Tangled Up in Blue: Love & Volleyball

My boyfriend won’t let me be on his volleyball team.

Last summer, before we were dating and when female participation in the Seward softball league was lagging, I got a message from an almost stranger asking if I would fill in on his softball team.

I showed up and played pretty well in a few games, so I kept the team shirt with the caveat that I would be on the roster the following summer.

The winter months passed. The almost stranger and I got to know each other better and when softball season came back around the bases, there wasn’t a question of if I would hold up my end of the bargain.

I grew up playing shortstop. I’m comfortable on the field. I really enjoy being competitive and, most importantly, I’m a connoisseur of dugout smack talk. Softball quickly became a highlight of my busy Seward summer weeks even though we ended the season in last place.

Luckily, as the game schedule started to peter out, it seemed that the intramural hole in my own schedule wouldn’t stay open for long.

Despite its small size, Seward is host to plenty of volleyball teams all winter long.

There’s enough to fill two leagues, a competitive and a recreational BBQ league, with each team needing at least three men and three women.

Unfortunately for my boyfriend, his competitive league team always seemed to lose a female player when the new season was about to start. Fortunately for him, I was ready to step up to the plate.

But, when I offered to be another female on the roster I was met with an almost kind and extremely firm, no thanks. I think the words “last resort” were used — sparingly, but I definitely heard them.

Horrible, right? How dare he? He should be excited for me to play on the volleyball team, to spend time together! Especially if they’re in need of another female player!

Amidst plenty of a snarky comments from me, he found another female player for his team and I found a team in the recreational league to play on and, with that, volleyball season commenced.

I quickly found out that, oh my goodness, I am not good.

Sure I had dabbled in a few games and open volleyball nights at the gym the previous winter, but I was lacking nearly every skill set. I never played volleyball when I was younger. I faintly remember feigning enough interest in high school gym class to pass but my bumping, spiking and setting skills were nonexistent.

My underhanded serves traipsed into the net. All of my sets went just too high and too far, giving my opponents the perfect chance to spike it right back at me, at which point I covered my head with my hands and cowered.

Volleyball isn’t a return to childhood for me, like softball is. Each game I have to work a little bit harder to get just a tiny bit better.

I’ve left games with bruised knees, sore forearms and a battered ego. But, as the weeks pass they bring with them a new game, coupled with a few nights of practice here and there, so I have time to learn.

Now, my serve is landing a little more consistently. I’m calling balls more confidently. I’m starting to know where to be, where to look and what to do.

The more I play, the better I get.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll take the step up to the competitive league one of these days.

If and when I do, though, I won’t play on my boyfriend’s team. No matter how good I get at volleyball, I’ll always be better at smack talk and he’s set me up with a few, easy hits.

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