Friday, August 9, 2013

Level-ups, Serenity, Separated Ribs, and the Beautiful Game

I had a Moment on Saturday morning.

We had just arrived at the field to warm up for our first game of the two day soccer tournament, and I was tired, distracted, and above all, anxious and shivering with pre-game jitters. I put on my cleats, exchanged hugs and greetings with people I hadn't seen in a year, and then I began my very first run across the warm-up field: a slow, clean, even jog. As I reached the end line, I turned to run back the way I'd come and saw my own foot prints, two dotted lines incising a perfect dew-covered field.
And I realized that every year it starts this way: a clean unbroken slate of a weekend in which anything can happen, and those first footsteps, that first run across the grass, is the beginning of the dictation of wins, losses, triumphs, and amazing plays that make the tournament what it is. At that moment, I could see the entire weekend in front of me, and I was ready to play.

Brothers (and Other Family Members) In Arms
This soccer tournament we go to has several divisions of competitive men's and women's teams (including an over 50 men's division, and let me tell you, those guys are goddamn terrifying). We, however, play in the co-ed open recreational division which is, by far, the lowest of the low. Our team includes my Mom and Dad, both over 60, my aunt, two of my cousins, and my brother, and an assortment of old friends and friends of friends and friends who have become more like family and almost everyone is over 30 and some are over 40. If we can't destroy our opponents with goals, goddamn it we can definitely destroy them in terms of average player age and percentage of players related by blood, marriage, or long term friendship.

And that's why it's ok for someone to throw a ball at us while we're posing for a picture.
But age means nothing to these people, and family means everything. We came out onto the field with set jaws and steely eyes, and we played with everything we had in us, running harder than we thought we could, making impossible passes, and even just barely saving a ball as it slid over the goal-line. (That last one was my aunt, if you're wondering. She made an impossible save and then cackled like the pirate she truly is. She is in the photo above holding the yellow jersey. Just in case you need a visual reference for a straight badass.)

War Wounds
Anyway, so for me personally it was kind of a tough tournament. Still one of my favorite weekends of the year. But tough. This is mostly on account of a hit I took in the first half of our first game. A guy on the other team and I were both running head-on for the same ball. He outweighed me by, I dunno, let's say 50lbs. That's a low estimate, but we'll go with it. Now, this is very important: I got to the ball first. Nothing else in this story really matters as much as that. I ran hard, and I totally beat him to the ball, and I kicked it out of bounds, and I saved my team from certain doom, and I was a total fucking hero. BUT THEN there was still the fact that we were running directly at each other. And I had stopped. And he had not. One of my teammates, who was standing nearby, told me he heard me gasp as I realized I was about to get hit. People on the sidelines on the other side of the field told me they heard me AFTER I got hit, and I got ALL the  wind knocked out of my lungs. I flew backwards in the air after the impact and somehow landed on my right side with my elbow beneath me. And there I stayed. Around me I could hear people saying, "Is she ok? Is she all right? Kate?" And also "YELLOW CARD! GIVE HIM A YELLOW!" I meanwhile lay on the ground wondering, "Why can't I get up? Why am I making these sounds?" Because I was, in fact, groaning loudly in pain. For a moment I thought I had broken all my ribs, but when I rolled over (or someone rolled me over) I realized I had just had the wind knocked out of me.
It took a few minutes for me to get up, but I did, and several medical professionals confirmed that I did not, in fact, have a punctured lung. Hooray! I was in some pain, but not too much, and I could run. The one problem was that I could not take in a full breath of air, so every time I tried to fill my lungs my chest hurt as if there was a rock crushing it down. It turns out that one rib is separated, which isn't too serious, but it made running more difficult for the rest of the day. That didn't stop me from playing in our second game though. And playing most of the game the next day.

You've Earned a New Skill!
If you're anything like me, when you play Skyrim (and I assume you play Skyrim) you will, on occasion, hit the back button in the middle of battle (possibly with a sliver of health left and an enemy sword swinging right for your soft, squishy head) and suddenly level up your character, gaining a new skill right there, right then, right when all hope seems to be lost and you have nothing else to give.
I did that. In the game on Sunday. I mean, there weren't any swords or anything (sadly), but someone on the other team had the ball and was running as fast as he could towards the goal, and he was much faster than me, and it was my fault that he had beat me, and if he scored I would never forgive myself. Desperate to reach him, I opened my chest and tightened my core muscles and suddenly put on a burst of speed I literally had no idea I had within me. Never, in my life, had I ever run this way before. It was a new skill, a new way of moving that allowed me to go faster and see more of the field and use less oxygen so that I could recover more quickly. I fucking leveled up and gained a new skill on my soccer tree in the middle of a goddamned game. And I caught that dude. And he didn't score. And for the rest of the game, every time he came down the line, I used the same skill and I ran him down like a dog.

When I started this blog, I decided to call it Skill Seeker for two reasons: 1. Level-up Live was already taken. (THANKS DOUCHE BAG!) 2. I really believe that you can measure skills and development and acquisition of skills in real life the same way you do in a video game. When you practice something over and over and over again you will get better. Usually you're just a little better over time, but every so often you get this "Aha moment," this realization that if you just change things a little bit you can do something you were never able to do before. And you level up.

The tournament was, as always, an amazing event. I got a cool injury, I got to see people I never get see, I got to play soccer with my family, I got to clear my head, and I learned to do something I've never been able to do before. It will be a year before I go back, sadly, I can't wait to do it all again.

(maybe without the broken rib)


No comments:

Post a Comment