They say you’re only as old as you feel. But, as I’ve discovered, that’s not necessarily true. You’re actually as old as you are. And there is no way around that.
I have been playing on a women’s futbol (soccer) team here in Valencia. We practice every Monday and Wednesday. It took me a couple of practices to realize that I’m not young anymore. Mind you, I’m not ancient. I’m 52. But I’m not 25 either, and that seems to be the median age of those on my team.
Jeff decided to come to one of our practices. I had warned him in advance. In my time playing teams sports in my teens and 20’s, I was usually one of the better players for most of the sports I played. Not blowing my own horn, it’s just that I loved playing sports. And it’s what I always told my kids; You don’t have to be the most naturally talented, but if you’re the hardest worker it will get you playing time. Hard work beats natural talent every time – Just ask Malcolm Gladwell. I know Emilie took this to heart.
So Jeff joined me at the field to watch. Afterwards I asked him for his assessment.
‘Good News! You’re not the worst one on the team.’ he told me, as we walked back to the Metro. Since I’m the age of most of their Mothers I’ll take it. And I do try to work as hard as everyone else. Even though they’re hardly breaking a sweat on gazelle-like legs while I’m huffing and puffing red faced through all the drills. Its certainly harder than it used to be.
But I do have an ulterior motive for all this, and it’s more than just staying in shape. I’m taking a page out of El Jefe’s book and I’m learning Spanish in the context of something I already know. Yup – my soccer team only speaks Spanish. There is one girl who can confirm if I’ve understood correctly what the coach is saying, but 99% of the time I have to listen and understand ‘Futbol Spanish’. Then perform whatever instruction is given. And you know what, it’s working.
I’ve even put some of my ‘Driving Spanish’ to good use. La Derecha. Izquierda. One thing building on another. And I’ve also found that in Spanish, I’m not directionally dyslexic like I am in English. I’m not sure what that’s about.
Our last practice, I didn’t need any help with my Spanish. And I’m finding real dividends in everyday life. Because I have to quickly understand and respond on the field, it’s helping me to do that in restaurants, grocery stores, the optometrist – all sorts. Yesterday we went to lunch and my entire interaction with the waiter was in Spanish. And I didn’t even have to stop and ponder what he had said. I just knew it and responded. Some of it wasn’t the usual. And last week when we went to look at mattresses at El Corte Ingles it was the same.
So playing on this team is helping me in multiple ways. But like learning a new physical skill, combining that with learning Spanish is creating a muscle memory I can draw on without having to think about it.
Maybe with a little (OK ALOT) of hard work, this 52 year old dog can learn some new tricks.