"Uhh..volleyball? I don't know...I'm.."
"We could use you. You're tall. Come on. It'll be fun."
I decided against playing and then spent the next hour and a half watching, wishing I had said yes. I wanted to play but feared the outcome. I hadn't played volleyball, beach volleyball, in a long time. I wondered if my spine, knees, ankles could hold up to the pounding. Things like, "What if I fall? What if I twist the wrong way? Maybe my spine will break again? Maybe my knees will swell? Maybe...what if..." and on and on swung through my mind like monkeys through the jungle. I didn't want to spend the remaining time I had in Cozumel with a cranky back and a pair of whining knees. I had worked too long, too hard, and given up too much to let it all slide away over a volleyball game.
So, I played the next day.
I was lounging under a palapa and another person asked me to play. I looked at the net, then my wife. I had an odd combination of feelings like looking over the edge of a cliff into the deep ocean below and wanting to jump but wondering if the water was deep enough. She said, "You should try it. You might like it." Ellen is usually right - about a lot of things.
I told my sister-in-law that I hadn't played in about ten years. A not so subtle way of saying, "Don't expect much. I'm not very good." My team mates all wanted me on the front line. So, there I was front and center playing beach volleyball in Cozumel, Mexico.
The first few volleys were harmless. The ball sailed way over my head into the second and third rows but then the ball came up in my territory. It was slightly out of reach but I jumped up, reached with my right hand and tapped it into the second row of the other team. The ball came back quickly. I wasn't set but somehow, and I have no clue where this motor pattern is in my head, I jumped up, turned from the left to the right in the air, extended my left arm up and smashed the ball down to the sand with my left hand. My team mates yelled and clapped. I checked to make sure everything was still working. I looked up sort of stunned and shook my head. "Oh, I haven't played in ten years! I'm not really very good!" shouted my sister-in-law with plenty of good natured sarcasm. A lot of people laughed.
I played two games that day and three the next. No problems emerged other than calf and foot muscles complaining about working too hard in the sand. No back pain. No swelling of the knees. Zip.
Fear is an equal opportunity employer. It doesn't care how much you know, how much money you make, how skilled you might be. I was limiting myself because I was afraid of what might happen. I allowed the past to dictate my future. The facts, had I taken the time to list them, were overwhelmingly in my favor of a positive outcome in volleyball. They were:
- I could squat on one leg with my bodyweight plus 20 lbs with good form and no symptoms.
- I could run for 600 yard intervals and up to 10 intervals at a time.
- I could lift 50 lbs. repeatedly without symptoms.
- I could exercise 6 days a week including cardiovascular training and weight training consistently without symptoms and had for over one year.
Ok, so, the bottom line is this; being afraid of something when you are unprepared or incapable is one thing. If your knee hurts walking around the neighborhood or your back hurts when you are reading a book, yes, I would agree that you should wait on beach volleyball. But when you're afraid because of what has happened before and that it might happen again even though you are capable and you know you are, you're just missing out on your life.
I want to be a player in my life not a spectator of my life. How about you?