Rediscovering the Sport of Youth

Rediscovering the Sport of Youth


I’m a kid.  I’m okay with that.  I recently came face to face with that reality after being confronted by my own mother as to why I continue to play organized sports in leagues. 


I like the competition and the camaraderie.  I like to play too, and if that makes me a kid then sign me up for another thirty-two years.  


There are some sports that I thought that I would be playing for the rest of my life but right now I’m rethinking them.  I’ve studied judo for the longest but honestly the prospect of teaching “youth” at one of the premier dojos in the country is a bit overwhelming.  Not to mention, one of my brown belt “students” thoroughly kicked my ass and it has me wondering if my rank was deserved.  (To his credit he is an all-American wrestler and slightly more than half my age with no vices.  I’m a hard-drinking, cussing and smoking has-been.)  Venice Judo is no joke, word to the wise judokas.


Basketball is the other sport that I thought that I could play forever.  The truth is that I probably could be playing more basketball right now if there were an air-conditioned, indoor league with regulation rims full of white guys that are recovering from past reconstructive knee injuries who love to pass to the wing from the post.  (I would be so awesome in that league!)  If there is a league, and I suspect there is, the guys in it are hoarding it all for themselves and definitely don’t want some DeMatha guy to be the fly in their ointment.  Pick-up games at Muscle Beach in Venice don’t have any defense so it’s pretty much useless for me to show up on Saturday mornings because that’s all I can do aside from shooting set-offense jumpers behind screens.


Instead, I’ve dusted off two sports that I have played virtually since my infancy.  Baseball and soccer are staples for the typical American toddler and I was no exception.  Now that I am in my mid thirties, the two sports help me stay grounded and also help me reconnect to that innocent time when I just played because sports were fun.  While it is true that I eventually did become proficient at both before I ditched them for sports that garnered more attention from females, I never worked nearly as hard as I did in other sports that I have played in my life.  Aside from me being the one responsible for paying the league and umpire fees, there is no difference between way back then and now when it comes to me playing those two youthful pastimes; soccer and baseball are pure fun.    


It’s definitely not cheap but it has been so worth it to look forward to a soccer game in the middle of the week and a baseball game on Saturday mornings.  Sports feed my imagination it seems and my mental health is much better with a physical distraction.  I get to take a much needed break from the monotony of the work week and remember the time when I was the second-leading goal scorer for the 10 and under champions, the Glen Cove Opticians.  (True, “Goosy” Gustafson bested me by two goals, but they were from my assists.)  From a health benefit perspective think of this fact: there are an additional guaranteed six hours of me not smoking copious amounts of medicine for my post-traumatic stress and being inactive while mastering video games on the PlayStation.  If you know me, then you understand how huge that last statement is.


Now I check league standings and old moves that I am pretty sure that I used to be able to do fairly well rather than “hold it down” at home.  Yeah my throws to second base from behind the plate don’t pop the shortstop’s glove anymore when old guys try and steal second on me.  (Is there a cure for dead-arm?)  No, I haven’t figured out how to make my step-over more convincing when I need to launch a through-ball to a striker headed past midfield in soccer.  (Anybody got Freddy Adu or Ronaldihno’s phone number?)  My skills have deteriorated but it doesn’t make playing soccer or baseball any less fun.  It was never about the skills to begin with.


The biggest difference between then and now is the recovery time.  I remember playing catcher in a baseball tournament in high school that was five games in three days and I still had energy to go to class.  I caught a double-header a while back and my thighs were so sore that all the Tiger Balm in the world couldn’t keep me from wincing when I went to work two days later.  In soccer I have to settle for playing half-speed for half of a match because smoking my post-traumatic stress medicine has robbed me of precious running endurance.  I’m still out there on the pitch and the diamond because it is fun for me to remember old coach’s advice and encouragements and actually getting some benefit to this very day.


Getting old sucks, especially when you’re not having any fun any you take yourself too seriously.  It’s real in the field but if you can rediscover the sport of youth it just might extend your time out there.  Here’s hoping that you have something to look forward to and that no matter what sport you play or how well you play it, you have a great time. 


Seriously, especially thirty-somethings, play ball.


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