The unathletic athlete

I’ve always felt uncomfortable running and dribbling a ball at the same time. In soccer I can run, I can kick and I can aim but I can’t do them all together. After watching "Bend it Like Beckham," a movie about a young woman who plays soccer, I was inspired to get my ass off the couch and find my inner soccer genius. That was two years ago. The effects of inspiration wore off the next morning. The only reason I knew I could run and kick and aim is because I could kind of do it when I played dodge ball at age seven. But I wasn’t confident that I had retained much of that youthful skill. When the opportunity to play a soccer game recently arrived I was hesitant and a little scared. Team sports always make me nervous.

I think it’s the whole "team" thing. When one doesn’t have much confidence in ones sports skills it’s rather difficult to enter a team dynamic where, by entering a group, you make the promise to work with the group towards winning. It’s hard to want to win, or to know how to win, when you don’t know how to play the game. And I didn’t how to play the game.

Wednesday evening my sports editor, who plays soccer, took me out to the PSU football field to show me some basic soccer moves before the game. I learned how to hit the ball, how to run with the ball, how to stop the ball, and how to hit the ball with your head. Then it was time to go to the small gym to play soccer.

Thanks to Bryan Ryberg, director if intramural soccer, I was heading towards a rather informal gathering of male soccer players, as well as some girls varsity team members. While waiting for more people to arrive I faced the wall and repeatedly kicked the soccer ball to it. I felt awkward and weak as the other people kicking the ball towards the wall were able to kick it from further away and with much greater force then I could.


And then it was time. We separated into teams and the game began.

In order to explain my severe lack of skill I told my team members I had never played soccer before. But to my surprise they passed me the soccer ball anyways. I made no excellent passes when I did have the ball. Instead I would be surprised every time, look at the ball, look around, swear to myself and kick it away so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. I tried not to make eye contact with my team members so they wouldn’t pass me the ball. Some did regardless. But not being very good with the ball didn’t stop me from trying to take it away from my opponents. I find I enjoyed getting in people’s way, and any excuse to push and shove and swear and not get in trouble for it is always enjoyable. I began to get an adrenaline rush, something which is very useful when you’re looking for something called "team spirit," something that’s helpful in making you want to win.

Contact intramural sports

PSU’s intramural teams include two soccer leagues, dodge ball, volleyball, basketball, and flag football. They play year round. A $5 payment is required to play for the whole term.

For more information on participating, email [email protected].

I was beginning to understand why some people enjoy team sports. My team members were supportive; I even got an apology from an opponent. Sure I felt a little awkward and out of place but no one else did, and little by little I found myself not caring. And, to my surprise, little by little I found myself liking a team sport.