I grew up a very sporty kid. My parents had me in tee-ball and soccer before the age of 5—on boys’ teams because there was no such thing as all-girls leagues back then—and I played basketball, soccer and tennis (both school and club teams) straight through high school. I even went onto play college tennis, but since graduating many years ago and becoming a “grown-up” (subjective), my sports involvement has been limited to running and other regimented gym-like activities. So when I found out Semester at Sea intramurals were a thing—at sea? on a ship? I know!—I was on that like a fat kid on cake. I signed up for all of them.
(Well, OK, I opted out of washers and volleyball, but I did participate in basketball, Ping Pong, ladderball, cornhole and dodgeball.)
Intramural brackets were spread out over a four-month period and were usually single-elimination style on the teeny-tiny sports court up on deck seven. Paula was in the same camp as me, wanting to do everything, all the time, so we often were teammates. This worked out well, as we’re both uber-competitive and out for blood! (You think I kid…one time, our opponents didn’t show, so we played the dependent children—all between the ages of 9 and 13. We didn’t show mercy, that’s all I’m going to say about that.)
I don’t want to brag, but our dodgeball team in particular was rather legendary. The three of us in the field office plus two of our work study students, Kacie and Mikey—who play lacrosse at Columbia and run track at University of San Diego, respectively (meaning, they don’t suck on the court)—formed “the Gumboots,” which we named after an iconic South African dance Paula learned in Cape Town.
In fact, we felt we had to do the culture justice and even recreated our own Gumboot dance—our own sort of haka if you will—which we dutifully performed before every match, forfeit or not.
We might have worn African-inspired different ensembles each game, too. I’m not telling if that was planned or not.
And painted our faces. Because pirates in drag are way scary on the dodgeball court.
By the end of the “season,” we’d have a couple dozen spectators show up just to see
us make fools of ourselves our sweet moves. So what if we lost in the semifinals to a team of six bros who were about 10 times our combined height and weight and out to behead us with their laser-like throws? We looked way better out on the court than any of our competition, I’d like to think.
Trina thought so at least, and presented us first place medals for awesomeness.
When intramurals fizzled out—or rather, once we eventually were eliminated in each sport—we began playing pick-up games of volleyball on sunny mornings. This was made pretty challenging by the fact that we were both on a rocking ship and the wind was pretty violent at times. (More often than not, we amended the rules to play wallyball instead, meaning multiple bounces and ricocheting off the walls were completely acceptable.) Though this being the (narcissistic?) field + admin offices, photo shoots sometimes took precedence over the actual game at hand.
We may not have gotten a whole lot of actual exercise, but I would bet you anything we had as much (if not more) fun than anyone on that ship.