Which Sports Did You Play in High School?

Note to my readers: Many of you know that my daughter (Dr. Samantha Nix) has sent me several questions for me to answer for her, her siblings and my grandchildren. This is just one more of those questions that I felt deserved to be published here.

Dear Samantha,

This will probably be the easiest question you ever asked me to answer and most likely will be one of the briefest stories I’ve ever written.

Argo Community High School – Argo, Illinois

This was my Freshman year of high school.  I decided after graduating from elementary school where I tried to play basketball on the basketball team and failed miserably that I would give Football a shot.  I went out for the freshman team.

The summer of 1965 we were doing 2-a-days.  This means we would practice from about 9:00 AM till 12:00 Noon … take about a 4-hour break and be back at 4:00 PM till about 6:00 PM.  I lasted a whole two weeks at doing this. 

It must be remembered this was the summer – Mom and Dad both worked – and I lived about 3 to 4 miles from school and didn’t drive so it was either ride the bike or walk.  Most days I would walk.

My route to School

I did not go home between the 12:00 Noon break and the start of the 4:00 session … I hung out in the bleachers and would sleep or just do nothing.  Boy, looking back on it I really wasted some valuable time.

I quit football the day I thought the coach was picking on me.  I wanted to be a half or full back.  He put me in the middle of a circle ( I weighed a whopping 125 pounds back then) and started calling on linemen to come out of the circle and hit me like they were blocking me (they weighed about 180 to 200 pounds).  After about the 6th time of being put flat of my back I walked off the football field never to return

That winter I signed up for the Diving Team.  I knew I could not make it as a swimmer … I was already smoking more than a pack a day and probably would get too winded.  But diving, I did have a talent for.  I had great form with straight legs, pointed toes and all that stuff.  I could do a dive and hit the water with very little splash.  Like a ballet dancer in mid-air!

However, I failed at that too.  Why?  Because there was one dive I would not do.  I chickened out all the time.  It was the Reverse dive.  More on this later.

J. Sterling Morton East High School

As I told you in a previous article, I transferred to Morton East High school in Cicero Illinois in my Sophomore year of high school.

I decided to continue my diving ambitions.  However, again that critical required Reverse Dive kept me out of much of the competition.  A Reverse Dive is where you take off from the diving board facing the water but flip back toward the board before entering the water.  I was always afraid of hitting the board on that one and breaking my neck or back … so I would always chicken out and not commit to the dive.  Below is an example of the Reverse Dive in case you may not understand what it is:

Any other forward, backward, or inward dive I would attempt … but not the awesome looking (when done correctly) reverse dive.  Because I would not commit to doing it (and another reason you will learn of below), it was politely suggested that I leave the Diving Team during my sophomore year.

However, before being thrown off the team – at a Diving Meet – I was warming up with an Inward forward flip with a half twist.  Again, I have included a video of this kind of Dive.

I was also interested in one of the good looking female time-keepers for the swimmers.  As I was doing that warm up dive, I happened to look up to see if she was watching me in mid-dive.  Since the inward is a dive that is that is started with the diver standing at the end of the board with his back to the water … you are naturally diving toward the board to complete the routine.  You only have inches between you and the board, or you should have, if you want to get a decent score by the judges.  Because of only having three inches or so when I looked up, I looked up just enough to hit my left eye on the board.  I bled like a stuck pig.  The coach bandaged the gash on my eye with those butterfly bandages but said when I got older the eye would probably droop.  Sure enough, it does. Even your 3-year old son asked me about it the last time we did a video call together.

Needless to say, that almost ended my diving career … even though I did complete the meet coming in a strong second from last place.  What ended my diving career was this.  I had a patch over my left eye.  I worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken place in town cooking fried chicken.  I went to work the next day eye patch and all.  Not sure if you are aware of it or not … but when one eye is closed your depth perception is all messed up.  I had to drop chicken into a greased pressure cooker that was at about 550 degrees (yes, it really boils).  Because of my depth perception I was actually farther away from the pot than I thought and when the chicken dropped into the grease the splash of the grease was so severe that I burned both my arms with second degree burns.  It was so hot that a nylon long-sleeved shirt I was wearing (part of our uniform) melted to my arms.  With bandaged burned arms and an eye patch (plus the fact that I was scared of the Reverse Dive) – the coach thought it best if I not dive till next season.  For me there was no next season.

I went from Diving to Gymnastics (followed my brother there).  Ed was more into tumbling and trampoline but I wanted to get involved in the side of the sport that required strength … like the high bar, the parallel bars and the rings.

However, because of my failure to commit to the exercise required to develop the strength I needed … I decided to quit the team after half a season and start going to school part-time and working part-time to generate some money to purchase a car and do other things that were, to me, a lot more fun than working out and building muscle.

So, as you can see, my little Darlin’ — Dear ole Dad had no sports career to speak of in High School.  This is probably why I am not real interested in watching sporting events on TV today.  I probably should have taken up golf in high school … but back then it was classified in my school as a “sissy sport” and I was having none of that.  Oh, how foolish the young heart can be.

Next Question Please …

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