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Athletic Anecdote: From athletics to Speech team

By Denebola
Published: September 2008

By Rebecca Goldstein

Those of you who know me will be surprised to see my name on this byline. I have no muscles or endurance, no balance, flexibility, or coordination to speak of. In short, I am not athletic.

There was a time in my life, however difficult it might be to believe, when I did compete on sports teams. My soccer career, which started humbly on the intramural preschool experience team at age four, peaked during my sixth-grade season as a left defender on the illustrious Division 4D team. I was worse at basketball than I was at soccer, but nevertheless I wore the Newton Girls’ Basketball jersey proudly for five consecutive seasons.

A brief aside: I do not understand my parents. They knew I was terrible, for it was impossible to ignore. But Saturday after Saturday, they woke me early, and they drove. Nine a.m. in Acton. Nine a.m. in Weston. Nine a.m. in Dedham. They drove to Dighton and to Hingham, to Hull and to Hopkinton. They drove and drove and drove, slicing oranges and buying munchkins and bringing extra mittens for those late-November games. They knew I would eventually quit. I only hope I can be as devoted to my kids’ fruitless endeavors.

But back to my waning athletic career.

In eighth grade, the last time I was truly in shape, I played for the Brown Middle School girls’ lacrosse team. I had never picked up a lacrosse stick before that year, and needless to say, I was terrible. But I’d never been more impressed with my friends than I was with Laura Crowe and Alicia Jacobson on that team. Not altogether surprisingly, they went on to make varsity at South as freshmen.

The common thread that connected my athletic experiences through the years (besides the obvious one that I was awful at all of them) was the feeling I would get before a game. There was a certain lightness in my stomach, a clamminess to my palms, and a tremor in my heart. In essence, I didn’t want to play. I never did, and I never understood people who did. Looking back, I don’t know why this never struck me as odd. I suppose that the concept of “wanting to play a sport was so foreign to me that I thought that no one ever really wanted to play and everyone just played anyway.

This year, as I watch my younger brother Adam prepare for golf matches, I am struck by his enthusiasm for the game. I was always ecstatic when our games were rained out; he shudders at the sound of thunder. I loved being benched and cheering on my friends; he longs to be chosen to play. I realize now that if I had really loved the sports I played, I probably could have been at least decent at them.

Fortunately, much has changed since I stopped playing sports. Part of my initial infatuation with the speech team was the simple experience of not failing utterly in pursuits that took place outside school, and I’ve experienced state and national success.

The highlight, though, was receiving my speech team varsity letter. Shaking my hand and motioning to the fuzzy cardboard N, my coach said, “Look! You’re a jock.

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