This summer I started playing softball on a coed team for the first time in, um, about 15 years. I love softball, love team sports and have missed being on a team of any kind.
I know a lot about softball, having played the sport starting in grade school and continued to play through my 40s. It’s fair to say that I used to be pretty darn good.
Fortunate to be born with athletic genes, a love for competition, two parents who supported my endeavors, schools that provided team opportunities and work and county organizations that allowed me to continue involvement past college, I should have been good. For years I took great pleasure and some pride in my ability to join any team and be an asset.
Fifteen years later, I have a very different perspective. I used to be able to say I knew what I was doing. Now it’s more a case of I know what I want to do.
I know exactly where I should be to cut off a line drive, know exactly how fast I need to run to beat the throw to first. The problem is that the gap between knowing and doing has widened considerably between youth and (advanced) middle age. It’s actually kind of fascinating to discover that my mental reactions are as quick as they used to be.
The problem is that my physical self says, “Really? You think you can do that?!” If I’m going to make it to first, I have to hit much deeper than I used to.
During our second game, the team manager asked if I could play outfield. Good question. I used to be able to play pretty much any position with confidence. Now I’m thinking, “Hmmm. No one has hit me a fly ball in fifteen years, and we are playing under the lights … Sure, I can play right field.”
So I trotted out and prayed that no one would hit to right. God was on my side that evening, apparently. Infield positions are much safer for me, as they require less range of motion.
The thing is that playing softball with a good group of people on a summer’s evening is a joy in life that never changes: the donning of a team jersey, the chatter from the bench, the smack of a ball as it hits a mitt, the softening sky as the suns sets and the lights come on, the whole body feel associated with bat meeting ball squarely. It is a joy and a privilege to be an active part of it all again.
The growing older gracefully element is the challenge. I am determined not to be a detriment to the team, determined that I will sit without complaint if we need greater strength in the field, even as I will always be ready to play if given the opportunity.
The big difference is that I now take none of this for granted. And I like to think that I have contributed at least a little to the fact that we are tied for first place, four games into the season.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at www.laketahoeschool.org.