When you’re a kid, you are running; literally running everywhere. Think back to your youth; whether you partook in a riveting game of tag during recess or a competitive game of kickball during gym class, you were expending energy and loving every minute of it. I have only the best memories of that giant red ball rolling my way; I couldn’t wait to step in and kick it high over the heads of my classmates. I still remember the sound it made.

My true memories from grade school start in fourth grade. My family had just moved to a new town, which meant a new school, and there’s nothing quite like being the new kid. I made friends quickly and found gym to be my favorite class; a place where I could excel. Of course, I had to convince some kids who naturally wanted to pick on me as the new girl that I was worthy in the sporting realm. Despite their best efforts to tear me down (the boys who liked you always picked on you – strange phenomenon), I was willing to challenge them. One day at recess we set up a 50-yard dash; me versus the one relentless boy who loved to pick on me; he was supposedly the fastest boy in the class. By the end of the race, he was eating crow at the finish line, and I either made friends or I made enemies that day. Either way, I was pretty happy with myself.

By years end, I felt at home in my new community. With summer vacation ahead, my need for competition intensified, and I signed up to play Lassie League softball. Fielding was a necessary evil; batting was where I truly excelled. I loved playing an organized sport and little did I know, Lassie League was my stepping-stone for the big time, junior high softball. I was a really good batter, and a generic fielder who was always in need of improvement, but there was one other element of the game I needed to hone: sliding.

In junior high, we had a young coach with an open mind who was intent on helping us to push our limits on the field. One rainy day, before the season officially started, we had the best practice of our lives. We headed out to a wet dirt practice field, the rain still falling, set our equipment aside, and prepped ourselves for some fun in the mud.

One after another, we learned the technique of sliding. Our coach was a genius; what better way to learn how to slide but in the slick forgiving mud. It was the most fun I ever had at any practice. Running at top speed, timing the slide, and giving my body to the mud – what a way to enjoy a day. I bet every girl on my team felt the same way.

As I advanced in my sporting career, sliding came in handy, whether feet or head-first, and I had a blast every time I was blessed to incorporate a slide. To this day, I’m thankful for the experience I had in that softball practice because not only did I learn how to slide, but I watched my fears slide away in the mud while I was having the time of my life.

I’m still competitive today, I’m just competing against myself. I am thankful that after all I have put my body through over the years it still allows me to walk on a treadmill, use an elliptical, and jump rope. Staying in good physical shape is now the goal, but oh how satisfying it would be to run those bases again at top speed and slide just under the tag. The mudslide practice was iconic; almost as satisfying as winning that infamous 50-yard dash.

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