Thursday, August 18, 2016

Contract sports

Last name redacted; nobody LinkedIN me

My mom emailed me this bizarre typed “contract” I signed in high school that she found buried in a file cabinet, in which I agreed to be in bed by 10 p.m. every night or else I couldn’t go to the next morning’s 5 a.m. swim practice.

My parents were constantly making me and my twin sister Joy sign “contracts” all throughout childhood about all kinds of things—about being home for dinner at 7 p.m., about drinking milk, not smoking, doing chores.

One time we had to sign a contract that Joy and I wouldn’t laugh at the dinner table because it was “disruptive” and no one could hear how our brother Franklin’s day was.


F.Y.I. Franklin never had to sign any contracts.



After I was done scratching my head about why my parents still have this piece of paper, it got me thinking about sacrificing things for sports.

It’s good timing, because I’ve been obsessively watching the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Since I grew up in New Orleans, many of the high school sports I played were “Summer Olympics” sports: Swimming, track and field, soccer. Even gymnastics, from elementary school through high school.

I was never good enough at any sport to play at a high competitive level (outside the Catholic all-girls high school competitive level, in which I RULED), but I still gave every sport all I had, 100 percent.

And I still remember the feeling of competition like it wasn’t 15 years ago (UGGGHHH).

The starting line of an early morning cross-country race, on the starting block at a Saturday morning swim meet, a 3 p.m. track meet after school, green aluminum relay baton in hand, already gathering sweat from my palm before I even start.

Maybe that’s why I’m so hooked on watching the Olympics. I think I’m in it for the start of the race.

Remembering the jittery stomach flips as I waited painfully for the 400 meter starting gun to go off, knowing that any second my relaxed state of being was going to fall to heavy breathing, fatigued legs, LOWERING MY SHOULDERS AWAY FROM MY DAMN EARS, COACH, darting eyeballs to my peripheral vision to see if any runners were coming up on either side.

Controlled stress building up in my chest as I concentrated on nothing but the starting gun and the patch of red rubber track five feet in front of me.

And let's not forget the icy cold pool water hitting my face and I dove in at the start of a race, enveloping me like a body bag.

Concentrating on the black lines painted on the bottom of the pool, fuzzy through my goggles, as I got closer and closer towards the end of the lane designated by a “T” horizontal line. Watching the top of the T get closer and closer.

There was a time in high school where I went to swim practice every morning at 5 a.m., went to school and then went to track practice after school. And I loved it.

Maybe that’s why I’ve played so much kickball in my adult life; I've been trying to re-create the feeling of success in an athletic event.

The feeling of catching a fly ball. Sticking a landing. Reaching the wall of the pool first. It’s immensely satisfying. 

It can not be duplicated, except with more athletic endeavors.

Even watching Olympics commercials about “early morning practices” “late nights on the field” and “unwavering commitment” makes me tear up.

Hearing what the athletes give up, what they sacrifice to be at the Olympic Games.

(Hint: It’s way worse than being forced to go to bed every night at 10 p.m. when you’re almost 18 years old.)

If you’re like me and can’t fast-forward Olympics commercials because you’re cheap and have an antenna, you’ve probably seen or heard the commercial where athletes say thank you to their parents.

Images of athletes being dropped off at practice by their parents (in a Toyota), picked up from practice by their parents (in a Toyota), waving to mom on the rain-soaked bleachers from the field.

They strangely don’t include the situation where the athlete is old enough to drive herself, but still needs her mom’s good sense to convey the importance of taking your sport seriously enough to get at least seven hours of sleep.

Or the sense of commitment that once you sign up for something, or, in our case, sign your name on the dotted line for something, you better take pride in it.  

So thanks mom.

(Uh you can throw that contract away now.)


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