55: You Are Not Too Old

55: You Are Not Too Old

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

You Are Not Too Old

Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?

~Michelle Obama

I worked at a local university and our office was staffed with a few student workers. One of the students was the quarterback of an intramural football team that needed a center. She overheard me talking to another student about how I had always wanted to play powder puff football, but never got the chance. The quarterback offered to let me come and try out for the position.

I was excited and scared. Excited at the thought of doing something I had always wanted to do, but scared I was too out of shape and too old to keep up with athletic twenty-year-olds. There was no harm trying out, though. I agreed to be on the field for practice.

My husband and children thought I was crazy but I didn’t care. It was something I had to do for myself. It was a now or never moment.

My job at the university was sedentary and I had just taken up running to turn back the clock a little. Having just finished my bachelor’s degree, doing homework all evening after sitting all day had taken a toll. My son was playing high school football, my daughter took some dance classes and I had all the mom responsibilities too. Between going to games, dance recitals, and house work, finding time for me seemed impossible, but I knew playing football with kids would motivate me to keep up with my running.

I showed up with butterflies in my stomach and low expectations. I just knew once they saw how out of shape I was, they would let me snap a few hikes and then go with a younger, peppier girl. During drills I was slow and I got winded very easily, but my desire to do this made me drive forward. Once the coaches and the players sized up my abilities, center was where I would play. No one else showed up to compete for that position, so by default, it was mine.

I couldn’t have been happier! They took my shirt size, jersey number and my team name. I chose “Mama Platt” because it is what a couple of the students called me, and I chose my dad’s football number from high school: 74. I still remember the moment I stood in a sporting goods store picking out cleats. Was this really happening? I couldn’t believe it. These girls were actually going to let me be a part of the team!

When I was not practicing on Mondays and Wednesdays at the school, I was running as much as I could around my neighborhood. I wanted to get in better shape and improve my speed. Hiking the ball was the most nerve wracking part because I had to make sure I threw the ball backward and high enough from an almost squatting position. This part quickly became a muscle memory movement, though, and was not as problematic as getting so easily winded. Going from hiking the ball, to aggressive blocking and then bolting to the end zone was challenging. A few times I thought I would pass out, but the excitement of seeing those girls make touchdowns kept me upright. I even made a touchdown myself once! I remember driving home after that game and realizing I really can do anything I put my mind to.

My husband was incredibly supportive and my parents promised to come to some games; more out of curiosity I think. We won our first game, and our second and our third. Some nights we played two games back to back. It was invigorating, tiring and the most fun I have ever had in my life! We only lost once the entire season and ended up winning the championship.

Yes, it was the experience of a lifetime. I turned thirty-nine while playing flag football with college kids. I felt like Wonder Woman. I worked full-time, was an amateur runner, ran my first 5K, raised a family and played football. I still cannot believe I get to tell this story.

I learned so much about myself. I learned that taking chances can open doors to opportunities you never thought possible. I learned that accomplishing physical feats requires mental toughness. I learned that being open to doing the far-out and ridiculous is incredibly exciting!

I graduated with a master’s degree at age forty-one, but I still think my season of football was the best part of my return to university!

~Rebecca J. Platt

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