Senior year in highschool is an odd time. Of course, many students check out. They fall victim to the draw of “senioritis”. Most students experience loss. For many years, a sport or activity has consumed a large amount of their time and energy. Then, one day, the season is over.
I played football in highschool, but I was not going to play in college. I was passionate about football. I saw myself as a football player. Then, the season ended. I never played again. It has been over 15 years, I have not never put on a helmet or laced my cleats. It’s over.
Basketball was similar. I was offered an opportunity to play basketball in college, but I decided to join the debate team instead. In the following years, I played here or there. Basketball is no longer part of my life. In my basketball prime, I went to the gym and played pick-up games for hours. Guys wore t-shirts which read, “Basketball is Life”. I agreed.
High school classes were painfully easy. College was easy too. The first time I was really academically challenged was when I took Elementary Hebrew. Did you know they write backwards?
After basketball season my senior year, I had too much time on my hands. One of my school’s favorite teachers, Mr. Powers, started a men’s volleyball team. Besides having an awesome name, Mr. Powers was a beast at volleyball. I never took a class with him, but I heard good things. My best friend Derrin and I joined.
As part of the process of joining, we supplied Mr. Powers with a black t-shirt and ironed on a number. This was our uniform. I figured the t-shirt would match our spandex shorts and knee pads. Mr. Powers informed us that only girls wear knee pads. If he was calling me a sissy for not wanting to bump my knee, he did it very diplomatically. He also said we would wear basketball shorts. I was going to have to find another way to show off my meaty thighs.
We had one practice before our first game. We knew most of the rules. I later found out that most volleyball teams will hit the ball on their side of the net 3 times even if they can get it back over on 1 or 2. At the time, they called it “bump, set, spike.” We did not follow this formula. As soon as the ball came on our side of the net, we hit it back over.
I discovered that I enjoyed playing on the front line. While I’m 6’8”, I have the vertical leaping ability of a hippopotamus. Still, my height was an enormous advantage. I did not 100% know how to hit the ball and was called for a “lift” 3 or 4 times that game. I didn’t understand.
I saw girls volleyball players celebrate after every point. Our team was much too disorganized for that, but I didn’t let that stop me. My friend Derrin and I chestbumped after every made point for the entire game. No one ever joined us. Our shenanigans looked odd because I am a full foot taller than Derrin. Years later, I got married and Derrin was a groomsman. We have a photo of us chest bumping in a church wearing suits.
Despite not knowing how to play volleyball, we won our first game. We then had a few practices, learned the rules and techniques, and lost every other game for the rest of the season. I blame Brian Oval. In our rotation, he served when I was in the middle of the front row. He insisted on serving overhand and did not get a single serve in all season. He should have served underhand like a granny because the literal giant is in the best position for his considerable height. Volleyball was pretty fun, but Brian Oval sucks.