Friday, August 31, 2012

The Ward Volleyball Roster: A Moral Dilemma

Instead of watching Romney's convention speech last night, I went to ward volleyball. I slammed a few spoonfuls of chocolate pudding before I left, counting on the sugar to fill in the gaps of the super healthy homemade chicken noodle soup I had for dinner.


I am competitive. This isn't a new insight ... but I think I'd fooled myself into thinking that motherhood had mellowed me somewhat, making me immune to the seductive allure of being the best. Because how can I be the best when I'm wearing a cotton-poly t-shirt crusted in hummus? And motherhood isn't a competition blah blah blah mommy wars blah blah breastfeeding blah blah gifted child blah blah organic.

But do you know what is a competition? WARD VOLLEYBALL. And I'm not that great at it. I played a little in middle school, and my family always had a net up in the backyard in summer, but I'm untrained in the ninja arts of spiking, setting, and blocking. I'm a good bumper and I serve really well, but tactically I'm about as useful as a jar of peanut butter on the court. Despite my lack of legitimate skills, I still want to win. I'd like to think I'm scrappy and athletic. I don't want the weak sauce girls on my team. I grimace when someone swats at the ball with both hands like a deranged river otter. I mourn the neglectful parents who failed to provide an opportunity for their now-grown daughters to develop gross motor skills.

This may come as a surprise to you, but I cannot, in fact, play volleyball.

I started to wonder about the purpose of Relief Society volleyball. If it's about sisterhood and fellowshipping, then the game just got a lot less fun. But if it's about providing an outlet for all our latent stay at home mother rage, then sign me up.

(Sidenote: I hate when kids try to join adult volleyball games at parties/picnics/the like. It ruins the game. They can't serve, they can't bump, and they cry when the Amazon on the other team spikes the ball into their jello-covered face. I'm all for letting the kids squirrel around with the ball and net while everybody else is eating their burgers and potato salad, but come game time, they better be gone. Parents, take note, and get your spawn off the court.)

The stake tournament is in a week in a half. Word is that our rival, the Sugar Land ward, practices year-round and stacks one of their teams.

I was waiting to rotate in last night when the girl in charge of setting up our ward's team beckoned me over. Let's call her June, for confidentiality's sake.

"I've got a question ..." She takes a seat on an empty chair dolly.

Like this.

"Yeah?" I say.

She looks around clandestinely. "Sit down. Let's powwow."

"Ok." I'm excited to be invited to the inner circle ...

"So there's this thing with the Sugar Land ward ... they stack their teams."

"They put all their best players on one team?" I wonder. We have enough girls signed up to make two teams ... I'm watching the cogs turning in June's mind.

"Yeah! So I'm wondering if we should do the same ... but I don't know how we could do it ...."

I think of the potential for hurt feelings. "That could be tricky ..." I'm sure some of the girls on our team think they're better than they are and wouldn't like getting stuck on the crap team. What if I'm one of them?!?!

I cannot do this.

Fast forward an hour later into practice. We're scrimmaging the girls from the singles ward and we're floundering. My petty consolation feeling is that at least we have husbands --ha! Then I notice they're all svelte and childless and full of giggly energy because their Thursday night consists of flirting at institute while mine involved making crappy soup and wrangling my toddler into bed. So whatever, we're even. But our teams aren't ...

I catch June's eye. "Yeah, I definitely think we should have an A team and a B team."

June nods. "That's what I was thinking."

Then I wonder again if I'd be "A" or "B" material. Probably A- ... at least I hope so. Because being on the B team would most assuredly mean quick and embarrassing defeat at the stake tourney. And if that happened to me I'd be ticked because the stake center is over a 30-min drive away, and I don't want to road trip to Loserville.

Should we stack one of our teams to have a chance against Sugar Land? Or should we just "play for fun"? Katie, what do you think?


  1. I'm so with you on not letting kids play in adult volleyball games at parties/picnics/bbq/etc. It's worse than not having enough people to play. They are the way.

    1. Amen. Remember when we played on an intramural team together? And I was like the kid on the court because you were all professional and I was short and confused?

  2. The thing about stacking teams is really that it's just more fun to play good competition. If I'm going to go to a church and play volleyball with a bunch of people, it better be worth my time. But the problem with church sports, is that people get offended, because apparently the gospel is more important than winning. Who knew. ;)

    1. Oooh, I like that point--that it's just more fun to play that way.

  3. Stack 'em! The bad people (who care about others) don't like feeling like they are letting others down. Kim, you will just have to practice if you don't want to be on the B team. Although, I don't think that she would have talked to you if you weren't going to be on the good team. This may work: ask who wants to be on the competitive team. Say it like you aren't there to have fun, but you are there to win and bring glory to the ward. If you are willing, you can pay to fly me in as a ringer. :) Happy I answered your question?

  4. Strangely enough, I agree with Katie. If I were playing I know for sure I would be on team B, but I would feel good about it because I wouldn't feel pressure and I wouldn't have to feel bad for being bad at the game.

  5. Hi this is Suzanne Ohsiek (I like to read your blog, btw - very funny and interesting) When I was in Stake RS we had this exact same issue. Sadly, people DID get their feelings hurt. I like Katie's idea of asking the ladies which team they want to play on - they can volunteer for one team or the other, which might help. But, after seeing the fallout, I don't think the fun of a winning a volleyball game outweighs the hurt feelings it might cause. The game is over in an hour but some ladies in our stake have never come back.

  6. My opinion: no stacking. If someone (you, or anyone) likes strong competition and wants do what it takes to win, that is great! But I think that approach is better suited for something like a city league where everyone is there for that reason also.

    It's not an easy answer either way. I know, you can't just tell someone not to care about their team's ineptitude when they DO CARE. And you can't just tell someone not to be embarrassed when they aren't very good and they keep losing points for their team.

    In a perfect world, all the skilled players would be endlessly patient and forgiving while the less skilled players would be humble and quick to learn how to play, until eventually everyone would be bump-set-spiking their way around the Celestial Kingdom. One day...

  7. This is the exact reason I don't play volleyball with the RS anymore. Luckily I know I'm bad, so I don't take it too personally.

  8. I think I've realized in the past almost-year that my competitiveness will only get me to hell (as long as I get there the fastest, though!). Looking back I'm wishing there had been more discussion about how/if people wanted the teams divided strategically. I hope this year you'll reconsider playing with us!


Comments make my day.