with just my mom. Volleyball was fun, I loved the games and the uniform. I remember BEAMING in my Knox Knights athletic photo. But I wasn’t that great of a player and I would never have made the team in the following years. Plus I never had the discipline to really work hard in practice to become any better – I was just there because it was fun.
And then there was the off-season in which they made all v-ball players join track. Oh how I hated track! Again, this was prior to the double bra discovery, so you can imagine what it was like to be pubescent, dealing with already sore ta-tas, plus trying to run aimlessly around a track in the Texas heat with bouncing twins on my chest and trying not to be made fun of by whatever boy I thought was cute at the time (I believe the football team worked out at the same time we did). Also I had zero motivation to care about track because I clearly don’t have a competitive bone in my body. ”Oh you want to beat me to that finish line? Go ahead, I’ll cheer you on!”
Fast forward through high school and college in which I didn’t play any sports. Okay, well there were a few games of pickup Ultimate Frisbee in HS, and I played some intramural broomball in college. PS – have you ever played Broomball? It’s RIDICULOUS. Basically its like hockey – on an ice rink but in sneakers (not skates) with a short stick with a plastic triangle on the end and you paddle around a small plastic lacrosse ball. Aka I was falling hysterically on my ass the entire time.
Basically what I’m trying to say is I’m not an athlete. I’m not very competitive, I want everyone to have a good time and go for a drink afterwards. Which is why I play in the fun league on most adult intramural sports, including our current endeavor: dodgeball. We lost last night’s game, but I did a little jump for joy when I actually caught a ball and got someone out on the other side. Needless to say that doesn’t happen very often for me.
Lately I’ve been reconsidering what the word “Athlete” means. I mean, I’m still not all that competitive. I love to cheer on my team and get into the game while it’s happening but as soon as it’s over I go back to not caring. I am a bit competitive at Ultimate Frisbee, but that’s probably related to the fact that we have a really fun team that actually cares about the outcome, therefore I do too. Peer pressure can be a good thing sometimes.
But as I get more into running with my upcoming half marathon, and as I’m starting to consider triathlons for this summer, I realize that being an athlete isn’t always about competition. It’s about bettering yourself in body, mind and spirit. It’s about becoming a faster, stronger, smarter you. The only person I can compete with is myself.
And well, quite frankly, I’ve been kicking myself’s ass lately. I can pretty confidently say that, while it may not show on the outside, I am truly in the best shape of my life.
If you know me in person you know I’ve never been a two-a-day kinda girl. But I find myself lately trying to fit in two workouts a day instead of just one. (Who am I, Kelly??? JK, love ya girl) And yes, sometimes these two-a-days are to make up for rest days when I choose the couch over the gym, and sometimes they’re as simple as Yoga + a bit of cardio, but regardless it comes back to that concept of bettering myself. And to becoming an athlete. And to competing against myself. To being better, faster, stronger, smarter (and well, hotter too). To discovering someone inside of me that I’ve never met before.
It’s a metamorphosis. I’m hard at work inside that cocoon. Spending time earning my wings and learning how to fly.
The butterfly is coming.