Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Have I mentioned that I enjoy being good at things?

The human brain has some impressive mechanisms for revising unpleasant memories. That’s how I manage to try V-8 again every couple of years.

This same phenomenon also dulled my recollections of middle and high school P.E. enough for me to take a volleyball class one semester in college.

The early days of class, however, showed several areas in which both my memory and my technique could use improvement.

After a few sessions on basic skills, the instructor broke us into teams for in-class tournaments. He asked us for team names to fill out his roster, and my group quickly ceded our naming rights to the one member who seemed excited about it.

We changed teams every couple of weeks after that, but for some reason the coach stopped asking us to make up our own names.

As the course progressed, our positive, encouraging instructor did everything he could to help us all improve our individual skill levels. It wasn’t his fault that my existing level was in the negative numbers. He also had the perfect attitude for an intro-level course, which he shared with us at least once a week.

(I don’t think I’m the only one who heard the subtext to his start-of-class pep talks, though.)

The semester went on with very little change, save for rising frustration levels on all sides. In between missing the ball, ducking the ball, and miscommunicating with my more skilled teammates, I started feeling compelled to defend my personal worth. I wanted to stop the game and declare, “There are things I’m good at, I promise!”

By the end of the term, though, thanks to the coach’s superhuman patience, I had transformed into a person whose overhand serves cleared the net at least 15% of the time. I may even have discovered one of those non-athletic lessons that ragtag kids learn in sports movies: I’m trying to hold on to that feeling of utter and ridiculous volleyball helplessness to reflect on in moments when it’s my turn to be shocked by someone else’s colossal incompetence.

Of course, that kind of thinking can lead perilously down the slippery slope toward self-betterment. Thank goodness I’ve developed a workaround.