Friday, September 19, 2008

Overcoming Childhood Trauma.

Disclaimer: There's no need to feel sorry for me. Every childhood has trauma, and the majority of children have it far worse than I did. Plus I was generally happy throughout my life, so it couldn't have been that bad.

The summer after third grade I went to basketball camp. I was SO excited to learn how to play basketball. I had a great time. When it came time for the tournament at the end of the couple of weeks I was the cheerleader for my team. I organized everyone on the bench with me to shout different things, and it was really quite fun as I remember it. My mom wasn't that happy about it. In fact to this day she's not terribly fond of the guy that was in charge. (Today on the phone she brought him up and talked for at least 10 minutes about how that guy shouldn't be allowed to deal with children.) Mostly because he benched me for pretty much the whole tournament and I was a third grader. That's when I started to figure out that "cheer leader" pretty much meant I wasn't good at basketball. The next year I played on an extra-curricular volleyball team. My team never won a game, but once again I had a lot of fun. That could be how I later received the yearbook title "Most Optimistic Senior Girl."

That was pretty much the end of my athletic career. In gym class I stayed close enough to the ball to get the participation points, but far enough away so no one would yell at me. I took the kicks in the shins by ninth grade boys with a smile and a giggle that "he noticed me." I did take a weight training class in tenth grade that I really liked and was reasonably good at. But really I spend my time becoming a choir nerd, a band nerd, a drama geek, and a member of the speech team.

One of the prerequisites for my major was a PE class called "Skill Acquisition and Analysis." In it they taught us with simple instructions how to do things like throw a baseball, shoot a basketball, and do a somersault. I never realized that someone could teach you those things step by step. I always thought I was doomed to throw like a girl forever. I was thrilled to find out I wasn't. I even thanked my professor for helping me to not be a pathetic dweeb (not in so many words). She told me she thought I was always athletic. That made me laugh. What was she thinking?

In the few years since, I've come to believe that I could have been athletic had someone taught me step by step. It's like people who say they can't draw, or they can't do math, or they can't sing. It's just not true. Perhaps it doesn't come as easily to them as to someone else, but that does NOT mean they don't have an aptitude for learning. It's all about breaking it down and teaching people step by step. You don't take a Chemistry class because you already know everything about Chemistry, you take it to learn. You shouldn't have to go into a PE class and have the teacher expect you do be able to do everything already. They should teach you how, step by step.

The other night I got a phone call telling me that I had a church volleyball game the following evening and could I please call everyone on my team. I wondered why on earth she thought I should be the captain. Turns out it was because I was the first person on the list whose phone number she could read. Anyway, I called lots of people (this visiting teaching calling has made it a teensy bit easier to make phone calls) and several of them went to the game with me.

It was a BLAST!! I had so much fun! I was the worst player on the court. I don't say that out of some sense of false modesty or asking for compliments from those who were there. I only say it because I was. I don't feel sorry for myself that I was the worst, I just was. But that didn't mean that I didn't have fun, and it doesn't mean that I "can't play volleyball" and now that I'm not in middle school and I'm not playing EQ basketball, it doesn't mean people were yelling at me the whole time. What it does mean, is that for the first time in my life, I can look forward to being the most improved by the end of the season. (I always groaned when teachers said we would be graded on improvement, because I always studied hardest for the first test, and by acing it allowed myself to slack off at the end. Not the best plan for improvement.)

There were lots of people on the team that I could tell had played volleyball for real at some point. They jumped beautifully and their form on their spikes looked like real live volleyball players. It was beautiful to watch. And guess what? I could learn to do that myself. I really could. I'm willing to bet that those girls, at one time in their life, didn't do it so beautifully. They probably were taught step by step and practiced a boatload in order to do it. I'm also willing to bet that if someone taught me step by step and I practiced about three and a half boatloads, I could do it. Isn't that encouraging? So, don't you dare tell me you can't sing, and I promise to never again say "I stink at sports." I'll just give it a try instead.


Blogger said...

I feel the same way about sports. I really enjoy playing them when I don't feel like I am going to be laughed at or yelled at. I think I had too many childhood traumas that make me think that I don't like sports and I am no good at them. But when I actually try to play a sport in a non-threatening environment (people I know will not care if I don't play good), then I have a good time. And you are so right. Anything that you spend time practicing at, you can get good at. I wish more people would realize this!!

6:24 PM  
Blogger Mikey said...

After I got pegged in the eye playing little league baseball, I played one more season... took me almost half or more of the season to actually hit the ball again, but it sure felt good when I did!

5:15 PM  

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