Volleyball PTSD. It’s a thing.

This is how my game went. It’s cool, Bella. I get you.

Tonight I (very, very graciously) stepped in and played volleyball on a friend’s intramural team. They were short on their token girls and I guess I came to mind simply because I’m always workin’ on muh fitness. HOWEVER, I was not a good choice and I said so repeatedly, but their only other option was to forfeit. So I sucked it up and drove over to the gym.

I had a horrible feeling of dread in my stomach. This is pretty weird for me because while I know I’m not very good at volleyball, I also know I’m a fairly athletic person. I played soccer from the time I first learned to toddle around the field (rec, club, and school) until I graduated high school. I run obsessively. I work out daily. I can definitely figure out volleyball for one night and hang in there. So why in the world was I so nervous?

I opened the door to the gym, I swiped my student ID, and I made my way to the volleyball courts. Every step felt heavier than the last. You probably think I’m exaggerating. Let me assure you, I wish I were. 

Just as I was considering leaving, I was spotted. My friend bopped up to me, all smiles, and I followed her to what I was sure was my certain doom.

We started playing. The other team looked profesional. They were enormous! They had matching shirts. And kneepads. Oh God, why didn’t I have kneepads? Why didn’t a single person on my team have kneepads? This was going to be awful. The whistle blew, the ball was served. And so it began. And then it stopped. The stupid ref on her stupid tall chair was pointing at me and blowing her stupid whistle! I hadn’t even moved yet!

Turns out it was because I had earrings in. They were little tiny studs, but whatever. Also, about five other girls had on some sort of jewelry. Also whatever. The other team got a point because I was well accessorized. Not a good start.

We continued to play. I learned very quickly that I have not gotten any better over the years in which I have successfully avoided volleyball. Absence had not made my heart grow any fonder one bit. I hit the ball and it went backwards. I hit the ball and it slammed into the back of my teammate’s head. I hit the ball and it about knocked the stupid ref off of that stupid chair. We lost the first game. I decided not to hit the ball anymore.

We switched sides. Because we had the absolute minimum number or girls, we all had to remain on the court the entire time. No subs for us. I know all the men were super thrilled by that rule.

The second game. I learned that I know how to serve pretty okay. In fact, after the match, some of my teammates went on to refer to my serves as “decent”. We even won. This is because I did not attempt to touch the ball, not a single time. I moved away if it came flying towards me so that one of the more gifted players could swoop in and save us all.

Third game. The tie breaker. Apparently you only play to 15. Or something like that. We were winning. I was up at the net. We had 14 points, just one more until victory! Then that volleyball decided to take me out itself. It was coming towards me in slow motion. No one was there. I had to do something. I squinted up my eyes and… tapped it. It was more of a swat. Like a kitten that’s afraid of a bug. But it went over the net and WE WON!

Now while this ball was moving at the rate of a handicapped tortoise, forcing me to decide how to act, I was able to think clearly. It suddenly came to me! I had an honest-to-goodness flashback, just like in the movies. I KNEW WHY I WAS AFRAID OF VOLLEYBALL.

It all dates back to elementary school. 5th grade. PE. We played volleyball (I mean… obviously) and it was awful. My teacher (who would be arrested a few months later for beating a kid on the playground) had tried to make an example of me because I was tall. This may be the most shocking thing I’ve said so far because I’m only 5’3″. But I was 5’3″ then, too! Early growth spurt.

On top of being the awkward, lanky girl, I truly sucked at volleyball. But I wasn’t supposed to suck at volleyball DAMMIT, because I was TALL! And every class, this horribly intimidating man who I thought was actually Hulk Hogan (because they looked the same, complete with blonde handlebar mustache and bad tattoos) would stand me up in class and try to force me to demonstrate volleyball techniques. I failed. Always. Then this horribly intimidating man would yell. And I wanted to die.

We never played soccer in PE. Thank the Lord that was kept sacred.

So there you have it. I played volleyball. I unlocked a hidden mystery in my past. I conquered volleyball. Not too shabby for a Monday night.

xoxo

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65 responses

  1. The coach always forced us to play volleyball in high school PE. Most of us hated it. I wasn’t unathletic (four years of track!) but every time I had to hit that ball with my skinny arms it hurt like hell. Never again.

    • I’m tellin’ ya, there’s something about volleyball. Even if you’re sporty, it gets you. Just sneaks up on you and steals your confidence. Glad we both survived! And thanks so much for reading :)

  2. Hilarious post :)
    When asked to join company intramural teams (because even once you leave university, people keep trying ot make you join), my response is generally, “I don’t have to take gym class anymore, so I don’t have to play team sports.” I am about as coordinated as a three legged giraffe on a unicycle… going down the stairs. Things that involve the ball reaching face height are even worse. how I survived childhood (and gym class) without breaking my nose, I’ll never know.

    • Hahaha this comment just made my day! “I am about as coordinated as a three legged giraffe on a unicycle… going down the stairs.” That’s a great image. Thanks so much for reading and for sympathizing :) I’ll be returning the favor! Well, definitely as far as the reading, but hopefully no sympathizing will be necessary!

  3. I would be wayyyy to scared to get out on a volleyball court, so cheers to you! I always say no to really hard objects being propelled at my face, only to have to dodge them and land on my poor knees!

    Great writing :)
    Courtney Hosny

  4. This is hysterical! I think we all have super-secret (mostly to ourselves) PTSD from some random elementary school experience. Mine involves that giant parachute — you know, the one that you used to unfurl then get underneath as a class? Oh, the horrors…

    ;)

    So it sounds like volleyball was cheap therapy for you. Congrats on that!

