Kicking It Down South: Did A Jewish Holiday Inspire The Athlete In Me?

“Athletic” is not a word anyone would use to describe me. No one in my family has athletic ability, and I am no different. I know what my strengths are, and athleticism is just not one of them.

My only foray into the world of team sports happened from fourth grade through ninth grade when I played softball. Or rather, attempted to play. I was so bad that my coaches rarely played me, and when they did, I was in right field. (As baseball fans might know, this is regarded as the easiest position.) If I was up to bat, I seldom made it on base and I struck out too many times to count. After my freshman year in high school, I finally gave up on sports for good, although I did end up writing my college admission essay about my experience playing softball and the perseverance, teamwork, and other skills it taught me.

I had stayed as far away from sports as possible since then, until I moved to Jackson. Some of the ISJL staff members participate in an adult kickball league, and the new employees were invited to join. I was hesitant at first, but decided I had nothing to lose, and it could be a good way to meet other people in Jackson. The first few games were average. I played catcher (in kickball, this means you don’t have to do anything,) and when I went up to kick I got out. This was normal for me, as was being on the losing team.

But then something happened.

On a recent Monday morning, I woke with boundless energy. I was upbeat at my office all day, and was excited to get it out at kickball later that evening. The game started out as usual—the other team scored a couple runs and we were down 2-0.

My first time up “to bat” there was one out. I kicked the ball with all the strength I had and flew to first base. To my surprise, I was safe. My blood pumped with adrenaline as the first base coach congratulated me and gave me instructions as to when to run.

Before I knew it, I was passing second base and heading to third. I saw my friend and fellow Fellow Elias’s hands making sweeping motions toward home base and I sprinted as I rounded the corner. As I passed home plate, I could see the other team with the ball in hand, trying to get me out, but they couldn’t.

I scored!

Everyone was cheering and I was beaming with pride. I had done it! And it didn’t stop there. While playing catcher, I stopped someone from scoring by chasing them back to third base with the ball in hand. And the next time I went up to kick, there were two outs, and I still got on base and helped score a run for our team. We ended up beating the other team 10 to 4, but I didn’t care about the score, as much as the sense of accomplishment I felt.

I realized that as we were playing this fateful game, something else was occurring. As the game concluded and the sun began to set, Simchat Torah was beginning.

Do I think this is a coincidence? Maybe. But then again, some people say there is a special energy around certain Jewish holidays. If that is the case, I certainly felt this celebratory energy kick in on Monday night.

For me, Simchat Torah signifies new beginnings as much as Rosh Hashanah does. We finish reading the Torah and then we begin again, with fresh new eyes. This is what I did during the kickball game. I forgot about my disheartening past encounters with softball, and I started a new legacy. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m still riding high on my athletic turning point. Who knows if it will continue or not? But at least I finally faced my fear of sports, and proved I may have a little athletic ability in me after all.

I’m still better at the Jewish stuff, though.

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