When I was a kid I played softball every single summer at the local park. * Not that crazy wind-up fast pitch serious business. This was lazy and beautiful. Our shirts were just tee-shirts with iron on logos from the local uniform shop and we shared bats, gloves and helmets amongst our team.
My mother was usually my coach and she was damn good at it. We were young girls playing a sport, and sometimes playing it really poorly, but my mother never cared about winning. She told us that the game was all about sportsmanship and snack. Snack being the ho-ho and capri sun we gobbled hungrily after the game while sitting on the grass in dirty uniforms.
Every season my mother would organize one friendly game with the local chapter of the Special Olympics. It was a co-ed softball team and they weren’t all kids. At first it was strange to interact in a competitive sport with mentally disabled adults and adolescents. Looking back I’m impressed with our maturity. We played the game with so much motivation and chatter and happiness. We didn’t play to win and we made some wind-mill looking strike outs and fumbles. We came to enjoy our annual match-up. It definitely opened my eyes. My mother encouraged me to get more involved with the Special Olympics and I refereed at various tournaments. Let me tell you those players are tough and actually pretty good.
It’s been a long time since I thought about those games, but my work recently hosted a team for the MSP Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics. We had to run into the freezing waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
It was a LOT of fun. I actually had to go in twice because the first time Naymar lost us on the beach and didn’t do her plunge. There was no way she was doing it by herself so I had to go back in! The first plunge was a high energy run in up to my hips and run out. The second time the life-guards in heavy duty wetsuits were egging us on deeper and deeper into the water, and then they claimed it didn’t count unless we went under. I was the first one under, I dunked myself underwater and came up simultaneously screaming and gasping for breath. It was so COLD! duh Mina…Then as Kathleen and Naymar went to go under water I was running backwards out of the water trying to take pictures. It was fantastic and completely enervating.
If you’ve never done a polar bear plunge, try it. If you are feeling altruistic check out your local chapter of Special Olympics and see what you can do to help. I promise you will come away with more than you bargained for.
* My mother was convinced that sports would make me a well-rounded person. In rebellion I refused to play one summer because I wanted to lay around and read books all day. I missed it so much that I never skipped a season again.