“I don’t want to break the little one’s self esteem.” This was the statement the head soccer coach of my younger sister’s under-7 team made to me when I asked why she was still in the game. As the assistant coach, I was lobbying to get her benched. She was the only child in a sea of green and white uniforms that had her finger shoved so far up her nose, I was convinced that she was going to pull out a piece of her cerebral cortex. Now here she stood choking back tears because the soccer ball, which I estimated to be about the same size as the booger she had just deposited down her throat, had slammed her in the face. My efforts were wasted. Coach not only left her in the game, but she was gifted the “Most Improved Player” award. I was dumfounded. Let me get this right. A child can stand in the middle of a live soccer game, dig for gold up her sniffer, get laid out by a ball that everyone else saw coming a mile away, and STILL be awarded for “most improved player”? What was the improvement? She didn’t bleed on impact?
Perhaps it’s because I’m a child of the 80’s where we had to actually try out for the team, but I am baffled by today’s youth sports. Every child makes the team, gets equal playing time, and receives an award (if not multiple) despite talent, or lack-thereof. Just this past month my nephew and his soccer team have been handed four trophies; “Last place”, “Best Attempt at Winning”, “Most Spirited Team” and “Best Show of Sportsmanship”. Hell, if that’s the case, why not just hand me an award for “Most Foul-Mouthed, Enthusiastic, Aunt?”
As a child my parents highly encouraged me to participate in physical activity. I’m not sure if it was because I could swim without drowning, that I could deliver a mean, accurate shot to my brother’s nuts, or just from the sheer fact that I already had three failed attempts at gymnastics (the tights gave me early onset camel toe) but I ended up trying out, and making, the swim and soccer teams. Do you think anyone gave me a ribbon for putting on my bathing suit and goggles? Perhaps a certificate for most yellow cards issued in a season? No. There were no awards handed out for “Most Diligent Effort” or “23rd Place”. If I was on the losing end I acted like any other self-loathing kid at that time. I gagged my emotions with a cupcake and wept in front of the television.
Kids nowadays seem so fragile and easily offended. By the time they get rejected from their first job interview, they’re prepared to sue, and most likely win, for damages caused by emotional distress. I am just throwing caution to the wind here, but wouldn’t it seem extra gratifying to EARN accolades? If that weren’t the case for me, I wouldn’t be able to comfortably present myself to the world as the 40-year-old, “no shame in my game”, insensitive, sarcastic bitch, loser that I am today.
Now, after having said all of that, I’m also very realistic. There is no going back to the 80’s (which is a damn shame because my hair was AMAZEBALLS at that time) and positive reinforcement, no matter how much one sucks, is all the rage. So I’ve hopped on, and stayed on, the bandwagon of “Hey, good job, last place is still finishing” known as Crossfit.
I am a few months shy of my one-year mark at Wildfire Crossfit and I have yet to win anything or beat anybody and that is totally cool with me. With Crossfit I know that I am a winner just for showing up at the box. That’s the beautiful thing about this sport. Who really gives a rats ass that I still can’t get a pull-up without jumping, or that I lost a piece of my soul when I entered the Paleo challenge last August? I’m still here. I haven’t quit, and all the coaches are just so damn upbeat about all my last place efforts. How does one even contemplate walking away from something this dreamy?
Let’s take yesterday’s WOD “Cindy” for example. That was a hella good time. “Sin-dy”, as Coach Skip refers to her, is a 20-minute AMRAP consisting of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 air squats.
Before I proceed, allow me to explain briefly to those who haven’t choked on the Crossfit Kool-Aide, what an AMRAP is. It stands for “As Many Rounds As Possible.” I tend to gravitate more towards these WODS, as opposed to one that is “for time”, simply because I can workout next to the fittest athlete in the class and be like “Yo…good job…I see we finished at the same time. Awesome.” It has that “winner” feel without actually having to be one.
So here I am at 6am, rolling out and waiting for the 5:30 class to end. I check out the board and see that “Cindy” is on tap. You should note that I haven’t actually done this WOD before, but, as I will quickly learn, it's one of those signature Crossfit workouts that you don't think will be that bad until the buzzer signals you to start and then you remember that you weigh close to 200 lbs. so any body weight movement can, and will, crush your ribs and your spirit.
We start with 5 pull-ups, which, if you’ll recall, I just told you that I couldn’t do. Another great thing about an AMRAP, however, is what I refer to as the “blend and snap” (not to be confused with the “bend and snap” in “Legally Blonde”.) This is perfect for a movement like this. Starting with the blend, I hang onto the bar, swing myself around a little, and put on my game face (which, photographic evidence has shown, is nothing more than a look of excruciating abdominal pain.) Just blend. Fit in. Act natural.
Moving on, the 10 push-ups was actually a true win. Thank God for an athletic background and large breasts. The minute the sisters hit the floor, the faster I can push back up. I feel sorry for those flat chested Games athletes with the rockin’ thighs and tight, perfectly form-fitted booty shorts. It must suck to have to complete a push-up with that extra inch to hit the bottom. I win! Interestingly enough, however, not much fanfare was made about my perfect push-up. Note to self to fuck that up next time around.
Finally, I nailed the 15 air squats. While I am not entirely sure how, I am guessing it's from the 40 years of experience I have squatting to sit on my ass. I wonder if I can get some high-fives for this one.
Enter the snap. This is when the buzzer has gone off, I am laying face down gasping for air in my own cesspool of sweat and tears, and I am mentally and emotionally drained from the realization that my 14 rounds were just trumped by 24 rounds by the rest of the class. Not to fret, however. A huge, heart-felt, “Congratulations, you’ve nailed it!! I have NEVER seen an almost pull-up that AMAZING before!!” has made this punch to the ego all worthwhile.
Come to think if it, maybe society is on to something. Perhaps losing is the new winning.