I was never a sports kid. Don’t get me wrong—I wanted to be. I tried out for teams and played Catholic Youth Organization sports. I was active, and I wanted to be athletic, but found I was only really great at warming the bench. My mother probably recognized this early on, which is why she wasn’t more inclined to push me towards the field. (Thanks Mom.)
As a parent, it’s clear some kids just enter the world wired to excel at sports. You only have to witness one Little League game for confirmation, as some kids move with natural agility and speed and others pick at grass in the outfield. I was more the latter, and in adulthood it was much of the same. Softball, kickball, basketball leagues—you name it—never appealed to me the least.
I’m competitive, I love the idea of camaraderie, and thought I’d quenched that thirst in my career. But last spring, my friend Kim’s Dragon Boat team needed some paddlers, and I signed up with my friends Jules and Tara, just for fun. After the first practice, we were sore in places we didn’t know could hurt. But a few weeks in, I found myself looking for any way to spend more time on the boat, even though I was mostly getting yelled at by the coaches for my poor form. I volunteered for any team that had an open seat. There was no doubt, I officially was bit by the Dragon.
Here I am, a year later, dreading the end of a second season, and it is all very strange for me. My family and friends see how I love going to practice and marvel that things like water shoes and Butt Paste have become regular additions to my life. I had never really been on a team, not like this, and I am having fun. Every week, we load on the boat and paddle for as long as our arms will allow. It’s hard, it hurts, and I love it.
For 2 hours, I’m paddling on the water with 19 women with the singular goal of being completely in sync as a team. No phones. No work. No distractions.
Every practice, I work on getting better and stronger. Every stroke I take, it’s me against me. The coaches are helping me improve my technique and increase my endurance, and I thrive on their knowledge of the sport. For me, the feeling of paddling is so different than that of getting up to bat or having the ball passed to me. It’s about putting your paddle in the water, again and again, and moving across the water as a team of women.
Now I get it. I fully understand what it’s like to love a sport and to want to keep going out to play even when you lose. It’s amazing as an adult to do this, to have this luxury in my life. I feel honored to paddle with my teammates, I feel grateful for each experience and strangely I feel refreshed even after leaving it all on the water. At 40 years old, I finally found my sport. Dragon Boat—you complete me.