Volleyball

It’s been another MASSIVE week as I enter the final, exhausting phase of this silly project. For a start, I nearly own a bike, which may be significant in the next chapter of my quest to become an Olympian (of sorts). It’s also good because I’ve finally entered a triathlon and I’ve got this little bike ride coming up soon – that Ride London 100 Mile Olympic road race, got to be easier than a marathon, right?

And speaking of marathons, whilst wanging on at someone the other day about how I deferred my place because of my unidentified injury (why didn’t I go to a physio, seems to be the commonly asked question, in response to this news. I don’t have an answer for it), it occurred to me that it had all gone a bit quiet on that front. Further investigation lead to the discovery that I had missed the deadline to re-register for my deferred place, by two days.

So I got on the case and promptly called Virgin London Marathon HQ, where a pissy gap yah jobsworth told me there could be no negotiation, rules are rules, and contrary to popular belief, they are not made to be broken. No. They’re there to be adhered to, and failure to meet with VLM’s draconian timescales, which, unlike literally everything else that could make them a couple of quid (NO I DON’T WANT TO COME TO YOUR “PASTA PARTY” BECAUSE PASTA ONLY COSTS 67P IN THE REAL WORLD OUTSIDE THE EXCEL CENTRE), they don’t remind you about, will see you out of your deferred place.

My gold-dust ballot place is gone, and my face is sad. I genuinely never want to run, ever again, but I really do want to come good and earn the sponsorship money I’ve already made.  So I’m looking into alternative options, and there will be a marathon somewhere next year. In the meantime, London Marathon, you can kiss Marathon Bear’s Charlton Athletic-supporting ass, for you have besmirched her good name.

In more positive news,  I have receieved word from another ACTUAL OLYMPIAN, Kate Allenby. Kate is the Sydney 2000 Olympic Bronze Medalist, former British and indeed World champion in, perhaps my favourite of all the Olympic sports, the Modern Pentathlon. Watch this space for more news relating to this over the coming weeks. As the kids say, hashtag exciting.

This week’s sport, Volleyball, has spent months eluding me. Unlike fellow-unfunded team sport, Handball, the volleyball community has been keeping its distance. To be fair, I can’t say I blame them. If we’ve learnt anything over the last ten months it’s that I’m terrible at ball games, but apparently even worse at map reading and the application of common sense.

I was actually supposed to try volleyball many months ago, with Tendring Volleyball Club, which operates in the motherland of Essex. Having taken a bit of time off work before my ill-fated marathon, and headed back to my mum’s house, I’d planned to spend an evening at Tendring Technology College, based in FRINTON (so I am told quite clearly by coach Alex, in his email), playing volleyball. When I Google TTC, it shows a site in Thorpe-le-Soken, which as a non-driver, I can only get to using public transport. I decide, in my infinite wisdom, that by Frinton, Alex could easily have meant Thorpe-le-Soken.

I arrive in Thorpe, in pitch darkness and walk through light snow and abject terror, alongside a deserted country road. After twenty minutes or so, at the school in THORPE having failed to find an open door or any signs of life, I become suspicious and decide to google the postcode Alex has given me. The search results reveal that the school Alex is talking about really is in Frinton rather than Thorpe, and there is absolutely no way I can get there by the end of the training session. These are the kinds of situations that lead Important OCJOG Lady, Ruth, to conclude that I shouldn’t be allowed out by myself. I’m very sorry not to have trained with Tendring and also for wasting their time.

Following this rookie error, I have spent months haranguing any London-based team I can find, my friend Tom who is in a Volleyball team that doesn’t seem to want to help me out, and GB Volleyball via the medium of Twitter. None of these lines of enquiry generated any leads and to complicate the situation further, the volleyball season runs between September-May, after which the focus shifts to beach volleyball, which I’ve already tried, LAST SEPTEMBER. Seriously, if you ever decide to try THIRTY EIGHT SPORTS in a year, which you have to fit in around your job,friends, occasional inept attempts to woo boys, minor mental breakdowns and eating your fricking dinner, for the love of God, do yourself a MASSIVE favour and have a cursory Google, first.

Finally, my prayers are answered by Ashcombe Volleyball, who are based in Dorking which isn’t prohibitively far away. They can accomodate me on the Thursday evening before Katherine’s wedding, as they train for next season’s Super Eight League (this is the top flight league in England, when will I ever learn), because they’re super-keen, apparently. In fact they’re so keen, that team member Carol has been playing for TWENTY FIVE YEARS. She doesn’t look old enough to have been doing anything for twenty five years, which is a pretty good endorsement for getting your sports on.

