Originally posted 11/20/2011
Since my parents sold their house, I went to pick up boxes containing over a quarter century of my memories today. One thing that stood out as I packed up old albums, yearbooks, and notebooks was a framed newspaper clipping from February 2000. It was an essay of mine entitled, “My hockey stick” that won a local writing contest. I still remember fearing the assignment: to craft a personal essay about something you care about. The night before it was due I was scrambling, staring at a blank computer screen. As I sat in my dad’s office I still remember looking behind me, seeing my stick leaning against the wall, and realizing I’d found what to write about. My passion for the game poured out of me, thinly veiled as a love for my stick.
I haven’t read it in years, but upon asking the team if they wanted to see a funny piece of my past and receiving a resounding YES!, our captain decided to read it aloud during stretching. Granted, the writing sounds a lot like a serial adjective abusing 8th grader who just discovered the “thesaurus” button on Microsoft word. Nonetheless, I’m including it here because it still conveys the unbridled joy of a young person discovering her passion.
As our season comes to a close shortly, I can only hope that I’ve helped some little version of myself to fall in love with their stick. Maybe this girl will be like me and think it’s really just the stick that made them love the game. She won’t think it’s the team, or the power that comes from using your body to accomplish something, or the joy that comes from working hard to master a skill. Maybe this girl won’t realize until later that what she really fell in love with was the confidence in herself that the game gave her. And maybe, like me, she won’t realize until she’s grown how much her coaches must have loved seeing her show up everyday a little more sure of herself than the day before, overjoyed to be at practice. Because when you love playing it shows, whether you decide to write about it or not.
My Hockey Stick
Published in the Patriot News February 2000
My field hockey stick is not just a stick. It is a fearless warrior that has gone through many battles yet taken all the hits it had to take. Its only armor is a dirtied, disheveled grip and a graphite core with a flaked-off paint job that has large chips in several areas. The energy that explodes from it seems almost inconceivable from such a shabby instrument. With a driving force behind it, nothing can get in its path. I remember the first time I saw it, my glorious weapon. In the athletic store, I was browsing in the hockey aisle, admiring the new sticks, when a certain design caught my eye. When I first saw it, I instantly focused on it. To me, a halo seemed to form around this exquisite object, making everything else around it vanish. Incredibly sheik, glistening all over, with an almost elegance, it overwhelmed me. Its dark pine tree green shone with brilliance. As I tenderly removed it from the rack, I carefully turned it over in my hands. When I placed my fingers on the grip, it conformed to the shape of my grasp almost immediately. The graphite shaft, a smooth rod, cool to the touch, felt marvelous on my rough chapped hands.
The most considerable difference, however, was at the bottom of the stick, where the ball is actually hit in field hockey. All hockey sticks curve at the bottom to form a fat almost ball shape on one side and bulging out on the other. This stick’s bottom was made completely of graphite while most were made of wood, a quality that I was sure would help me with my driving skills. The more I observed about this stick, the more I felt we were molded for each other. My affirmations were confirmed the next day. As if the stick and I were one, we flew down the newly cut field with an unmatched elegance. It was as if the hockey stick was magical. It seemed to be improving every aspect of my game. At the moment in which I lifted the graceful beast up on my back swing and let my strength surge from my arm to the stick so I could strike the delicate ball, I knew that it could conduct massive amounts of power. From the time that I saw the ball speed down the field I sensed some of that power had come from an unknown force from deep within the fibers of this stick. When I dribbled the ball down the field, it went every direction that I wanted it to. When I made my attempt to dodge another player, I actually succeeded. The stick had brought a newfound confidence in my game. I felt like I owned the whole field.
Throughout the season, thought, the stick soon lost its glamour. The coat dulled, and the paint chipped. The hitting surface had become encrusted in mud from those days of endless playing in the sodden field. The grip, which started out cleanly secured to the stick was starting to fray, become grimy from my hands, and peel off at the top. The grip had become perfectly molded to my hand; the finger impressions were permanently branded on the place where my hand had instantaneously gone when I took hold of it. On the mid-section there are many flakes that have chipped off throughout the season, like battle scars from all the games it played. Yet its inner core with its flaming intensity stayed burning as in the beginning of its life. As I became more familiar with it, it grew to be more like an old friend, rather than an overnight sensation, as it had seemed in the beginning. It almost seemed to take on a personality. It knew where it had weaknesses, and I knew its strengths. All aspects of its physical features, each crevice and every sign of wear, became familiar to me. We had our good days and our bad together. Even so, when the stick slipped into my palms, an automatic connection took place. The stick became a continuation of me. A certain amount of serenity and security always came over me when I held it.
Now that hockey season is over, my stick has gotten little use. I still play around with it now and then, but I always put it back against the corner in my room when I am done. However, I know it will always be there for me, waiting rigid, like a prideful soldier ready to ride into victory once again.