I Love: Trampolines

June 23rd, 2014

Trampolines are the coolest.

Nothing brings out my inner child quite like walking into someone’s backyard and seeing a great, big, giant trampoline.

My eyes get super wide, and there is usually a high-pitched squeal right before I take off, sprinting down the lawn, hopping from one foot to the next trying to remove my shoes without losing forward momentum.

I then like to embarrass myself (or show off, depending on how highly you regard trampoline-ing prowess) with a series of jump twirls and karate kicks.

It’s total bliss for like ten minutes – until I start breathing really hard and seeing spots, at which point I collapse onto the trampoline and slowly come to the realization that I am supposed to be a fully-grown adult.

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(Just to give you an idea...above is me on a trampoline)

To my point though…

For those of you with trampoline-ing experience, you know that if you have two people on the trampoline jumping at different times, there is a certain moment when you both land just right and you are catapulted twice as high into the air. (And for a moment you think holy moly I’ve really done it this time, I wonder where I’m gonna land.)

You may also remember that the opposite is true. Sometimes you come down and you don’t go back up again (it feels sort of like you might break both your legs).

It’s all about the timing.

Life is full of these moments….where timing is everything.

Where what you say or do matters less then when you say or do it.

For example, saying Happy Birthday to me on November 3rd is very different than saying it to me on January 3rd (both will make me happy, but one says “hey I check Facebook regularly and have my life together,” while the other says “I’m a nice person but I’m confused and may need help”).

Walking, talking, breathing, eating, loving, learning, jumping rope – all timing. All crucial.

I first thought of this trampoline analogy last week before one of my reserve games. It was a thousand degrees out, I had perhaps over-caffeinated before the game (darn you Dunkin Donuts and your “a medium is cheaper than a small today”), Lloyd had taken me through a very thorough warm up, and I was about to play soccer (which is the most exciting thing ever).

So basically, I could have lifted a car. I was overamped and moving way too quickly.

The thing about being a goalkeeper is you can’t save the ball before it gets to you. You can’t come for a ball until it’s played. You can’t catch a cross any higher than you can jump (even if you get to it a minute early and are just hanging out waiting for it to come down). And you can’t give your players good information until the play has developed.

But perhaps the most fitting application of the trampoline principle in goalkeeping is that you can’t hit a dropkick until it has bounced up a certain height from the ground.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, dropkicking is like punting the ball except you let the ball hit the ground before you strike it. The trajectory is a little bit lower and easier to deal with. Plus it usually goes farther.

Provided that you get the timing right.

Hit the ball too early and it ends up being driven low along the ground (and someone intercepts it and comes down and scores on you). Hit the ball too late and you either launch it really high in the air or you shank it with your ankle and it goes ten yards (where it’s picked up by a forward, who comes down and scores on you).

At that particular game last Wednesday, I was trying to hit the ball too early. I was so amped and so ready to hit something (or someone) that I couldn’t calm myself enough to wait an extra half-second on each kick.

I went and sat down next to the water cooler for a good ten minutes and tried to think happy, calming thoughts (maybe hummed a tswift song…I can’t remember). Anything to make sure that I was ready for the game, but not so ready that I tried to make the plays happen before they happened.

For example, when a player is 1v1 with you in the box, your entire body is screaming, “dive right, she’s gonna go right, I know it, she’s gonna go right” – but dive right too early and she can slip it left. So you hold on, and you move your feet and you sacrifice how soon you get down to the ground in favor of timing it to the last possible moment.

Patience in this type of situation is the most difficult, because of what’s at stake.

My dad used to say that in goalkeeping you start at 0 and go downhill from there. Sure, occasionally we get the opportunity to hit a ball that ends in a goal. But mostly, we are just fighting a battle to keep our team in a position to win - which means that every play we make has the potential to end badly, or at best keep things the same. (I like to declare moral victories on occasion just cause I can and it makes me feel good…but if we are looking at pure outcome, 0 is the best it’s gonna get)

What I’m trying to say is that when you are in the goal, and everything is hitting the fan, you want to act quickly – to save the ball as soon as possible and get it the heck out of your area. But when time slows down, you have to slow down with it (or I guess the better way to look at it is that when you speed up, the play isn’t going to speed up with you.)

In this sense, goalkeeping is like life (duh…)

It is the worst kind of situations that require the most patience – that require you to pause before you act, and to go through all the painful steps that you wish you could skip.

A couple of examples…

Let’s say you are sitting in some major traffic.

You can do what I do most of the time which is a fair bit of cursing, pounding the accelerator as soon as a tiny gap opens up, grinding to a halt and banging the steering wheel when the guy in front of you lets someone merge, changing lanes every few minutes, and making snarky comments about other people’s bumper stickers. (Side note: there isn’t enough snark in this world for someone driving 55 in the left hand lane with a bumper sticker on their car that says “stop the violence”).

Or you can recognize that you aren’t going to get there any faster than the people in front of you will allow - chill out, save yourself a migraine, and decrease your risk of serious injury or death.

Same goes for if you majorly upset someone – you break up with them, or tell them they look ugly, or that you killed their puppy. The last thing you can expect is to say something and have them forgive you immediately. At the very least, it’s gonna take a day or two. And talking to them in the meantime is liable to do more harm than good – regardless of what you say.

Bottom line, the most productive thing you can do sometimes is say, I can’t fix this right now, I’ll try again in a half a second, or tonight, or tomorrow…or next week….or when it’s ready to be fixed. And most often that has very little to do with when you are ready.

The other person on the trampoline isn’t always gonna be jumping with you in mind (especially when they are like 8), the forward certainly isn’t going to care how or when you want to make the save, and the guy driving in front of you is too busy cursing at the guy in front of him to give you any thought at all.

The end result is the same – timing is everything...and sometimes that means you have to relax into the in-between moments, especially when the situation seems most dire.

-A