IMG_1480

This is what you’re supposed to look like when you’re playing volleyball

After we’ve warmed up, we’re going to crack on with some drills. To start with, I’m going to attempt to throw a ball at Daisy, who has the misfortune of being paired with me. I’m actually better at throwing and catching than ever before, I think, but it really doesn’t cut the mustard. Despite also being considerably stronger than when I first started this, a 10 week old kitten could probably produce more force. You have to throw from behind your head, incorporating some kind of weird snake-move. By which I mean knees, hips, then chest are pushed forward before releasing the ball over your head. It’s no surprise to me that I can’t co-ordinate this.

After this, we’re separated out into two teams and we practice passing before eventually trying to hit over the net. I’m plagued by a slightly odd problem, whereby I kind of squeak every time the ball comes near me and as with other ball sports, I panic and just hit it in any direction in order to get it away from me. Whilst I do manage to knock the ball over the net a few times, my body is positioned incorectly (you’re supposed to be sideways on, left side first, in order to get some power behind the ball) and I clearly have no idea at which point it is appropriate to try to hit the ball.

IMG_1502

Not like you’re “doing a Radcliffe”

The waters are further muddied by an exercise in which we’re fed the ball to dig (the one where you hit it with your forearms) then run forwards whilst the centre plays the ball back to you to shoot over the net. This kind of cordination is beyond me. Much like with handball, it’s really difficult to understand the drills when you’re so unfamiliar with the game, because you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve and volleyball is a very technical sport, according to coach, Luke. I do manage to hit the ball over the net a couple of times, however and the team whoop encouragement.

The next exercise, I’m grateful to sit out, on account of a  lack of knee pads, and instead I take some pictures of the team being, really very impressive at leaping face first at the floor to intercept the ball, which looks terrifying. I’m very impressed by them.

IMG_1478

I’m glad I didn’t have to do this

It’s getting towards the end of the session, and we take it in turns to feed the ball over the net, dig the ball back to the centre who passes the ball back. I am mostly able to touch the ball, usually with my arms, though regretably, several times with my chest. However, once I’ve made contact with the ball, it could end up anywhere, because i have no idea how to direct it anywhere specific. Carole notes that my arms are looking a little red, and suggests that I switch to passing. Carol tells me that the balls were once heavier, but were redesigned because the pain inflicted by the heavier ball was putting people off. It is considerably lighter than I remember, though it’s still doing some damage. Surveying the other girls’ arms, they seem to be ok and I’m told that you just get used to it.

IMG_1496

Nope, definitely not my forearms

After a quick game, in which I fail almost every time the ball comes near me to do anything remotely relevant, I dash off to get the train. The team are probably one of the most supportive and encouraging that I’ve trained with and seemingly completely unphased by the fact that I’ve come along and ruined their training session for the evening, with my total lack of coordination and skill. So for this, they get a gold medal.

On my way home, I notice a little bruising on my arms and the the general consensus, a couple of days later at Katherine and Neil’s very, very lovely wedding, seems to have been that I bore more than a passing resemblance to someone with some substance abuse problems. “You look like you’ve been shooting up”, Harriet, among many others, tells me. I have to question; how do so many people I associate with know what track marks look like? I only know because Vera once drew them on my arms with felt tip pens, when I went to a fancy dress party as Amy Winehouse. I don’t know how Vera knows, either, except that she went to art school and probably watched quite a lot of “gritty” student dramas about such things.

Having survived BMX and show jumping, my bruised arms are not the best look in my pretty, strapless bridesmaid dress. In fairness, no one would see the bruises if I didn’t keep walking up to them, arms outstretched exclaiming, “My arms look awful, don’t they?”,  this is partly because I’m shit faced (but I didn’t write that thing in the guest book, Richard and Christine – I promise it wasn’t me) and partly because I quite like the battle scars – they make me feel authentic.

Skaggy Arm

And so it goes on. I have TEN sports left and TEN weeks in which to complete them. I can almost taste the hangover which, unlike most hangovers, tastes of victory (and a little of the regular, accompanying shame). Time to start thinking about the next chapter…

 

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

Jen

12

14

2

28

Gemma

3

   

3

Jade

2

1

 

3

Nick

2

   

2

Uncle Becky

1

2

 

3

Pete

1

1

 

2

Harriet

1

 

1

2

John D

1

 

1

2

Aliki

1

   

1

Ashcombe Volleyball

1

   

1

Chloe Rogers

1

   

1

Colin

1

   

1

Dalston Dunkers

1

   

1

Daniel

1

   

1

GB Handball

1

   

1

Grant

1

   

1

John T

1

   

1

Naomi

1

   

1

Otter Water Polo

1

   

1

Romford HC

1

   

1

Ruislip Eagles

1

   

1

Simon L

1

   

1

Steve

1

   

1

Su

1

   

1

Vera

1

   

1

Simon M  

2

 

2

Nic  

1

1

2

Ali  

1

 

1

James  

1

 

1

My Mum  

1

 

1

Nancy  

1

 

1

Joss    

1

1

Olly    

 1

 1

 

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