My high school gym teacher had seen me play softball for the leagues I had been playing for, and she asked me to try out for the school team. Not too many sophomore students make the team, so if the coach was asking me to try out I knew I had a shot. I was so excited that I couldn't sleep the night before, and staying in my seat during class the day of try-outs was murder.
That afternoon, stepping onto the high school softball field was like a scene from a movie. I looked around like this was all new to me, and I could actually visualize myself dressed in the Dobson High School softball uniform. I was going to be part of a "real" team! I knew I had to run harder, throw more accurately, and catch like I had never caught before in order to make the team. The other girls were not only a year ahead of me in school, but I had started Kindergarten early, so I was young for being a sophomore. Many of the girls I was competing with were a full two or three years older than me.
Warming up went well, and I was feeling great. My nerves were finally starting to settle, and I was getting into the groove. All of this was no big deal; I could handle anything. My body had been conditioned for working hard, and at this point it was my mental game that was going to make or break me. The first skill I was assigned to show off was fielding grounders. The coach was hitting balls, and we were expected to catch it and throw to first base. Nice and simple. Something I had done a thousand times.
On the first ball I was going after I heard the crack of the bat, got my glove low, and moved into a perfect squat position. Dang, that ball is coming FAST! As the ball hit my glove I knew something wasn't right. SMACK! Cupping my throwing hand over the ball as it landed in my glove, I grabbed it and threw it to the first baseman. Then I turned around, put my gloved hand into the opposite arm pit, bit my lip, and refused to let the tears escape my eyes.
"Lockinger, what's up?" the coach called out.
"Nothing, I'm fine," I replied.
"That's not true, and we all know it. Come over here and tell me what's wrong."
I don't know exactly how it happened. I don't know if my glove wasn't on all the way or if it was just a fluke, but when the ball hit my glove one of my fingers bent back. By the time the coach talked me into taking my glove off and showing it to her, my entire finger was turning black and blue and was incredibly swollen. I begged the coach to let me keep playing, but there was no way she would allow that. My parents were called, and I was taken to the doctor. I don't remember the official diagnosis, but I remember the result. No softball for the remainder of the season. My first shot at playing on a team that could lead to college was gone in a heartbeat.
Tearing up my hand was probably the worst injury to date, simply because I was lost in terms of exercise. I couldn't play with my net because I couldn't use my hand to field the returned balls, I couldn't do my gymnastics exercises on the trampoline because I used my hands for balance. I could still run and jump and use my lower body all I wanted, but I got frustrated that I couldn't do exactly what I wanted to do.
Looking back I can see, even then, the stubborn streak I had. If I couldn't do what I had in mind, I simply wouldn't do anything. Ten years later that would turn out to be a really big problem, and ten more years later that attitude is something I still struggle with. But... I am getting ahead of myself. It's important to remember, though, that even something so small in the grand scheme of things threw me off course. I can honestly say this is where I saw a turning point in my life.
My dreams seemed to be shattered, so I started looking for something else to replace my interest in softball. The attention I got from boys started to replace the positive feelings I got from playing ball. I was starting to get comments about various body parts, and the few girl friends I had were reading in the magazines and telling me how to best show off our assets. My body image and self esteem no longer came from how I could perform physically but from how many rumors I heard about which boys found me cute.
The next year was pretty typical in the life of a high school girl. My hand healed just fine, and I forgot all about missing the softball season. The next challenge, though, would be one that I would not adjust to so easily.