School is almost over. Zac is about to be in high school. Eek! Which reminds me…
Somehow, I got to thinking of the years I played volleyball in high school. Generally, it went like this: school was out. Yay! Summertime was basically your usual stint of hanging out at home in the country with cats and the family. Then, the last two weeks of August, we would get “invited” to pre-season. Invited! Like it was a party. A party of pain, more like. The glorious summer was officially over. RIP.
We showed up for an 8 a.m. practice, filled with anticipation. We met at the high school gym, dressed in shorts, t-shirts, kneepads at our ankles. We wore our running shoes and had our volleyball shoes – Mizunos, I think – knotted in our hands. For at least 3 hours, we jumped rope, lifted weights, ran the track, ran stairs, did line sprints, push ups, burpees, and suchlike. We were verbally
harassed encouraged to get our bleepity butts in gear. We got (some) water breaks. Lastly, we stretched after all that sweating. This was called “conditioning”. Then we went home and ate some food, if we weren’t nauseous. We showered. We crawled into bed.
After dinner, we came back! Huzzah! Inevitably, we ramped up to daily doubles because we were in such poor shape. It felt like a prison term. During this second session, we finally touched the ball. We practiced serving. We practiced setting, over the net and to each other. We practiced spiking. We did ball drills, otherwise known as “people spiking the ball in your face”. We blocked (ha!). We dove. We rolled. We strove to not let the ball hit the floor.
During all this time, we were watched. Our head coach, a native Hawaiian nicknamed Pineapple, assessed our ability. She had a couple of assistants who kept an eye out, too. They wanted to see if we had “hustle” and “drive”. They also wanted to see if we had acquired more height, something I never really attained.
We scrimmaged. We played 6-2 and 4-2. We played boo-boo ball, a version of 3 on 3. You would keep the ball moving, three hits per side. If someone messed up, they were out, and another player took their place. Immediately.
Somewhere in here, we felt we had aged about 30 years. We groaned at the thought of getting up and doing it again. We so wanted to make the team. We ached. We creaked. We applied Ben-Gay. We smelled atrocious but we were getting stronger. We were no longer teenagers; we were suddenly middle-aged. We did more circuits in the weight room. We ran a timed mile to qualify for varsity: under 8 minutes. We rubbed our tired legs and each others shoulders. We iced bruised arms and torsos. Through it all, our coach encouraged us and drove us on. Some girls dropped out, unable to keep up the pace or intensity. They couldn’t take the pain.
But those of us who did: we were Amazons.
To this day, the smell of the bleachers and a wooden gym floor takes me back there in a second. I never did make varsity and had to drop out of pre-season my senior year, but I wouldn’t trade that time working hard, learning to be a team player and taking the hits, for anything.
Thanks, Pineapple, wherever you are.