Examining strong negative reactions: How I learned to stop hating baseball

I grew up HATING gym class. Gym class is quite awful when you are the overweight, unpopular kid who sucks at sports. Let’s think about the way gym class is set up (or at least how it was at the school I went to)…a group of kids line up. One child at a time attempts to do whatever it is the teacher has decided to have the kids do…hit a baseball, spike a volleyball, jump the high jump, whatever. Inevitably there will be kids who fail. What do the other kids do? Kids are mean. At least some of them are going to point and laugh. It’s easy to see how years of this experience could be scarring for someone. For me, it made me hate playing sports. HATE. The worst of all was when our gym teacher made us play baseball.

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I couldn’t catch. I couldn’t throw. When we had to pick positions I’d quickly go for left outer field because hardly anyone would hit the ball out there (except for this one kid who was a left-handed batter, jerk). I spent the whole time thinking “please don’t hit the ball to me, please don’t hit the ball to me.” Wish as I might, eventually the ball found its way to the area I was responsible for. I’d try to catch it. Nope. Fail. I’d run to get the ball and then attempt to throw it back to the person manning the base. Nope. Fail. Can’t throw that far. Thanks loser, you just cost us the game. Is it becoming clear why I grew up despising baseball?

Fast forward to last month. My husband was digging through the storage closet for goodness knows what when he happened to find his old baseball glove. “We should get you a glove so we can go play catch!” Excuse me? Play catch? I don’t think so.

After a couple of days his enthusiasm hadn’t waned and I started to think about my knee-jerk reaction to playing catch. This was obviously something he really wanted to do. It would be time we could spend together outdoors. And I was pretty sure a group of kids weren’t going to start making fun of me for my lack of ability to throw and catch a ball.

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And so I ordered a cheap glove from eBay and it arrived a few days later. The two of us headed out to the park (conveniently located behind our apartment building). I was clenching my teeth, waiting for this horrible experience I had managed to escape for the past 11 years. But you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Heck, I wasn’t that bad. Okay sure, I won’t be playing for the major leagues anytime soon, but I actually managed to catch a few balls (mostly underhand, but hey, we all start somewhere) and I wasn’t that bad at throwing. Sure, I messed up and couldn’t catch some of the throws. You know what happened? Nothing. It was no big deal. I ran, picked up the ball, and moved on with my life.

This might sound trivial to a lot of people…especially folks who grew up being quite athletic. Understand that for a former overweight nerd, this was a pretty momentous occasion. I played a game of catch and I didn’t actually hate it.

The lesson that I took from all of this? It’s so important to examine our knee-jerk reactions. I asked myself why I was immediately saying “No Way!” to a thing as benign as playing a game of catch in a park with my family. Once I started thinking about my reason, I realized how silly it was. Who the heck cares if I was teased in a school gym class? Sure as heck not me. So what if I was horrible at playing catch? Would it negatively impact my life? Nope, not in the slightest. Okay then, let’s give it a try.

Did you have a similar experience in gym class? Has your gym class experiences affected what you are comfortable doing in adulthood?