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September Surrender: Day 2

What I’m Letting Go: Pointed Attitude

Fencing is a most prestigious sport. I wish I had more respect for it when I actually did it, because with the state that my knees are in, I may not be able to do it ever again. So when I think back to when I was actually capable, there’s many stand-out moments, and not for the right reasons. There were two times I was black-carded at events because of my anger and attitude. At a tournament in Denver, I was so angry after losing a DE (direct elimination) bout and so frustrated with how the director was calling the points, that I took my mask of and slammed it down on the ground. It rolled right up to the director’s feet, and I knew I was screwed. He pulled the black card out of his suit jacket and that was that. My mom wasn’t as mad at me as I thought she’d be, but we did go home feeling like it was a massive waste of time and money. The other time was during a college tournament where I was fencing so poorly I stepped outside and hurled my mask across the hallway and into the wall. Big no-no. I can’t even remember how I was disciplined by my coach, if I even was.

I think back on all that anger I had and how disrespectful it was of me to let it rule me. There was absolutely no reason for it. It did nothing for my reputation inside the fencing world and left a rather ugly stain on my reputation. It’s probably better I didn’t continue, lest I become persona non grata within the small community. I was a good fencer, but nowhere near the skill level I was acting like I had. I suppose letting go of this unwarranted arrogance can do me a world of good. Not saying it’s something that’s alltogether present in my current life, but the potential to be that person never really goes away. Anger builds up to the point where I want to throw something. My self-importance never came with the discipline I should have learned while fencing. I’ve got to make sure whatever point I want to make comes from a place of rationality. Too much hot-headedness is not the path to victory.

What I’ve Discovered: ‘Team’ing with Disappointment

I was a pretty good field hockey goalie back in my day. I only even became one because I hated running laps as a warmup. But it ended up being a good fit for me. I was thin and short, so I was quick and spry. And I had no fear. If that ball was coming toward me, I’d do everything I can to stop it, including using the full force of my body to block. I one time ended up breaking my wrist as I flew to the ground to stop a forward from advancing. But the whole aspect of being on a team never really sit well with me. I was too much of a loner to begin with, and I never really wanted to be a part of any of it. In high school, we had to partake in “Spirit Day” where we’d decorate each other’s lockers and all dress up the same. If there was any other place I could be that day, I would have been. But I played along, played dress up, and made my teammate’s locker look nice.

But this irritation I felt with having to play along really never left. I couldn’t get past it, no matter how hard I tried. There was one game we were playing against our rival which I was just so spot on my game. I was blocking everything coming my way, from penalty strokes to just plain old strikes on goal. At one point, I heard my team chanting my name from the sidelines. I felt their energy. I felt like we could win. We went into overtime and in the final minute of the game, a ball went past me. I kicked my leg out to perform a block, I can’t remember the proper name, but it just missed my foot. The other team cheered, and I stayed in that position, lowered my head, and cried. When I finally got off the field, my team was there to comfort me, but I remember telling them to just not talk to me. I took the massive bitch route once again instead of letting them be my teammates. I regret that.

A day later, the local paper reported on the game, and the other’s team’s goalie was on record praising my performance instead of talking about her own win. It was a humbling experience and I never properly apologized for it. So I guess this is the way to do it. It’s easy to forget what a benefit to one’s psyche team sports can be. You’re a unit, a family, people who can have your back not only on the field but off it too. I’m sorry I found that out so late. And I’m sorry I can’t do those sweet moves anymore either.

What I Hope to Find: Mom’s Full Court Press

My mom was always my biggest cheerleader in sports. She encouraged me in every single sport I played, and I participated in every one available to me. She’d drive me to camps, games, matches, all of it. And when it was time for game time, there’s she’d be on the sidelines cheering me on like there was no tomorrow. As a kid, having my mom there was even more special because she was a hit with my team and the parents. Everyone always loved having her around because she was so supportive of all our efforts. Definitely a team mom. It’s something I hope I can do for my little one should she want to play sports too.

There was one time I was in sixth grade and my basketball team played against another Catholic school at their home court. The game was fine as it was, but then strange things started happening toward the end. My team was noticing the other team simply wasn’t playing fair. One of my teammates got elbowed in the face, another in the chest, and the parents on the other side seemed to be encouraging it. I remember all the moms on my side starting to get involved, and when the final whistle blew, all hell broke loose. Kids were yelling at kids, parents at parents, all going back and forth about how unfairly the game was being played. I didn’t chime in, I was too scared. But there was my mom, standing up for us, calmly telling the mom of the girl with the nastiest attitude how she was coming off to anyone with a sense of decency and sportsmanship. By the time we all got home, my mom was the one most talked about. Mrs. A was everyone’s hero that day, even if she snuck in a low blow about that one mom’s nose job.

While the other team may have been on the hook for lack of sportsmanship, what I saw from my mom that day was something I’ve always had trouble doing. She saw something that wasn’t right, and spoke up about it. I can’t do that. I’m terrified of confrontation. It causes immeasurable anxiety to the point where I’d rather let it roll off my back and pretend it doesn’t bother me. I talk a big game on Twitter. It’s a different story offline. I hope I can discover the right time to fight the battle I know I need to, like how my mom stood up for her daughter and the team. I just don’t need to go looking for it. It’ll find me. With the way things are going right now across the country, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of instances where we’ll all have to blow the whistle and speak up. Here’s hoping.

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