A couple of years ago, a friend and her children were skimming the interwebz and they (the kids) decided that they’re going to find a project for their mom. I have no idea which words they used for their googlefu search but what they came up with was to have her enter a Physique contest. So she happily posted that this will be her next project. Where does she start?
My reply: you go back 30 years and join Little League; youth soccer; youth basketball; youth wrestling; youth LAX; youth swimming (she did that one actually), and anything else you can get your hands on. You learn at 10 years old (or hopefully younger) that this stuff (anything sports related) is actually a little bit of work and you sign on for the whole package. Not just the games, but the practices. All of them. Rain or shine, showing up when you’re not “feeling it” (what a fuckall term that is for someone to use when doing anything. Sorry, I can’t parent today, I’m not feeling it. Uhhhh, but you have kids? Nope, not feeling it. No, not an option in life. Sorry not sorry), having teammates depend on you and learning that failure is part of life. Failing is okay. Giving up isn’t.
Like a broken fuckin’ record.
However, one of the most important lessons of youth sports (you can include other activities in this too. Music/art/dance, anything you have to stand alone without Mommy’s permanent umbilical cord for at least a few minutes) is that in most cases-this shit is hard! It’s hard to hit a fastball, even being thrown by a 12 year old. It’s hard to show up at AAU swim meets every weekend for 45 weeks in a row and beat the same girl who’s been after your ass since the 5th grade. It’s hard to get on your toes and bouree your big butt across the dance studio-even if you’ve been dancing since you could walk. What’s a bouree? Glad you asked:
After two years of working the bouree, my dance instructor finally said, “You may be ready to do this in public.” But honestly? Not really. My “speed” on the softball field didn’t really carry over to dance and I had to accept the fact that in order for me to eat food each day, I had to say goodbye to the Ballet dreams. Why?
Because I knew that shit was hard. And I had already been at it for 12 years. I still have my one pair of toe shoes. They represent a dainty, wispy Jules that never really existed but geez I tried. They are beautiful in how beat up they are but they are still shiny enough for an experienced dancer to see that I never went far with them. That’s okay.
See, at some point, I guess if you do it long enough you start to understand and RESPECT that many endeavors are difficult. So if you see a picture of a bodybuilder or fitness competitor on line, you don’t get to say, ‘well, I’ve never even had a barbell in my hands before but I could totally do that.’ Yes, you maybe could. Maybe. But the work and diet involved is one of the hardest things out there. So get to the gym, find a bodybuilder trainer and see how you do the next 12 weeks. If you make it through that, than sure, maybe. But you don’t get to just see something on the interwebz and say, “well hell, that looks cool. I’m doing it.”
It would not occur to me to hit up a fencing competition and say, “Wow, that looks like fun. I want to compete in that but I don’t want to be competitive. I just want to have fun.” And then when you go to Bob’s Fencing School and they say, “cool, start now and you’ll be ready to compete by next Spring or Fall” you get butthurt because you’re ready to compete NOW. Remember, I don’t want to be competitive, I just want to do it. This, my friends, is the first generation of T-ballers who don’t understand that that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works!
Which brings us to today. I’ve had more inquiries this summer than ever before from folks who want to get into the Highland Games. And by, “get into” I mean they want to participate but don’t want to be competitive. And aren’t you all impressed that I don’t respond (usually, unless pushed hard enough) with a, ‘ahhhhh, that’s okay. You won’t be competitive.’ Especially the ladies. I am so proud of the group of Midwest Women throwers and there are more and more added each year. Katie Crowley, Elissa Hapner (current World Champion), Victoria Bunchek, Sara Hilgers, Jessica Hare and those are just names off the top of my head of girls who will toss bombs all day. These girls will ensure that when you show up and compete in an Open class, you are guaranteed to not hit the podium (in general. Visiting dignitaries aside, shit’s hard in corn/cow country.) So if you’re a brand new thrower who’s been training for 5 months and just PR’d your deadlift at 95# with no athletic experience, I will promise you, you will not be competitive. Problem solved!
But then people get their feelings hurt. Another plus of Little League, no one cares about your feelings. They care about following a pop fly with your eyes. I literally had one woman declare that she only wants to throw the hammer and caber at the Highland Games so I don’t need to teach her anything else. I said, the first thing I’ll teach her is that you compete in the events presented that day. Picking and choosing isn’t an option. No, she said, that’s okay-she’ll just pass on the others. No, I said, that’s not how it works. But I’m not understanding that she doesn’t want to be competitive, she just wants to fulfill her lifelong dream of participating in a Highland Games in the Hammer and Caber. No, again, what YOU’RE not understanding is that in this sport, that’s not how it works. Next time you choose a lifelong dream, work towards achieving it. Not having someone hand it to you on your terms. Mother. Fuck. I.just.can’t. I lost a potential client that day. Oh well.
So in conclusion, people, Look! (shit get’s serious when you say, “Look!”) Should you choose to “DO” a new sport, please be respectful of the work it takes to “DO” so. You may pick it up immediately, there’s always some of those each season. Former throwers/Pro Football Players/athletes “DO” so. The rest of us? We have to work. We have to practice. We have to prepare for the task at hand. We “DO” a Games and say, ‘oh shit, this is hard. I need to get stronger and practice the throws if I want to become proficient at it.’ And we need to do even more if we want to become competitive at it. And what that means, is that we respect those who do work hard and share their knowledge. If they’re willing to coach you at a small fee, you pay it because you’ve chosen a sport you know nothing about. You don’t try to piggy back on their training sessions. See, THEY have accepted the hard work it takes and know that having a noob interrupting their training session the entire time means they don’t get better. And in most cases, this wouldn’t be allowed on a regular basis.
And, to pound the final nail in the butthurt coffin today, should you choose to “DO” a strength sport-you need to get strong. If anyone has seen my beloved husband throw, you’ll understand what that means. Watching him move through the trig on those heavy weight throws is like watching him snatch, it burns my eyes and I try not to look. But he’ll throw the 56# over 38′ because he’s what?
Strong. In a strength sport. Huh.
Effort without talent is a depressing situation…but talent without effort is a tragedy.