I work out twice a year: once for Thanksgiving and once for Christmas— unless you count catching the Black Friday sales as a workout. I’m a girlie-girl. I love pink, shopping, dating, and hanging out with my girlfriends— but that’s not the extent of who I am. Like every other human being I’m complex, but my father didn’t see it that way. As a misogynist—a person who hates, mistrusts, or mistreats women— my father made it clear that I had only one role in life. To do whatever a man tells me.
If it didn’t involve getting married, preparing for marriage, or doing what he wanted there was no point in the activity. So when I stated that I wanted to learn how to ice skate at the age of six his reply was simple. “You’re not ready. You’re not mentally disciplined.” In layman’s terms “You’re not smart enough.”
I saw athletes as superior beings. They were pretty, strong, accomplished, they were above the influence of others, and I wanted to be one of them. However once my dad left his ideas stayed with me through freshmen year of college, so I never asked to play a sport again. But I stayed adventurous and goal-oriented, so when a women’s rugby player invited me to practice I agreed.
Arriving in boot cut jeans, a V-neck pink shirt and a black purse I walked towards where the team was gathered. (I must mention that my Big, my big sister in my sorority, had come along for safety reasons—she thought I’d get crushed or something.) I had no intentions of playing that night. I simply wanted to see what rugby was, and go from there. The player who invited me was happy to see me, but having to practice left me in the hands of an injured player, Alyssa, who attempted to explain what was happening on the field. When I finally began to understand the simple things, like throwing and running, she went a bit deeper. “Do you have running shorts?” she asked. “I have yoga shorts. I can run in those, right?” She showed a bit of amusement— I took that as a no. Here I was a girl who had never even touched cleats, and preferred yoga shorts over running shorts because they had that cute fold over band. I wanted to break free of the stereotypes shared by sorority and girlie-girls, but I hadn’t even broke free from the influence of my father.
I arrived to the following practice in Nike Air sneakers, a pair of sky blue running shorts, zebra spanks and an old middle school shirt. My whole ensemble, minus the shirt, belonged to my friends.
We began stretching and the team chatted for a bit before getting into practice. Once the stretches were over the coached walked towards me and we exchanged some military-like banter.
“What’s your name?”
“What sports have you played?”
“What team?” She hadn’t heard me.
She turned away and walked back to the field of uncertainty. If I was nervous before, I was very well peeing my friend’s spanks now. Was she being sarcastic? Did she like the fact that I was fresh from the concrete? Was I in over my head?
She called for the girls to gather round and gave instructions for a drill. I began to follow the slimmer girls to their designated area— “You stand over there with Alyssa,” coach says.
She’s scared for me to.
Over the course of the next few weeks I asks questions during practices and try to get to know the girls— who giggle and chat during breaks but will knock you to the grown on the field. They try to be as helpful as they can—the coach still isn’t letting me play—but I decide that I can do this.
Now that I’ve decided to completely join the team, my first—and most important—order of business is to get my outfit together for practice. My cleats, gym bag, and shorts have to be perfect. I start my online search by opening tabs for Target, Walmart, Dick’s and Amazon. After a few hours of browsing I order my cleats and rugby shorts and am pretty satisfied with how little I spent. However I still don’t have a gym bag, so I take to the magazines. I look at the best styles and brands to see what I like, and I settle for a bright pink and gray Champion Gym bag—which I also got for a steal. I even brought a flavored mouth guard. (Fruit Punch— they were out of bubble gum.) When my cleats and shorts arrived I was beyond excited—well not so much for the shorts. They had an elastic waistband with a drawstring—a big no-no for fashion.
When the day finally arrived, I laced up my cleats for practice. I imagined learning how to run in them would be like learning how to walk in pumps, so I didn’t want to wait until my first game. I was finally allowed to join the ranks and go through some drills. We did some passing of the ball. I tried to focus more on getting it to the other girl than making it spin—the other girls had no problem doing both. The coach wouldn’t let me participate in tackle drills because I hadn’t taken my concussion test, so I passed the ball back and forth for several weeks.
Then the glorious day arrived. I wasn’t sure how to tackle correctly, and although I knew I could pack a punch the girls on the team were a lot bigger and meaner than me—and I had begun to feel like some had a strong dislike for me.
“If I have to explain it to you one more time I’m gonna slap you.” Suddenly this 100 pound girl—whose hair was kept in a long-flowing ponytail and whose voice sounded as sweet and harmless as can be—became a menacing tiger because I wasn’t sure where to go on the field.
To top it all off, in the course of my month worth of practices three girls had been injured—for a girl whose never broken a bone the thought of doing so was terrifying—I hadn’t told my mother I was on the team, and I had no insurance. Yet when the time came for myself and another player to tango I was more than ready.
I wanted to show them what this girlie-girl could do.
So when the whistle blew, signaling for us to start, I sprinted to the goal watching my opponent charge toward me with every intention of taking me down. Her hair was pulled back, sweat dripped down her face— but she didn’t bother to wipe it away—she wore Under Armor tops and bottoms to every practice—the stuff made for the best of athletes—she was dedicated, and she was strong. She had been on the team for about a year and was known to have a passion for the sport, but in my head she was just another player. She grabbed me around the waist and tried to pull me down. I did my best to keep moving, but after a few steps I was pulled to the grass. It was amazing. I got back up and got in line to do it again.
Once practice had ended, and we were all ready to go home I couldn’t help but smile. I had walked the forbidden fields of freedom, and— although I hadn’t completely overcome my dad’s voice in the background— I had managed to survive it.