Musings from a former volleyball try-hard

I was watching volleyball on television today. The UAAP women's volleyball finals, the Lady Spikers versus whatever Ateneo's team is called. The blues won the first game in the series, but the greens (us, of course) had a twice to beat advantage, because they were undefeated throughout the season. Crazy? Apparently, not really.

I'd like to think my brother's watching the game because his girlfriend plays volleyball. Not for their high school, I assume. I mean, that should explain why he knows a fair bit about the sport's rules, partly. Except for the antenna rule, which we saw in play the last time we watched together - another La Salle-Ateneo game, the five-set nail-biter that ended the elimination round and gave us a lofty trip to the finals.

Or maybe it's because it's another chance for my brother to cheer for the blues again. Whatever. I've gotten used to it.

I'd also like to think that I have some sort of knowledge about volleyball. The obvious reason, of course, is that a friend of mine played for the Lady Spikers. Celine, in case you've forgotten. Her stories about how her coach had her long hair, and the entire team's, cut short, and dyed, as a concession - it made me, at least I believed, sound like a bit of an insider. My brother knows a lot about basketball and I don't. Advantage! I know something about some smidgen of the inner dynamics of a popular volleyball team! A smidgen, just, but still.

The other reason: I played volleyball in school. For PE class. In college.

If you've been reading this blog in its early years, you'll know that I've never really had a good relationship with the sport. Not that I was particularly bad at it. If you play long enough you'll get a feel of things. I, of course, never had the feel of things, because while I know how the game works, I don't know how to play it well. Just hit the ball with your arms, your hands clasped to each other. Basic. Or maybe toss the ball. Less basic. Spiking? Never mind that.

I may be hyperactive, but my attempts at athleticism were hampered by the fact that I wear glasses. My eyesight is terrible, and contact lenses were not an option during my childhood, as much as it isn't an option (aesthetically) now. I played basketball in high school. I had to remove my glasses, or risk being hit in the face with a ball and breaking my expensive (seemingly) specs. Same with volleyball. PE class during my second term in La Salle was held later in the day, and classes usually ended at seven in the evening. Add in the dim lights at the sports complex, and my already crippled eyesight, and you have me knowing, deep down, that I will never be good at it.

Not that I aimed to, mind. I know I cannot be a volleyball master like the party animals are. This was when I was falling head over heels for Kizia. She was good at this game. She and her gang would take over the court after classes were over. Nothing achingly competitive, but definitely competent. (I must note, Celine isn't a blockmate of mine, so we never crossed paths during PE class. I wonder what LR17 had to deal with.) That was the golden standard I somehow felt I had to live up to.

Of course, it cannot be. Circumstances were also against me. Our class was split into four groups, and I ended up in a bad group. If I was writing this as an observer (September?) with no emotional connection to anyone, I'd say the fourth group was comically bad. They always fumbled their spikes, always made the wrong shots, always had little idea what they were doing. But I'm part of that group, so I'll just say that we tried, but we're just not as good as the other three groups.

Well, except for Kevin. He was good at the game. We'd stumble and he'd do really well. I think he provided most of our points, not that there were much anyway. "Nothing much happened, except for our group losing in volleyball, 15-6," I wrote almost seven years ago. This was a pattern. I'd do terribly during the drills, and I'd do the same during the actual games. Trouble for the self-esteem of a guy supposedly falling in love with a girl.

Two-thirds through the term, however, we won a game, against the first group, 15-25. "Unbelievable, but true," I wrote. If I was that aforementioned observer I'd call it a fluke, for we were still comically terrible. That line, of course, is tinged with cynicism now. Back then, it was a huge win. We still ended up in fourth at the end of the term, though; we gave up our final game to the third group, 21-25. We somehow got better.

Of course, that is not competitive volleyball. We only did one set. Celine had to do five at the most. Also, I'm definitely not made for volleyball. Not thin, not tall - okay, some say I am, but it's irrelevant, really - and not trained every morning of every day. At the very least, we know what to watch out for when watching Cha Cruz lead the Lady Spikers to another victory. Which they did today.

So there I was, watching the game. Watching that Cainglet girl from the Ateneo do what I called a "bitch walk" every time they scored a point. (Trash talk. I get it. I just found it amusing.) Watching that other Ateneo player who spikes really well, and who oddly reminds me of my literature teacher slash Twitter friend, Miss Pam. Watching yet another Ateneo player, Gretchen Ho, because I find her pretty. This is wrong, Nicksy. Of course I cheered for La Salle. I'm just not good with names. Abby Marano? I feel I have that mixed up. (My brother still knows more.) Forgive me, my alma mater. At least I know what to watch out for, even if my blindness meant most of my "out" calls are actually "in", thanks to you. And I know who to cheer for.

Four sets later, we had shots of a celebrating Lasallian crowd, and in one of the shots, I saw Celine. Or at least I saw Celine. Anyway, let's say it's Celine. There she was, cheering for her former team. "Ayun yung friend ko, oh," I told my brother, and he didn't look up from his phone. I assume he didn't notice, or care.

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