Old man still got it

My team won the first sports tournament I played in on Sunday that I remember since college (which I don’t remember that well). I may have won some tournaments playing with the elite teams I played on in club and the co-ed team I went to Nationals with in 1998.
There’s nothing like the feeling of winning a hard competition. It was just summer league, more of a fun league than competitive, but it still counts.
There are points in close games where, if you want to win, you have to put the players on the line who will win the game. In college and even sometimes in clubs, that meant me. However nervous inside, I walked on the field confidently, or as confidently as I could, with my best team mates to face the other team’s best.
In college, we trained for months for those moments, actually all four years. Winter field space in Manhattan meant playing in the gym 11pm to 1am, which meant lifting weights and doing cardiovascular training for a couple hours before that. In club it meant meeting friends at tracks to practice sprints, running steps, lifting weights, and so on. Or running sprints alone in the rain on a pier on the Hudson.
You live for those moments—total exhaustion, self-doubt, confidence, joy, fear, intensity regular life can’t match. I miss them. I haven’t trained like that for over a decade. In your twenties you can expect that training will contribute to your being a better player the next year. In your forties, no matter how much your skill improves, your body will decay more and you can’t be a better overall player. Less expectation of success means less motivation and, besides, wisdom, experience, and age bring other activities and interests. As much as I miss competing and training, I love teaching and coaching leadership and entrepreneurship.
I only played a few points each of our three games—quarters, semis, and finals. I only played offense too, which is my strength.
As much as I didn’t contribute like I used to, two plays stand out.
One was a throw for a goal—for those who understand, an inside-out break-mark forehand, one of my favorite throws. It felt effortless, so natural. Surfers talk about great waves like this. No thought, no fear, just action and perfect execution. I won’t deny I enjoyed the cheers and congratulations.
The other was a point where the other team played zone defense on us. Zone means the offense has to throw well and consistently. I handled against the zone. I threw a lot of passes, some creative, many taking a lot of skill and vision. We won that point and I had a lot to do with it. In the moment, I felt the old days—confidently knowing you knew how to win the point, that the defense could never match your individual skill and your team’s teamwork. Besides the congratulations of my team mates, one of my friends on the other team commented on my play that point.
I had a few other nice throws and plays, and no major errors. Otherwise, a modest role as part of a great team effort, mainly from my team mates, but I loved it.
Oh wait, and one more great moment. My team’s captains led tremendously. The team played well, had fun on the field, had fun off the field, and we won—a rare combination. I wanted to show our appreciation. I had the idea to douse one of them with the cooler of ice water, like they do the head coach in the Superbowl. A couple team mates agreed he’d love it, so I did it. I think he loved it—an exclamation point to show the gratitude of a team at the end of a victorious season.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. J

    Congratulations again!

    1. Joshua

      I was a minor player in a big team effort, though. The captains deserve the biggest congratulations for picking the team, coaching the team, and playing well themselves.

  2. Christian Berger

    Great post. Ultimate is one of the great joys of life. Beautifully written. Everyone who plays would appreciate this. Well-made (and received) throws are like catching a great wave – every one is different and will never happen the exact same way again.
    The wonderful thing about ultimate is how it can be played competitively late into life. In Palo Alto we started a pick up group on Thanksgiving several years ago that has turned into a three-times-per-week game at 7am. The group is a mix of professionals and grad students, some older and some younger, some in better shape and some in worse, but it is always a great time. That was the hardest thing to leave when I moved away (although it’s great to see that good ultimate can be had pretty much anywhere).

    1. Joshua

      Thank you!
      I agree: few activities compare with ultimate. Skiing does for me, although it’s different. I’ve taken surfing lessons but haven’t gotten my skill to where it compares.

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