Out of bounds


courtesy of Polly Bruce '13

Between the ages of five and 13, I competed in swimming, soccer, basketball, softball, sailing, field hockey, volleyball, water polo, and tennis. I was the recipient of far too many “most improved”, “participation”, and “team spirit” awards before I realized that the world of athletics was slightly beyond me. After years of slogging it out, expecting to improve, but never really managing to, I quit the game. All of them. No more lack of eye-hand (or more accurately, body-world) coordination, no more costing my team the game, no more lost equipment and uncomfortable mouth-guards. But being a non-athlete presents a whole new set of challenges. Sometimes, the celebrated position sports hold in society can make it difficult for many of us to imagine giving them up, even if we stifle ourselves in the process.

courtesy of Polly Bruce ’13

I have so much respect for my friends and peers who have found a home in sports they love. Playing sports comes with a built in family, a fulfilling commitment, and sometimes, fantastic opportunities. Kudos to anyone who plays a sport they love. I think that’s awesome. What I take issue with is that, all too often, it seems like students stay in sports because they are afraid of doing anything else. Like it or not, high school can often be a frustrating journey of self discovery, and playing a sport is an easy way to label yourself. It becomes a defining factor in our identities, to the point where giving it up seems like giving up an identity.
Before high school, playing sports didn’t seem like much of an option. Abstaining would mean losing out on bonding with my friends, and more importantly, would make it even harder to fit in (something that, frankly, I struggled with already). And even when I started high school, without a sport, it almost seemed like I had been right. I missed out on the psych ups, game day shirts, and the mysterious horror of pre-season (I don’t know what goes on there, but honestly, I don’t feel the pain much from that loss).
What I eventually found in speech and debate was a way to fill all of those voids, while actually doing something I enjoyed. I bonded with teammates, ordered team apparel, but still didn’t have to endure preseason (can you imagine how grueling that would be? Laryngitis is a serious issue). This might seem like a shameless plug for an activity I love. And while I will never stop singing the praises of speech, I can’t pretend it’s the only option. There are so many methods off the playing field for students looking for a passion. I struggle to understand why they often feel so off the grid. If I had known that there were alternatives sooner, I might have saved myself a lot of grief.
Many students have found their home on the tennis court or the soccer field. But for those of you who do it for lack of anything better, remember that you could be overlooking an activity you might find much more fulfilling. It might not seem easy, but sometimes, the best decision is to give up the shin-guards, and pick up something entirely new. Just remember to schedule time to hit the treadmill. Sports might not be the only option, but fitness is important people.
– Nora Henrie, Copy Editor