All through my childhood, I was very good at sports. My dad and I used to play soccer with aninflatable Barbie beach ball in the basement, using pillars as goal marks. I was that girl who used totear down the field with the ball, screaming at all of those who were just standing around. Iremember going to soccer camp with my good friend Victoria, who was skinny and much morefeminine than I was, and later tattling on her for not moving around as much as I thought sheshould. In elementary school, I was on the swim team. I was the fastest at breaststroke, and wouldhave gotten first place had my competitor’s mother not messed me up (I still resent her till thisday). The only thing that stopped me from completely dominating was my fear of diving. I couldnot and would not dive into the water. I dreaded going to swim practice because of those fewminutes at the end when we would have to dive. If I was forced to get up on the diving stand, Iwould cannonball in the water. Most times, I would still beat the other girls. But the coaches alwayspointed out how much more I could win by if I only just dived in. I was ecstatic when we movedaway from China and I was allowed to quit the swim team.
When we moved to America, my school didn’t have a swim team. Basketball, volleyball, and trackwere pretty much my only options available. I had been known as a fast runner when I wasyounger – in fifth grade, my nickname was Speed due to the fact that I always beat the other girlsin “race ya to the fence” competitions – and I went out for track. I made the track team and wasfast enough to be selected for the 200m x 4 relay. I was excited and proud that I was able tocompete with a bunch of tall, long-legged American girls and make the spot . Unfortunately,because I had piano lessons every Monday and had to miss practice once a week, I was unable todefend my spot in the relay and some other girl took it. Track slowly floated away from me as I continued to miss practice to attend my piano lessons.
Gradually, the image of “sportswoman” no longer resembled me. I was that Asian girl who wassmart and sometimes funny, but never athletic. I began to dread gym class, even though it hadbeen one of my favorite classes when I was younger. I hated team sports. As I grew older, I evenstarted making jokes about how horrible I was at sports. It was my sad reality. In ninth grade, Itried to rekindle my love of soccer by trying out for the team. I made the junior varsity team, butfelt uncomfortable and unhappy the entire time. The other girls, who were a year above me, wereall considered to be the “mean” girls of our school, and rarely interacted with me. Even though Iwas the worst one on the team, the coach continually started me and rarely benched me, which,would have been a prize to most players, but was a punishment for me. Eventually, an injuryallowed me to quit the team. I didn’t admit it to anyone, but I was secretly elated that I no longerhad to stay after school until 6pm with girls who ignored me and spend my Saturdays on a field,running drills and trying to avoid being yelled at by my coach while on the field. To this day, I’m stillnot quite sure why he insisted on putting me in the center of the field every single time. Maybe Iwasn’t as bad as I thought – or maybe he saw something in me that I didn’t.