Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sport & Peace -- And Amanda's "Most Memorable Moment In Sport"

Hello Friends!

You may have heard that I recently received a grant to conduct research on:

-Peace Education
-Sport Programming
-Intercultural Integration

this summer in Western Europe. I hope to see some familiar faces while I am on my travels.

To follow my adventure, which I will be embarking upon (virtually -- they will be elsewhere) with 3 other fantastic female teammates, check out our blog, here:

And for friends of our blog who were redirected to this site, and everyone who likes to hear embarrassing-moment-stories, please read on, I've pasted the content of my first "Sport & Peacebuilding" homework assignment below:

My Most Memorable Moment in Sport
Asking me to write about sport is sort of like cruel and unusual punishment. I don’t mean this to be offensive, but more by way of introduction. In fact I’m happy to report that I’ve increased my sportiness in recent years. In the summer of 2009 I ran my first-ever race, a 10k, which I proudly finished in under an hour (59 minutes and 45 seconds, to be exact). But I wasn’t always the mean, lean, speed machine you see standing before you today. I came from something else.

Growing up, sports weren’t really something my family did together for fun, unless sports trivia or croquet in the backyard count. Though my Mom was her school’s head cheerleader in high school and college, an aerobics instructor and medaled swimmer, a massive and unexpected stroke disabled her at 24, two years before I was born. She recovered her capacity for most normal human/mom functions like walking, talking, reasoning, changing diapers and making lunches, but never regained her coordination enough to jump or swim again the same way she did before. My Dad, though he started college as a sports journalism major, and covered our basement walls with autographs from Joe DiMaggio, Pete Rose, and Jackie Robinson, comes from a family where they consider it an accomplishment if someone can chew gum and walk at the same time. So athleticism is not what you’d call “in the genes”.

Despite these familial odds against me, I persisted toward sportiness as a youngster. I completed the proverbial YMCA swimming lessons and one fall season of YMCA soccer necessary to fit my role as an American grade-schooler. I even pursued gymnastics classes for 5 years, most memorably creating my own floor routines with my neighborhood friends in 1996, the year the “magnificent seven” American gymnasts won gold in Atlanta. We were just like them, I tell you – Keri Strug’s vault looked like nothing in comparison to my one-handed cartwheel.

The incompatibility of my genetics with sport hit its tipping point at the height of my pre-teen awkwardness: 6th grade. In my painstaking pursuit of popularity, I did something completely unadvisable. I joined the Blandford School Girl’s Basketball Team. I sported a stylish, giant white cotton t-shirt that was longer than my shorts (I was still using the soccer shorts from the 2nd grade YMCA team -- hadn’t hit puberty yet full-on, you know) along with a bright yellow mouth guard my mom had helped me boil and shape to my new braces. I religiously watched March Madness games with my dad and started answering to my new, cool b-ball nickname “Downtown”.
The moment in question happened about half-way through the 6th grade season. I went to a magnet school for smart kids, which meant that our team was made up of the brainiest but also arguably least-adept 6th grade girls in the city of Grand Rapids. Our record wasn’t a shining one. I generally kept to defense, which I felt was my particular strength, being unable to dribble much farther than three feet. I would man-to-man you like nobody’s business. One particular game though, just after half time, I had a 15 second affair with fame. Somehow, through divine intervention perhaps, I actually caught the basketball in my hands. My two, preteen hands. Realizing my chance and seeing a clear court in front of me, I awkwardly (but passionately!) drove the center of the court, miraculously, simultaneously looking ahead, running, and bouncing the ball with one hand. The opposing team sprung out of out of my way, awestruck by my intimidating skill. People were shouting my name. I could feel it – this was my sport, this was MY game, and I was going to make the one basket of my 6th grade career. There was no one to pass to, and I could see the basket clearly, so I went for it -- the adrenaline rushed through me as I gave all my energy into the shot of a lifetime, the ball gracefully arcing through the air…

… and gracefully missing the basket by what probably were feet but appeared to me to be yards. I was embarrassed. I came back to earth. I tuned in to the voices shouting my name, who turned out to be saying “Amanda! Thank God you didn’t make the shot! That was the other team’s basket!”