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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Bump, Set… Spastic Hernia?

I’m a volleyball player.

At least, I play volleyball, in a couple of local leagues. I’m not actually good or anything. I can claim, ‘I’m a volleyball player‘ in much the same way I can say, ‘I’m a writer‘: I spend several hours a week doing it, but nobody’s ever going to pay me for it. Or, indeed, encourage me in any way whatsoever. Not if they know what’s good for them.

I might as well say, ‘I’m a driver‘, or ‘I’m a sleeper‘. Or even, ‘Hi there; I’m Charlie, Professional Pooper. Damned glad to meet you!

None of this is the point, really. The point is about volleyball, and me playing it, and not being especially good. Let’s get back to that, and leave my professional pooping aspirations for another time. Like ‘never’, for instance.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about these volleyball leagues, either. They’re not just a bunch of tired, fat old guys limping around the court, playing out the string just to get to the bar afterwards. Don’t be ridiculous.

“The proper form takes advantage of leverage and torque and momentum and mechanics and all sorts of other shit I slept through in freshman Physics class.”

Rather, it’s just one tired, fat old guy limping around the court, playing out the string just to get to the bar afterwards. But there are lots of other people around me, and some of them are only barely tired, fat, and old. So it’s different, see?

(To be fair — and to give fellow volleyballers an accurate picture — the leagues are just what they’re advertised to be: ‘intermediate level’. So we’re not allowed to lift the ball or throw it over the net, but nobody’s going to put out an eye with a vicious spike, either.

Unless maybe it’s a teammate’s eye, on a ricochet off a pole or something. ‘Deadly accurate’, we as a group are not.)

Anyway, I understand what I need to do to improve — I need better form. And I’m not talking about the shape of my butt, either.

Not that a pair of aerodynamic asscheeks wouldn’t help matters, probably. At the very least, I could forget about my on-court deficiencies faster and focus on my spectacular ass. But one thing at a time here.

The ‘form’ I have in mind is volleyball form. Like any sport, there’s a right way or three to perform any maneuver. Like a hook slide in baseball, a hook shot in basketball, or a right hook in a hockey brawl, there are established techniques that increase your chance of success. The proper form takes advantage of leverage and torque and momentum and mechanics and all sorts of other shit I slept through in freshman Physics class. Possibly, magnets are involved, too. I was out sick that day.

Nowhere in volleyball is form more important than the spike. Spiking is the act of leaping into the air and driving the ball from the highest point possible on your side of the net directly into the crotch of an opponent standing on the other side of the net. There are several steps involved in a proper set-up, approach, and effective spike:

1. Retreat several feet away from the net, to prepare for a running start.
2. Attract the setter’s attention, to encourage him or her to set you a spikable ball. This is often accomplished by saying, ‘I’m ready,’ clapping your hands, or stuffing a fiver into the setter’s sock.
3. When the ball is set to you, race towards the net to meet the ball. If possible, resist the urge to make motorboat or airplane noises. (It’s not always possible.)
4. As the ball falls towards you, plant your left foot, hop, swing your arms forward, land with both feet as you swing your arms backward, and spring into the air.
5. Strike the ball at the highest possible point, sending the fear of god and volleyball-sized ouchies into your opponents.

Sounds simple, no?

And it is — to a point. With my current skills, I have no problem making it through step #3. It’s step #4 that’s the tricky one, with the jumping and the swinging and the hopping all over the floor. I’m here for a workout, not the goddamned hokey-pokey. I can’t do a jumping jack without slapping myself in the face, and I’m supposed to manage all of that? Honky, please.

See, the problem with such a complex bit of aerial gyration is that if you screw it up, it’s not going to be pretty. Get the timing just right, and it’s an effortless, graceful, nearly dance-like motion, unleashing surprising power and force.

But get one little part wrong, and it can be an awkward, painful, nearly seizure-like experience, unhinging muscle fibers and important ligaments and possibly the current contents of your bowels. I envision myself going up to spike, and winding up tangled upside-down in the net with a slipped disc, soiled boxers, and my own sneaker in my mouth. That’s totally going to happen some day.

So, I get a little lazy with the proper form sometimes — which, coupled with the aforementioned ‘tired’, ‘fat’, and ‘old’, is not what the cool kids call a ‘winning combination’. In fact, it leads to a whole new world of mortifying results.

For instance, there are few things more embarrassing in volleyball than to rush toward the net, leap unsteadily into the air with arms and legs flapping wildly, careening up toward the ball…

…then speeding down, away from the ball…

…hitting the ground before the ball has a chance to reach you…

…and feebly swiping it onto the other side of the court. Or into the net. Or into your own forehead. Gravity is a cruel mistress, people. And being an uncoordinated rhythmless jackass ain’t much of a concubine, either, let me tell you.

Hell, I’d give up volleyball altogether and take up an old man sport, if I thought I could do any better. But I’m just as likely to hurt myself there, too. I could trip over my putter and into a sand trap on the golf course. I’d end up pulling muscles from withers to brisket playing shuffleboard. And croquet — don’t even get me started. Mallets actually designed to knock balls into other balls? I’d never stand a chance.

I guess I’ll stick to volleyball, and try to keep the embarrassment and crippling injuries to a bare minimum. Which ought to mean ‘no spiking!‘, but I suppose I’ll keep trying that, too. I’ll just have to find some poor schmuck on the other side of the net who’s more tired, fat, and old than I am, and hope I can sneak one past him.

That won’t be easy, though. Does anyone know if Abe Vigoda even plays volleyball?

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Bump, Set… Spastic Hernia?”

  1. Henry says:

    I am “one tired, fat old guy limping around the court, playing out the string just to get to the bar afterwards” and do it 5 nights a week. I “poop” 7 days a week and will be doing that the rest of my life. Maybe I should give up volleyball to pursue the other activity.

    Great article!

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