42: Going Long in Middle School

42: Going Long in Middle School

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Going Long in Middle School

It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.

~W.C. Fields

I never thought myself to be much of an athlete. From kindergarten up through sixth grade, I stuck with being a bookworm and getting As and good remarks from my teachers in all my classes. But when it came to P.E. and recess, I couldn’t stop showing the “jocks” how un-athletic I was, giving them a reason to laugh at me. One time, my P.E. class was playing kickball. I kicked the ball right into the hands of one of the opposing team’s members, and everyone laughed at me, crying “You stink at sports!” Moments like those got me picked on all the time.

A summer later, I found myself at a new school where I seemed like a total stick-in-the-mud, or so I thought. All I cared about at first was getting good grades and good comments from all my teachers. Except I also cared about making new friends, not wanting to end up being a loner for the rest of my time at the school. When I tried to make some friends fast, I made the fatal mistake everybody does; I tried to act cool and not like myself. I tried cracking a few outdated jokes that I thought would be funny. I tried changing my look by getting some cool clothes, which only drew attention to the clothes. Most of the attempts I made miserably failed and backfired. I was just as lonely as ever.

One day, however, I put aside my fear of being laughed at and headed to the upper field. Back when I was at my old school, I was good at only one athletic thing: tackling and blocking people when we played rugby. And the first thing I saw when I stepped on the grassy field that day was a bunch of boys playing football, some of them from my classes. Gathering all my inner strength, I walked up to the leader of the group, who was shouting all the orders to his friends, and asked if I could play with them. He scanned me for a moment, like he was trying to see right through me, and said “sure.” After some brief introductions he asked me, “Are you good at blocking?” I thought for a few seconds and responded with a slightly reluctant, “Yeah.”

When we were setting up for the play, he positioned me in front of him, since he was the quarterback. The other team sent their strongest player to rush the quarterback, probably thinking that the “noob,” or the “new kid,” would be the worst player. I got ready to block (and be laughed at) and then came the “hike!” I stood my ground, focused all my strength into my legs and arms, and braced for impact.

The other team’s player collided with me at full force for only a split second, but when his weight made contact with my arms, I pushed hard, causing him to bounce off me just like one of those “super bounce” balls ricocheting off a wall when you throw it indoors. The quarterback took advantage of his opportunity and chucked the ball to a different player on our team, who scored a touchdown. Everyone was surprised by my powerful block and congratulated me.

Later, the teams switched positions and my team was on offense. As we began the play, the quarterback I defended walked up behind me and whispered “Blitz,” readying himself for the play. Knowing what this meant from watching the “jocks” at my old school play football, I moved to the front of my team and waited for the “hike!” It came just as clearly as the last one did, and I pushed off with my legs and sprang forward, charging like a rhino towards the enemy team’s quarterback and blocker.

Once I was within arm’s length of the center blocker, I folded my arms across my chest and ran into him so hard that I knocked him onto his back. I then jumped over the stunned player, who had a look on his face as if he’d just been hit by a bullet train, and dived at the quarterback. We made contact, and that was the end of the play.

The rest of the game was similar. I was used as a blocker and center until lunch ended and my team won. From that day on, I gained a whole group of new friends who would sometimes fight with each other over who got me on their team. I also got a new nickname: “Tank.”

~Nicholas Berson

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