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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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Game Plans for Geezers

On Thursday nights, I play volleyball in a gym near my house. And at my age — and weight, and questionable ability, and physical fragility, and lack of coordinatedness — I find I need an extra edge when I’m out on the court. Just a little boost to get the blood flowing and shake out the creaks.

The problem is, I haven’t settled on exactly how best to find that edge. Here are a few of the things I’ve tried:

Loud music

Nothing gets the heart pounding like a high-decibel balls-out rock song, right? So a few high-octane tunes in the car on the way to the gym should be just the thing. Over the years, I’ve prepped with hard-driving songs by the Smashing Pumpkins, Husker Du, the Foo Fighters, the Propellerheads, the Crystal Method, and P.O.D., to name a few. And, in fact, I do reach the gym ready to roll on the court when I’ve rocked in the car.

Unfortunately, I can’t actually hear at that point.

The musical mojo doesn’t work unless you crank the tunes up to eleven. And twenty minutes in the car with screaming frontmen and wailing guitars at airplane engine noise levels tends to wash out anything quieter than a lawnmower for the next couple of hours. The old eardrums simply need a break after all the ruckus.

So conversations while we’re playing often go like this:

Teammate: I got it!


Teammate: I SAID, ‘I GOT IT!’

Me: WHAT?!?

Teammate: I SAID, ‘I- well, shit, it hit the ground. Never mind, dammit.

Me: WHAT?!?

Recently, they’ve started signalling me with semaphore flags, but it doesn’t always work so well. If someone behind me wants the ball, I won’t see the signals. Also, they tell me it’s sort of hard to serve the ball with flags taped to their arms. And our flagpole-related accidents on the court are way up. I never claimed it was a perfect solution.

Pregame calisthenics

I’ve been told that the best way to prepare for exercise is to exercise. And though this doesn’t make much sense to me — or my wife, when I tried to convince her sex qualifies as ‘exercise’ — I thought it couldn’t hurt.

I thought wrong.

“Those bastards preaching about ‘warmup exercises’ can kiss my sweaty ass.”

It all sounds well and good to try a few stretches and push-ups, and maybe a few laps around the court, before the game. Unless you’re a fragile fat old geezer like me, in which case you’re cooked. So instead of starting the match ‘cold’ but intact, the calisthenics left me ‘warmed up’, but with a sprained ankle, pulled hammy, and a left elbow that wouldn’t bend the right way any more. Those bastards preaching about ‘warmup exercises’ can kiss my sweaty ass.

Just as soon as I can stand up again, that is.

Hot sauce

Okay, this one might be stretching a little, even for me. But hear me out here.

I like spicy food. And I’ve learned that part of the reason is that hot sauces and peppers contain substances that stimulate the release of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are little peptides that confer a feeling of well-being and excitement, and may dull physical pains, as well. They seem like just the sort of thing I’d want running through my bloodstream during a volleyball match. Assuming I’m not getting my hands on any morphine or rhinoceros tranquilizers anytime soon, at least.

So, I’ve tried taking a little slug of hot sauce before a match, to get those endorphins flowing. The tricky part is getting enough of the juice to have an effect, without swallowing so much I can’t see straight any more. It doesn’t matter how many endorphins are shooting through your veins, if you’re running around the court making the ‘hoo-wha-hah-whoo-hah‘ ‘mouth-on-fire’ noises all night. That won’t win you any championships — but it might get you locked up for ‘heavy breathing at the girl across the net’. That’s a ‘647 in progress’, around these parts. Your local law enforcement codes may vary.

The other risk, of course, is that some of the delicious-yet-dangerous pepper oil will get onto my fingers. That happened one week, then I rubbed my eyes, and spent the rest of the match effectively blind. You’d think my teammates would have called a time out when they saw me whiffing on balls and getting hit on the head, with tears streaming down my cheeks.

Unfortunately, that’s the way I usually play, so no one particularly noticed. On the bright side, I couldn’t see well enough that week to pull any muscles, and I could clearly hear both teams laughing and jeering at me, so I think I’ll stick with the hot sauce going forward. What’s the worst that could happen, eh?

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