Off Season Demons

Today is the day. I have spent the whole Off Season lifting weights, eating well, and avoiding alcohol. All for this marvelous day. The beginning of Pre Season training. You see, this year is going to be a big year for me. This was to be the year that I transcend the shackles of my team and get invited to play with the big boys. I have long outstayed my welcome in this oppressive cocoon, wings impatiently pressing against the walls in desperate need of escape. Ready to stretch as wide as they can, coming face to face with their full potential. I am as ready as Icarus once was. Ready to defy gravity and charge headfirst at the all-seeing eye of heaven, and claim my place among her regal throne. None shall stand in my way this year; I will be noticed. For I have placed all my divine energy in this athletic pursuit. I drive to the club field, clad completely in the club’s previous year kit. The brave stalwart of my club that I am. As I pull up, I hear the beautiful sound of gilberts being launched at the posts. I hear the cyclical song of banterers shouts with laughter closely following. I can smell the freshly mown grass, making sure I enjoy this fragrance to its fullest before I embark on my season long struggle with the subsequent rash. I can feel the warm sun on the back of my neck, quietly negotiating terms with my generously lathered SPF 50. Finally, the piercing sound of the coach’s whistle. The one instrument only to be used by those who demand the respect and attention of the team. Designed to span the length of 3 fields and cut through the UE speakers delivering the Polynesian classics.

As I walk to the field, I repeat my Off-Season affirmations to myself. “This is my year; this is my year.” I look for the coach, it’s not long before I find him talking to the 1st grade captain. This is my shot, both men that I need to influence. My shoulders and biceps are bulging from the pump supplement I consumed before heading in. Legs engorged with blood from the little workout I completed that morning. I looked the part of a semi professional player. I’m 10 meters away from the pair, confidence is peaking as I remember to pump my chest out. 5 meters away, I can hear that they are talking about personnel, and some of the new players starting at the club. “They aren’t talking about you.” Oh no. There it is again. I haven’t heard from you for 3 months. The mental walls built from hard work, dedication, and the relentless repetition of my affirmations were knocked down in less than a second. Doubt had returned as easily as a traveler returning home from a long trip. Kicked the door open, grabbed a beer, and made a B-line for the porcelain throne to do the biggest welcome home shit imaginable. The blood drained from my muscles, closely followed by the deflation of my chest. He was right, there was no mention of me in their plans. 2 meters away and I am a shell of a man that I once was. Painfully aware that the sunblock has found itself in a ‘lose-win’ scenario with the sun, as I feel the burning process begin. Ankles already flaring up from the gentle engagement with the freshly mown grass. “I knew you were being arrogant wearing ankle socks.” There he is again, doubt frying me with 2 zingers in the space of 3 meters.

I arrive at my destination. The pair don’t move or break conversation. I go to speak. “Hey guys, I’m here for…” I stop myself. For whatever reason in that second, my body decided to return to the not so glory days of high school. My testis popped, and they popped hard. “don’t worry, you’re so insignificant they didn’t even hear you” that’s number 3. As I sum up the courage for take 2, one of the 2nd grade boys jog up and engage instantly with the pair. Handshakes and jokes are shared seamlessly, not a single hint of pubescent behavior anywhere. That’s ok, I’ll just wait for this conversation to be over, and I’ll have my turn. Hands firmly sheathed in my pockets; I wait anxiously for my turn. I think of the hundreds of hours training I completed over the past months. The ‘how to’ YouTube videos that I’ve attentively studied. The mental gymnastics I’ve applied to wash out all remnants of my lifelong enemy, Doubt. “Oi! I was wondering when you were turning up” I hear from behind me. I slowly turn, head towards the ground, knowing full well that it was all for naught. “Come on mate, we’ve got reps to get stuck into”. There they were. My team. Sitting in all their misplaced glory in the stands. Not one of them without at least 1 beer in their firm grasp. Most of them already in a state rendering them incapable of training to any capacity today. “I hope you’re as excited as we are for this season matey” My coach exclaimed. “I feel like this is our year, our year to finally spread our wings. All the boys are as piss fit as they have ever been. I know we can beat those Wests dogs in the boat race this year.” Then it dawned on me, my dream of playing with the big boys was far from being realized. I was to ply my trade in 5th grade once again, until being selected to play for the coveted 4th grade.  

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