In Which She Revisits Her Worst Adolescent Nightmare…

…and Lives To Tell About It.

It will likely come as no surprise to any of you that I was the girl in middle school who didn’t like gym or sports or active games of any kind.  I was the one who reluctantly participated in gym class and only because it was a requirement.  I was the girl who at the church youth group sat on the sidelines reading a book while the others played whatever silly game they were playing.  If they forced me to play, I dreaded every minute of it.  I felt silly, incompetent, and insecure when I was anywhere but on the sidelines.

The good news is, I survived without any lasting scars or need for therapy.  But what was the point, really?  WHY is this a rite of passage all modern American children must endure?

I thought those years were long gone, but twenty-five years later, I have found myself forced to confront my pimply adolescent self once again.  Our church recently started a Sunday night Kids Club and Youth Group.  My husband is heading up the program, and I volunteered to help out.  I’ve spent most of my life working with preschool and elementary aged kids, so on a whim I volunteered to help with the junior high.  I already know most of them fairly well, and thought it would be better if I was not working with my own kids.

Which was all fine and good until I realized that half of the evening would be spent… you guessed it!  Playing those dreaded games.

Thankfully, I’m not in charge of games, but I am there to be a female presence and to make late comers feel welcome and bring them into the group.  But generally, I just sit on the sidelines and cheer.  Or knit.

It never occurred to me to join in until my husband said to me one night on the way home, “You know, you really ought to put on some sweatpants and sneakers and jump in and play.  It might make some of the other girls feel more comfortable.”


You’ve GOT to be kidding me.  I lived that nightmare once.  I have no desire to live it again.

But I was thinking on it, and it made sense.  If I’m going to volunteer with the youth, I should probably participate in the activities.  Is that what youth workers do?  (I’m truly asking; it’s been a LONG time since I was in a youth group, people.)

The next week I didn’t have time to change before we left for church, and to be honest I really didn’t feel like going to church in sweats and sneakers, even if I do spend the night with the youth.  So in my regular clothes and ballet flats, I went.

As usual, I sat on the sidelines and cheered.  They were playing dodge ball, and I couldn’t even follow the rules half the time.  But then my husband appeared, and he got into the game, making the teams uneven.  Before I could second guess myself, I kicked off my flats and joined in too.

Long story short, I survived.  I can’t say I was much of an asset to my team, but it was more fun than I thought it would be.  It was certainly more fun than it was when I was in junior high school, probably because I wasn’t concerned about looking uncool in front of the other kids.  I mean, let’s face it, there is NOTHING cool about a 38-year-old woman in skinny jeans and bare feet playing dodge ball so there was no need to even consider that factor.

See, I even have proof.  My husband took this photo with his Blackberry because he said no one would believe him.


My crowning glory was at the end of the night, when I finally managed to throw the ball and get my husband out of the game.  Ahhh the sweet smell of victory.

I just might be convinced to play again next week.

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27 thoughts on “In Which She Revisits Her Worst Adolescent Nightmare…

  1. You know I have to comment on this one! I’m so excited you’re helping out with JH. I love hanging out with that age b/c they just like you if you are spending time with them and enjoying it, no sports skills required. If you truly don’t like playing the games, though, don’t worry about it. Just take pictures or take video like I do. They LOVE being on camera.

  2. That is fantastic! I was that kid too, I hated gym class and the games at church. But I wanted to be with my friends so I usually sucked it up. lol

    Good for you!!!

  3. As a yg advisor as well the kids LOVE it when you jump in with them! It really helps establish trust with them. They do not care if you have any skill at all!

  4. Well done for joining in – I am sure your efforts were appreciated.

    My worst part of PE was the picking of teams – I was ALWAYS one of the last to be picked!!! My kids assure me that this is not done anymore – if splitting into teams, everyone is just numbered now 🙂

  5. Good for you! I volunteered with the high school youth group at our church until we had our 4th kid. It was fun. The kids definitely appreciate your efforts to get involved, as awkward as it may be for you. How fun that you and your husband can do it together too! Where are your kids during this time? No help for ours was one of the reasons we had to quit serving the youth group with our time.

  6. Congrats!!! And good job getting your husband out!! That would have been an even better picture. 🙂

  7. “Or knit”. bwahaah I almost spit my water out!!

    Good for you for playing AND having fun. I am so bad at sports… just so bad. Oh…just.so.bad.

  8. I love it when other grown women articulate my adolescent gym class sentiments sooo accurately. I am still completely and utterly uncoordinated to this day.

    Have fun with the junior high kiddies. That’s the age group I work with for Speech. They’re so full of spunk and budding personality at that age. Props to you for jumping into the game and providing the young ladies, especially, with an example of female security!

  9. Without a doubt, as I look back upon my favorite youth director from jr. high and high school and my Fellowship of christian Athletes sponsor, the two main things that I remember are:

    1. They were always, always so excited to see me and interested in me and what was going on in my world.
    2. They played with us, went skiing with us and hung out with us.

    Keep on digging in and don’t sit on the sidelines.

  10. oh girl…I’m so there with you. I was always too concerned with how I looked while playing games to enjoy them or be any good at them. When I led our youth group for a summer many years ago I was blessed enough to have my husband (then boyfriend) to head up the games. He’s a naturql and the kids loved him.

  11. Love it! We play dodgeball every Sunday night with our youth group, too. And when I say “we”, I mean the people who actually love the children enough to submit themselves to that torture. Because, I, my friend, do not. 🙂 You are THE woman!

  12. 🙂 — BIG smile! I was that girl too! When we played softball during gym class, I sat in the outfield, making clover necklaces. I didn’t bother to switch sides; why walk all the way in there, when we all knew I couldn’t hit the ball anyway?

    It is great that you played (and your husband is right). I’ll also say, IMO, that sitting and knitting is also a good thing to do, b/c the girls in the group who feel strongly as you did as a girl, need to see a grown woman who is comfortable with herself, in the stands, not stressed by the pressure to be like everyone else. They need that role model that says it’s okay. I particularly resist the idea that ALL children these days must be athletic. God has gifted us all differently.

    1. We have a VERY small group. I really wish it were big enough for some of them to sit on the sidelines with me and knit and chat, I think that would be nice to give them that option. But we really need them all to play to even have a game. So I guess I’ll be jumping in for a while. 🙂

  13. Yay for you!

    My husband would have lost me at, “You know, you really ought to put on some sweatpants.” LOL I never wear sweat pants.

    1. Haha. Unfortunately, I wear them all too often. That’s why he was like, “Hon. You love sweatpants. This is your chance to wear them.” LOL.

  14. My brother was one of the youth leaders at our church (before he moved) and one of the only leaders who would play the games with the kids. He was BY FAR the favorite of all the kids and they are all impaiently waiting the day his wife finishes the nursing program and he can come back to the youth group.

    And just so you know, the 38 year old moms/youth leaders who plays the games ARE cool!

  15. Oh, I was that girl, too. The older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve cared about the quality of my participation and more about the fact that I actually participate.

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