In the late 1960s I had sustained a knee injury, and the medical experts that my university had me consult with, had all recommended surgery. As I mentioned on my earlier posts, I had found an alternative therapy through reading a mechanics magazine, this approach rectified my knee enough to allow my participating in the small college Track and Field Nationals, without using surgery.
In those years I loved the aspect of competition and when my track and field career ended, I wanted to test my knee in another sport that demanded a lot of twisting and turning.
Although I had played many sports growing up, playing volleyball in the soft sand, with the wind blowing, with the sun at times directly in your eye, and covering a huge court that teams with six players would cover in six-man competition, was quite a challenge.
I had done some practicing and I thought competitive beach volleyball should be easy. I was very wrong. I played in a two-man tournament (that is two people on each side of the net) with my best friend Dan, we couldn’t score one point in four games of competition. We lost, I was embarrassed, and I didn’t play another game that volleyball season.
I decided to dedicate myself to learning how to correctly play two-man beach volleyball. I practiced away from other tournament competitors for six months and then began the next volleyball season. I practiced relentlessly, you remember how easy that is when you’re in your mid-twenties, and was ready for the first tournament of the following year in a one of the easier divisions.
I played in the Santa Monica “A” tournament with a new partner that I met, and we did very well in the early rounds. I was like a little kid in the sand; I didn't keep under the umbrella, forgot to eat, didn't use sunglasses, didn't drink enough water, but we continued to win. When we finally competed in the finals of the tournament, I had cramps in both quadriceps and both calf muscles and fell to the sand. We had to forfeit the finals because I couldn't move from the spot on the sand.
As the people filed away, a shadow came over my body, and as I glanced up it was the great basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt the Stilt was a 7 foot 1 inch giant who was considered one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time. He said, "You are really good and fun to watch jumping, I was watching you play through all the rounds of the tournament."
He then asked why I didn't take care of myself. Had I thought about keeping hydrated, had I thought about the fuel that I needed to keep myself from cramping, had I thought about the sun beating down on my body? He recommended that I eat bananas and several other foods to sustain the rigorous activity of two-man volleyball. This was Wilt Chamberlain giving me advice!
I continued playing volleyball that season and the next year I played several practice games with Wilt at the Santa Monica pier. He was an incredible person who had a great sense of humor and enjoyed interacting with the other 'beach bums.’ We were playing in a game together and as we were flying in all directions in the sand, we didn't realize that a family had walked onto the volleyball court during a rally. I almost crashed into the people. They were just staring at Wilt. Are you Wilt Chamberlin? Wilt got very upset, probably more embarrassed because he didn't want the distraction of his fame to effect other players having fun at the beach. He didn't allow the family to take a picture and he was extremely upset. I remember reading someone’s account of how Wilt was not social or nice with some people. This was the reason, he felt he wasn't given respect.
I learned a lot during this period. You never know what the true story of an event is unless you are privy to the complete facts. So snap judgments can be wrong. If you are going to get seriously involved in some activity, a wise individual learns all the nuances of the activity that might influence their performance and their health. I learned that with practice and setting a goal that one has a better chance to succeed and not to rest on laurels from another activity.
Oh yes, and Wilt's recommendation of my using a banana, could have placed Wilt in some serious legal jeopardy if he had done it years later. Yes, the banana recommendation. You see, a few years later the 'banana case' was in court. A woman came to a check stand, in a large retail food chain, and was holding her head. The checker asked her what was wrong. The woman said she had a headache. The checker recommended a banana. The woman bought some bananas. That night the woman ate a banana and somehow the banana peel had fallen to the ground. The next morning the woman slipped on the banana peel and broke her arm. The woman’s lawyer sued the checker and the market for practicing medicine without a license. The woman claimed she would never had bought the banana if it weren't for the checker's recommendation. The woman won the case.
You should always be aware of the climate and conditions when you are involved in any activity. We can’t stop doing the activities that we believe in, but we can be conscious of the best manner in which to share.
To inspire and empower.
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