Learning something new as a so‑called adult is a daunting challenge. There is none of the free‑spirited child left after you reach a certain stage in life. I recently moved to Galway from Africa – specifically Windhoek, Namibia – and decided to try to learn how to play Gaelic Football. Allow me to take you along for what is indeed an interesting journey.
I have always been a sports nut and I have played or competed in everything from martial arts and gymnastics to rugby and field hockey. Team sports have always been my jam. Here comes the big but though. I learned all these sports when I was young enough not to care how it goes: fun was the only objective. Now my mind goes a million miles a minute and I overthink everything. A good example of this is the fact that it took me more than a month to choose a pair of boots. Biggest joke of all is I ended up buying the first pair I tried on.
My first week started with a mixture of excitement and a massive amount of nerves. Looking like an idiot in front of a group of people I don’t know, yeah, not really my idea of a good time. However, memories are not made inside one’s comfort zone, so off to my first practice I went on Thursday. Oh, was I in for a surprise… no sport can be played without some level of fitness and what a level these guys are aiming to achieve. With an enthusiastic coach at the helm, and a bunch of unfit buggers not so keen to go, we got started.
After 6 months of having done very little in the line of fitness, having to do that much work was a big shock to my system. It was all I could do not to pass out at more than one point during the session. I was definitely questioning my life choices within the first few minutes.
Then we went through a little session of ball-skill work and I was hooked. The game feels like a mixture of rugby, hockey, and a bit of volleyball. All of which I have played at some point or another in my life. So by some or other miracle I managed not to look like a complete dimwit.
With my body still aching as though someone dropped a house on each distinct group of muscles, we headed into the Sunday session. Lo and behold, it was much of the same, with the added bonus of a wet and heavy grass pitch. I am pretty sure I may have to find a cheap wheelchair rental for the next couple of days because I will not have any functioning muscles left.
The Sunday ball-skills session was good fun again. I am not sure what to make of it, but after the session I was given a ball to take home and practice some of the skills that I would need for the game. At this point I am taking it as a compliment that means they see potential in me. Of course, the exact opposite may be true and they may be trying to tell me that I am a bit useless.
So in my first week as a Gaelic footballer I made the following rather embarrassing mistakes:
- I referred to a “solo” as a selfie – a comment which cracked up one of my colleagues something fierce. I am pretty sure he nearly wet himself. I do apologize for being so ignorant.
- I have been picking the ball up off the floor without doing the little foot trick, which, by the way, is the first homework I got from the club.
- My hand passes are so weak I am pretty sure there are newborns that pass the ball better than I do. Insert facepalm emoji here.
In a nutshell, I survived my first week, albeit barely. My body is not going to like the level of activity into which I have jumped. This football thing is not too bad after all, I might just keep going with it for a while. Actually, who am I kidding? I am completely hooked. Now just to train my pick‑ups and get those solos going and I might actually get some game time.