It was the bad combination of too bold, too eager, and just a bit too old and out of shape that put me in my predicament.
I found myself caught between third base and home plate in a run down. The voice of my frantic, and slightly annoyed, coach sounded in my ears as my loose batting helmet bobbled around on my head.
Here! Now back! Now go! Now back!
I scrambled back and forth as the opposing team closed in, throwing between the catcher and third base, forcing me into a smaller and smaller span.
At a crucial moment - rather ungracefully - I slipped, right on my butt. I thought they had finally gotten me and braced myself for the inevitable tag.
Instead I heard the voice of my coach from the third base box – somehow sounding more urgent and more annoyed than before – Back here now! They had overthrown third base, made an error. Perhaps my graceful tumble was just the perfect distraction.
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I made it. Safe. Panting heavy, heart racing, grinning madly. Safe.
I was sore for three days afterwards.
I loved every single second.
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I'm back on the diamond this year playing fast pitch softball for Athletic. It's been a while – between pregnancies, babies and farm life, a few years have passed since I laced up my cleats. Suddenly I find that I need to stretch and warm up before I play.
A sprint between bases has me puffed. After a few swings of the bat I feel a twinge in my back. Is this what it feels like to be middle aged? Or maybe even old?
Not to worry. What my body now lacks, my mind makes up for. In my mind I am a champ. All the memories of my high school glory days come flooding back when I put on my glove or step into the batting box.
Yes, I suppose this is what it's like to be middle aged. Confidence levels high. Performance levels questionable.
My dad's face lights up when a few days later I recount how I weaselled out of that run down, and smashed a double right past the pitcher.
I spent many childhood Sundays at the ballpark watching him and nine other middle-aged men laugh, curse, and play ball.
I can vividly remember keeping a sharp eye out for Roy, who had the mouth of a sailor, and was known for throwing batting helmets when he struck out. I thought they were the most amazing athletes.
I realise the truth when my dad laughs on the phone and says "Not as fast as you used to be, huh?". Commiseration.
He knows how it feels.
So why do we do it then? Why do so many of us over-30s don cleats or gloves or ill-fitting jerseys? Why do we brave the possibility of pulled hamstrings and sore backs? Are we just chasing our glory years or is there something more to it?
The camaraderie of team sports certainly leads to increased confidence and sense of belonging. For us, our club has given us more than belonging, it has given us family. I am thankful every week that I get to play alongside these women, and that my children will grow up alongside theirs.
A 2018 study by Sport NZ showed that physical activity is linked to healthy mental wellbeing. The endorphins released when we exercise are mood-boosters, warding off depression and anxiety. Additionally playing sports sharpens critical thinking skills and short-term memory. I believe it, and all of those things ring true to me.
But I think a more interesting benefit for me personally is that sports provide me with a forced opportunity for mindfulness. Studies have shown that there are benefits to the brain when people are able to be present, in the moment, focusing entirely on one activity. Mindfulness and meditation courses are exploding in popularity right now.
I'm terrible at it. My mind is constantly racing and thinking of the 8 million things I need to do, and the 8 million things going on in each of my children's lives. That's a lot of things.
For me, sports are the one place where I've always been able to quiet my busy mind and just be really in the moment.
It doesn't matter what league or level you're playing at. In that moment when you're caught in a run down, or standing in the batter's box facing the pitcher, nothing else matters.
I may be a middle-aged mom who wears crocs and makes lunches, but in that moment I'm not. I'm an athlete. A member of my team. A competitor trying to best the competition.
And just like any other competitor, when things don't go as planned it feels hot and angry and frustrating. Two weeks ago I saw a player in our game shout and argue with the umpire after a close play where she was called out. When she came back to the bench she cursed. She's someone's nan! I love it!
Some nans and mums and aunties find their mindfulness with art, cooking, or nature.
That's great. I find mine smashing a yellow ball with a steel bat. All I can do is hope that in 25 years I'll be that nan out there fighting with the umpires too.