As those of you who have read my blog from the beginning know, I recently (four months ago) became engaged in the world of soccer. I’ve only been playing indoor – until this weekend. This weekend, on the encouragement of my new, and already dear, friend Tim, I agreed to register for an annual soccer tournament run by a men’s team from Boston. Players of either gender and any skill level were invited to participate. Knowing I wanted to try my hand (or should I say ‘foot’) at outdoor soccer, Tim thought this would be a perfect way to test the waters.
Naturally, I was a bit hesitant at first, but the thought of spending the weekend with good friends in beautiful Provincetown, MA, was incentive enough for me to give it a go. When I arrived at the field on Sunday morning, I was quite intimidated to see 40 or so athletic, strong, men and just a sprinkling of women warming up. These guys sure look like they knew what they were doing. I feel my heart start to race; my fear quickly shooting from my toes right to my head. An inner tremble quickly revs up to more of a full-blown shake. What was I thinking coming here? Who do I think I am to play with athletes of this caliber? Just breathe, I think. Maybe when they divide up the teams, one of the people I am here with will be on mine. That will sure make me feel better.
Despite my fear and extreme trepidation, I continue to get suited up. I make myself go through the motions and ignore my desire to run faster than I ever have – right back to the car. I’ll just put on these shin guards and socks. That is my next immediate goal. Now, I’ll put on my new, snazzy, blue cleats. That’s all I need to worry about right now. Just one cleat at a time.
Then they start to call out the teams. Here we go, I think. There are seven teams and I am here with five other people – there’s a decent chance I could be with someone I know. But no. When the Universe throws me a challenge, it goes all out. The teams are divided, and it is me and six of those strong, super athletes I was intimidated by upon arrival. Oh, I’m outta here…
For the first hour or more, I am pretty much on the verge of tears. My wife, Melissa, comes over to me before the first game. “How you doing?” she asks. “Scared shitless,” I reply, as my eyes fill up with tears. Because she knows how safe I feel being vulnerable around her, she knows to drop the subject there, lest I start bawling like a baby and really embarrass myself. I sit on the bleachers and take some deep breaths. My friend, Marylou, comes over. “I can see it in your face,” she says. “Don’t psyche yourself out. You can do this. You want to do this. You can do this.” I hear her encouraging words, and I know she is right. Especially after seeing her step way out of her comfort zone the previous night by getting up on stage at a local club to sing “Me & Bobby McGee” during Karaoke. She was terrified, but she did it. In my mind, I picture her up on that stage, nervous and shaky, but committed to finishing the entire song. Her bravery inspires me to get out on that field despite my fears.
And Tim, always knowing what to say to someone trying something new, says little. “How ya doin’, Ker?” “I’m ok – intimidated and nervous, but ok.” “You’ll do fine,” he says. “Just have fun.” And that’s just the kind of encouragement I needed. Any more would allow me to analyze, dissect, and ultimately, give myself permission to quit.
Well, I did it. I played all day from 10 AM until 3 PM. Game after game after game. I didn’t do well at all, but I did it. And really, that’s what matters. Like Marylou singing Joplin despite her fear, I played soccer.
And despite my uncertainty and intimidation which lasted all day, I’m looking forward to joining an outdoor team and playing in my first “official” game on Sunday. So, thank you Tim, for the invitation, the encouragement, and the wisdom. I would have never stepped that far out of my comfort zone if it hadn’t been for you. You are truly a gem of a human being. And thanks to you, Lou, for being a shining example of courage. And to Carleen, for feeling almost as scared as I did and doing it anyway. Your courage is also contagious. And to my dear friend, DeMo (aka Chris), thanks for your gentle encouragement while warming up with me and guiding me during our game. And of course, to Melissa, thank you for always taking such good care of me even when I am not scared, but especially for always being my soft place to fall when I feel vulnerable.
Photo, from left to right: Me, Melissa, Tim, Marylou, DeMo, and Carleen