  5. Thank you to all of you for reading, you’re so awesome! I’m glad we can all bond over miserable childhood gym experiences… never thought I’d utter that sentence and actually mean it! (:

  6. I always wanted to be at volleyball but I sucked :( Thankfully I have managed to avoid having to play for my entire adult life and it has saved me from the humiliation of everyone knowing that i suck at volleyball!

  7. As a life-long Hulkamaniac I have to assure you that the real Hulk would never have done that to you… and if the real Hulk had been your gym teacher gym would have been the most awesome class you ever experienced. I’m just sayn’.

    • You make an extremely valid point. We probably also wouldn’t have played volleyball. Why didn’t my school just hire the Hulk? All of my problems would have been solved! Haha thanks for the perspective and for reading!

  8. I love volleyball, but it annoys me when ppl insist on the whole “token” number of females and males. Aside from a possible size difference, I know a girl that is worth two of most of the guys we play with. Genitalia has nothing to do with skill level. Drives me nuts.

  9. You are a funny one ma’am… whoever you are. Where is your “About” page?! I used to have sever anxiety over pretty much any competitive sport in gym class… except tennis… I am a beast at tennis.

  10. This is the funniest volleyball story or sports story I have heard in a long, long time. Please send it to some of the women’s magazines, you need to have this published for the whole world to read, this is fantastic, especially your paragraph about the first game. I love, love, love this story…..

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate it and I’m glad you found your way to my blog :) Humiliation is always worth it if it makes a good story, right? …I’m still telling myself that, anyways.

  11. Great story! I tried out for the volleyball team in high school and I thought I was good, but I wasn’t popular enough to be let on to the team. HUH? Other girls who were afraid to hit the ball (or the floor) were on the team, but not me. I was so pissed.
    Kudos for my flashback and getting FP’d.

  12. Congratulations! I too am afraid of volleyball…I think it’s because I’m just really uncoordinated and it’s embarrassing because I’m tall and athletic. Oh well. Glad u got over your fear!

  13. “They were enormous! They had matching shirts. And kneepads. Oh God, why didn’t I have kneepads? Why didn’t a single person on my team have kneepads?”

    Ahhh! This summarizes to a ‘T’ the reason why, when I walked into the gym the first week of high school for volleyball tryouts, that I turned right the hell around and walked back out. THEY ALL HAD KNEEPADS! They all wore shirts that said ‘Air Attack’ from the local league they played in! I was just shy of 5’7″ and I was the shortest one there! And I’ve been nauseated around volleyball ever since. I love playing it non-competitively but I totally get the PTSD sentiments. Sigh. We made it girl, we made it.

  14. Grats on FP!

    Your post made me laugh even as it reminded me of own horror of ball sports and volleyball is the one most dreaded and one event in particular. Our P.E. coach got the bright idea for volleyRING.

    Not sure if it’s a real sport, but she replaced the already dreaded volleyball with a hard rubber ring about 1.5 inches thick with the same diameter as a ball and tightly wrapped in sport tape. I thought catching a volleyball spike in the face was bad? That one nearly knocked me out and left spectacular bruises on my forehead, chin and both cheeks. Glad I was wearing contacts at the time. :P

  15. I was also traumatised by volleyball in 5th grade PE class. It must have been an epidemic back then. In my case, I was deathly afraid of the ball, terrified that at any moment I could have a Marcia Brady moment where the ball would break my nose in half (I know, I know… in her case it was a football, but a ball’s a ball!), so I did this dorky “duck and cover” move every time it came within 10 feet of me. All the other kids thought I was a dweeb, which I definitely was, and the teacher thought I was just being stupid, which I was, and took daily pleasure in humiliating me every day in front of the whole class. Not that it was difficult for him to do that or anything…
    I haven’t played volleyball since.

  16. Haha very funny, returning to sports, after a long break from it, is always troubling, it’s like everyone else knows I haven’t played this for so long, I have amateur smeared across my forehead.

  17. My husband needs to read this. He’s a pretty athletic guy and was really good at sports in school, particularly soccer and baseball, but he just couldn’t get the hang of volleyball. To this day, it eats him up that in middle school, he was never chosen as an “all-star” to play in the students vs. teachers volleyball game at the end of the year. He always made the student team for the softball game, but never volleyball.

    Maybe he should give it another try — sounds like you were able to conquer it! Nice game :)

  18. I’ve always been traumatized by any sport involving a ball, period. According to my mother, when I was a toddler and my parents tried to get me to play with a ball (either gently rolling it or gently throwing it), I would scream and run away crying. I guess I’ve always had this irrational fear of balls hitting me on the head/face and gym class was always torture. Basketball was probably the worst because I just felt super awkward but volleyball was just as bad. I have horrible hand-eye coordination and I can’t serve, hit, or do anything. So no team sports for this gal!

  19. I went through maybe six pairs of glasses in high school thanks to a combination of volleyball and basketball–yes, I was that person who kept getting hit in the head. As far as I know, no one was aiming for me, but… yes. It’s how I justify my extreme non-athleticism, haha. So good for you for facing your fear : )

  20. I always hated volleyball too! The only thing worse than volleyball was basketball. I’m coordinated enough, but now, as an adult, I’m 4’11” and 96 lbs. In middle school, I was a little shorter and substantially skinnier (30 lbs skinnier). Basketball was like an entire period of being elbowed in the face by people twice my size. Hiding on the sidelines was infinitely better.

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