Today I got to thinking about what it is exactly that makes you who you are. Kyle and I were having a conversation about sectionals, regionals, the games, etc., which led to a discussion about competition. I thrive on competition. Not in the sense that I need to win at everything (although I hate losing) but in the sense that it's fun to be challenged, particularly by a talented opponent. There's no fun in squashing an opponent who is clearly less advantaged or prepared. It's way more fun when you go head to head with another gifted athlete, bringing everything you've worked hard for to the table, sometimes respectfully winning, sometime respectfully losing. I work hard in training, striving to get stronger, faster, better. I push myself and reach as far inside of myself as I can while training alone or with athletes who are less competitive, but it's nothing compared to the the switch that goes on once it's game time.
Competition, on the other hand, is not appealing to Kyle at all. For him, CrossFit is very personal. Intimate. It's something he does for himself; to be his own personal best. He doesn't see the need to try and prove anything to an opponent, to his peers; not to anyone. "What's the purpose?" He asks. "I don't feel the need to try and prove to anyone that I'm better than everyone else. It's not what drives me." He likes to be part of a team because it's fun (hence he's on our affiliate team) but doesn't see the need to put pressure on himself or lose sleep over personal competition.
We are all so different when it comes to the things that drive us. Sometimes, when I get to thinking about my own personality I sit and try to think as far back in my life as I can remember to make sense of my own experiences and how they shaped who I am today. I don't ever really end at any sure conclusions but it's still fun to try and put some pieces together.
On to the point of this post. I've periodically been working on an autobiography/memoir over the last two years and I was reading through some of the stories. The following short story marked the beginning of my softball career (which lead to my college career- which lead to my strength and conditioning career- which lead to my professional athletic career- to college coaching- and on to CrossFit). I don't want to give the whole thing away because I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with it yet, but I've decided to post a few of the stories here. The following is the first in a short series from the book that I plan on posting here.
Chap 3: ADMIRATION
From time to time I reminisce in my head about my childhood and it usually dawns on me that I was fairly odd. One of my favorite things to do was play with large cardboard boxes; the kind of boxes that large appliances or packages come in. (Two of the best boxes I ever came across were a refrigerator box and a water heater box. Talk about “a find” to get your hands on one of those). For some reason I thought that if I climbed inside and closed up all the flaps that no one would notice that I was there. They would simply think I was just a package sitting around in the living room. As far as I knew it was as good as being invisible.
As do most little sisters I absolutely adored my older sister who was 4 years my elder. She was just so cool. In middle school, she started to wear the coolest clothes; black ripped up tights with a jean skirt and a white leather jacket with tassels on the sleeves. She even bleached her hair, wore dark eyeliner and red lipstick, and listened to The Cure. When she would have friends over after school, Mom and Dad still at work, I would take my box, which I had so carefully cut a thin eye hole slit into the side, and plop down in the middle of the living room so I could hang out with the cool kids…invisible of course. It turns out I was not so invisible.
“Jocelyn, get out of here!” Erika would yell, mortified. Her middle school friends would laugh.
“You are such a brat! I’m serious, get out!”
I would just sit there thinking that after a minute or two she would calm down and forget that a box had just walked in and plopped down in the middle of the room. Maybe they would start to think it really was just a box. And maybe they would just carry on about their business and I could sit there and watch the cool kids. Unfortunately for me it never worked out that way. It usually ended with my sister’s boyfriend, Frankie, bribing me with a kiss on the cheek in exchange for me going out to play in the back yard.
I wanted to do everything my sister did. I wanted to wear her eyeliner, and listen to her music even though I had no idea what the words were. I wanted to go hang out with her and her friends in the church parking lot around the corner or at the cemetery up the street while they smoked cigarettes. I definitely wanted to go toilet papering and ding dong ditching with them. And when I saw her practicing pitching in the back yard with my Dad one day, I wanted to play softball too.
I was about 9 years old when I joined my first team. We were called the Orioles and we were bright orange. I, of course, was the sucky kid who got stuck in right field where I was sure to never get a ball. I believe the official name for the position was "Rover," the name given to a fourth outfielder added to the field so more kids could play at one time. The first time I ever got up to bat against a fast windmill pitcher I watched three strikes go by in a row as my knees quivered. I was so scared I literally peed my pants. I remember because my dad yelled at my coach for not allowing me to go to the bathroom when I’d asked before the game.
“Do you see this? Look at her, she peed her fuckin pants!” he scolded her. My dad is one of those rare people that actually gets away with having a potty mouth, and with exception to this case, it's usually pretty funny.
“If she’s gotta go to the bathroom next time you’d better let her go!” I was so embarrassed I wished I’d had a box to crawl under.
My sister’s game was still in the 5th inning on the softball field caddy corner to us when my game was over. She was in the 14 and under division and she played for the Astros. They were forest green and got to wear real stirrups- not like us 10 and under kids who had to wear socks with a built-in stripe on the side. When I came over she was pitching against the Royals and I remember thinking that she had the coolest wind up. She would rock both her hands together passed her right hip and then burst into and underhand windmill. I stood there in my wet softball pants and thought, “That is so awesome. I could totally do that. I want to be a pitcher.”
The next day I asked my dad if we could start pitching in the back yard after school.