Coping with mediocrity as age increases
Off the Rim column
After turning the big 28 a few weeks ago, I came to a realization that I’m past the prime of my athletic career.
It’s true that I’ve probably been past my prime for a few years now, but as I edge closer to (cough, cough) 30, I realize that it’s true. I enjoyed a nice running career at Baldwin High School and Baker University, but those days of running fast are history.
Sure, I could train for months and maybe get close to the times I was running 10 years ago. Wow! I’ve been out of high school 10 years. What happened to those years?
Anyway, my time to shine the brightest has come and gone. That doesn’t mean I can’t shine at something. It just means, I won’t be as good as I could have been years ago.
Only one problem — I am or can be decent or good at many things, especially in the world of sports, but I have never been or will be great at any one thing.
Yup, it’s true. I came to this realization during the past year. I’ve kind of had an inkling it was true, but it’s hard to accept, because we all want to be great at something.
So you’re wondering how I came to this belief, aren’t you? I’ll tell you. Nearly two years ago, I played tennis for the first time in my life. I played against a friend who played in high school a few years prior. She and I played a set and, of course, she won, but I held my own for my debut.
She even praised me after the match for playing really well. Of course, I didn’t know proper technique or much at all, but I knew the rules. I used my athletic ability to run around the court trying to keep the ball in play.
It was then that I realized I could be decent at tennis if I played. It would take a while to fine-tune my skills, but I was able to pick it up quickly. So, last summer I continued playing with my sisters, who were also learning the sport, and we went from looking like complete fools to people who could play and compete.
This was also the time in my life that I picked up the sport of ultimate Frisbee. I had played it before recreationally, but that was years before the fall of 2008. I started playing with Baker students during their club pick-up games. I like to think I made a quick name for myself that fall, because I was invited to play in a tournament in Missouri in April 2009.
Throwing a Frisbee was something I had done since I was a child. I was always amazed at how well my dad could throw it and maybe that’s where I get some of my Frisbee ability. Combine the ability to throw a Frisbee well with my running background and you’ve got an ultimate Frisbee player.
I’ve taken my mediocre Frisbee skills to the next level this summer. I’m playing in the Lawrence Summer League once a week. I was randomly placed on a team and I’ve enjoyed the experience since it began a month ago.
Our team is 3-1 after our win this week. I’m an unknown commodity on the team since many of the players in the league know each other. I have to admit that I am older than at least 90 percent of the players, but I’m competing with the best of them.
This is where my “good, but not great” philosophy comes in, too. I’m not tall enough and I can’t perform different throws well enough to be an elite player, but I am good enough to make a team better with my endurance and running skills. Also, I love to compete and I hate to lose, maybe too much at times.
Some of you might have read this far and still believe I’m crazy because I had a successful running career at BHS or Baker. I did leave BHS with the 10th best time on the cross country list — I’ve since been passed by nearly a dozen runners — but I never medaled at the state meet. My highest place was 23rd during my senior year.
I also never qualified for the state track meet. I came within a place or two in the 3,200-meter run, but never made it. I had a good career, but nothing to celebrate.
The list of sports or activities I’ve tried and been able to play right away or be decent at could continue. I’m not sad about being mediocre at many things, because I’m versatile in what I can do. For now, ultimate Frisbee is my next path to wind down.
I do believe all of us are destined to be great at something, but I haven’t found my talent yet. Any ideas?