Sunday, January 30, 2011
I love volleyball.
I have been playing for years. I remember learning to play in gym class in 7th grade. I remember playing on my church's youth team in high school. I remember signing up for a college class in volleyball and having everyone else drop, so it was just me and the coach. I remember playing on work leagues and with friends at the park. I remember the one year my departmental team finally won the company tournament at our annual picnic.
This is not to say I am particularly fantastic at volleyball. I have gotten better over the years. I am more enthusiastic than athletic.
I was happy to see signs up on campus for open volleyball in the sports forum every Sunday night until spring.
Now, I have never really been able to play volleyball without hurting myself. Every year I would tell myself that next year I was going to start working on my arm and shoulder muscles a couple months in advance. Or my legs. Or my endurance. Or my speed. The next year I would forget. Then January (indoor leagues) or April (sand leagues) would come and I would be fired up to play, I would show up, and I would be in pain within a few minutes.
I usually hurt my forearms or wrists from bumping the ball. Or my legs. Or my back. Or my knees. or I dive (sand courts only) and knock my breath out.
Now this time, I started running in September, so I am not in quite as bad shape as I usually am by January. I really thought that I would be able to play without hurting myself. Not to be.
I did warm up. I actually got dressed to go running today, but when I walked outside I thought, "Eh." Usually I go running anyway, but today I felt pretty good, and I had already done a 15 minute stretch workout at home too. So I went to school and sat down in the library to get some things done until volleyball time.
I arrived at the gym before they'd even set up the net. Only a few people were there and we started warming up by hitting the ball around.
You know what happens? Someone hits too hard, someone else has to take off after the ball. Do that about 15 times.
Then we started to play a game, but there were only 4 of us at the beginning, and 2 were very enthusiastic guys. That meant, more than volley-ing, we were running to go fetch the ball back.
However. My serve was good. It was not short at all, and that is generally my problem. I have good form, but not enough power in my shoulders, and I end up hitting the net. Or I hit the ball wrong and it splices.
Tonight, every single serve went over the net perfectly. Even when I had to serve numerous times in a row. I was really happy about that. I did not return every serve, especially the power serves (ack!), but I tried, and sometimes I succeeded. And I was really up to the level of where I'd normally be after several weeks of play, within about 30 minutes.
So that is how I judge myself. Can I return a serve? Can I set the ball? Can I hit it over the net when the ball is set to me? Is my serve good?
I did so well that I completely overdid it. I was sweating, I was running, I was bending and jumping and stretching. Within 40 minutes I was in so much back pain I could not even stand. I tried to keep playing, but I could not.
I hobbled to the side and did some stretches, then sat and cheered the players on. Slowly other people trickled in and the game picked up.
It would have been GREAT if I could have played the whole night without pain. I guess I am not in that great shape yet. But I still did better than if I had been sitting on the couch or at the computer nonstop since summer.
And my serve! Right over the net perfectly!
I keep thinking about how, every time I run, my arms and shoulders ache. I don;t know why, since I am not doing anything with them as far as I know. And wondering if somehow my arm and shoulder muscles are engaged when I run?
I dismissed this thought but tonight...My serve. Seriously. Right over the net, perfectly, every single time. That NEVER happens, and especially not the first time I play in a season. I think it has been at least 2 years since I last played.
The one area that was still the same is my difficulties with depth perception. I still have a problem, sometimes, judging where the ball will be and getting myself under it. I still sometimes miss even when I think I am in the right spot.
But in every other way, I was far ahead, tonight, of where I usually would be in January.
And the other thing I noticed is that my athletic clothes did not feel odd to me. Odd as in, so rarely worn I feel self conscious in them. Nope. I wear these togs all the time now.