I ran a 5K at a golf course a couple of weeks ago, and when I walked inside to grab my post-race $1 beer (hey, if that’s not incentive to hurry across the finish line, what is?), I was surprised to see one of the girls I used to coach serving the drinks. When I was her club volleyball coach, she was 13 or 14 years old. She’s now finishing up her junior year of college.
I’m finishing up a jar of wrinkle cream.
After I stopped rubbing my aching hip and wondering why that damn rock music is always so loud (also: GET OFF MY LAWN), I asked her what she was up to, and it turned out that she’d just been voted captain of her club volleyball team for the following year. My heart swelled with happiness. Yes, I was happy that she’d earned that position, but she had always been a leader, so I wasn’t shocked. No, what made me so, so, SO happy was that she was not only still playing a sport I helped her with, but she clearly still loved it. And that’s the real lesson I always tried to teach.
I’m a big advocate of creating a lifelong love of sport—any sport, really. It’s one thing to be good at something, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you can’t imagine life without that something.
I can’t move up and down a basketball court like I could when I was 17, but I’m all about playing a little half-court ball. And one day, when that’s more than my knees can handle, I’ll play HORSE.
I don’t get my elbows to the top of the net playing volleyball anymore, but because I really learned the fundamentals, I can get away with a little less jump and a little more placement. And I enjoy it just as much as I did when I jumped like my shoes had springs.
I think that’s part of why I love triathlon. It actually makes me excited to get older. For one thing, of course, it’s always fun to age up and be the youngest in an age group. But also, I’m more fascinated by the woman running a 12-minute mile with an age of 68 written on her calf than by the 22-year-old winning the race. That senior citizen was a complete bad-ass in my book just for signing up, and then, for pushing through and finishing? Completely awesome. Double that for the 85-year-old dude tucking extra bananas in his backpack. You earned them, Grandpa. Take ‘em.
I don’t know when I’ll hit my peak, tri-wise. I’d like to think that I have the potential to keep getting better for a while yet, and that I have lots more PRs in me. But let’s say I don’t. You know what? Who cares? I love that sport. I love training for a race, I love the people, and I love crossing that finish line. I’ve found ways to adjust all the other sports that have a place in my heart so that I can still play them and love them (and, for the most part, walk the next day), and if I have to eventually adjust my approach to racing, no biggie.
But not yet. Not this year.
Have you had a lifelong love affair with any sports? Or have you picked up any, like golf or tennis (or triathlon!), as you’ve gotten older? —Kristen