Friday, November 22, 2013

Be Aggressive

Be aggressive! Be-e aggressive! B-E-AGG-RESSIVE! Every cheerleader knows the cheer. Nearly every athlete who has played a team sport has heard it.

From the time I could hold a ball, my parents taught me about sports. Football, basketball, softball... All of the team sports shared equal time in our backyard. My dad played high school football and my mom played high school basketball. Dad also played and coached softball into his 30s. They attended St. Louis Cardinal baseball games regularly and held season tickets for the St. Louis Hawks, Blues and Cardinals football team. So I didn't stand much of a chance if I didn't embrace the love of sports.

Thankfully, finding the love of the game was not a stretch for me. A strong, broad-shouldered, tall girl, I enjoyed every aspect of sport: the physicality, the teamwork, the winning. Blessed with incredible coaches and talented teammates over the course of an athletic career that started at the age of 8 and ended in college at 22, sports enriched my life.

In many ways, sports prepared me for life too. The comradery and the teamwork emblazoned on my brain, I always strived to create a team environment in my work situations. Playing sports with and against diverse groups of people and dealing with various personalities taught me that no matter how different you are, you can usually find some sort of common ground, even if it's just basketball. Sports taught me to work hard and to work hard to win. 

What the game did not teach me was that someday the aggressiveness with which I went after life is not something girls are supposed to do. And that someday, I'd be working with the cheerleaders, not just the athletes. And I'd be engaging in every day life with people who have neither an appreciation nor an understanding of the game. My parents and coaches could not have predicted that someday kids would play sports just to play, not to win. And someday winning wouldn't mean as much as just finishing.

Now in my 40s, crippled by degenerative joint disease and knees with little or no cartilage, my playing days are over but my love for the game is not. A fiery passion for sport still fills my spirit when I coach or teach or watch others play. I love what sports taught me and I love the person I am because of the game. Even if others see my aggressive determination and my desire to win as something negative or something unbecoming of a lady... I wouldn't trade learning how to lose gracefully and how to win graciously or developing life-long relationships or traveling the world with my Nikes in tow for anything. 
This is who I am. Perhaps, even, who I was born to be. 

Aggressive. Be-e aggressive.

1 comment:

Jennine Stalder said...

I'm sorry to hear about you not being able to do anymore what you love to do. Life can be unfair sometimes. I agree about some individuals or teams lacking the aggressiveness and the passion to win and tend to just go with the flow every game. It robs the game of the excitement. Sometimes the lack of aggressiveness is inherent to the players, and sometimes it's because they believe that being aggressive rubs others the wrong way, so they tend to dial down their passion. It's a sad thing.

Jennine Stalder @