If there exists a gene for sporting prowess, I think it decided to remain unmethylated in me. Let's face it, my mum played basketball and badminton for her school, even once representing her state. And my brother has more swimming medals than Elizabeth Taylor has husbands. Yet with me, I have always encountered difficulty with games such as football and basketball (I blame the height factor with basketball). And whilst my ungraceful paddling can pass off as some form of as-yet-unnamed swimstroke, I have consistently demonstrated paucity of knack for aquatic activities (except for that underwater game where you hold your breath and slither like Oceangirl and see who goes the furthest).
My saving grace, however, has always been sports with sticks. I have no idea why. Ask me to kick a ball and it usually strays to one side. Throw a basketball and it careens left of centre like a lopsided lactating breast. Give me a stick, however, and suddenly I feel more in control. The same goes with racquets. And the strangest thing has happened to me here in Oslo. I think I may have found my true calling in a sports game.
Let me introduce you to a game called Innebandy. Also known as floor-ball, this Scandinavian game uses a hollow, light-weight, spherical plastic ball with holes throughout its surface like Swiss cheese. It uses sticks similar to those seen in indoor hockey. There is a wall surrounding the edge of the field which act as a rebound. One goal on each end. You can use your legs as well as your stick. The rest is pretty much self-explanatory. And seriously, this game combines every aspect of sport that I love.
1) There is a stick - an absolute pre-requisite (see above)
2) Ball remains on the ground - some of my favourite sports involve the ball remaining on the ground - ice hockey, indoor hockey, etc.
3) Running surface is actually ground, not ice - whilst I enjoy watching ice hockey, my utter inability to remain upright on skates rules out ice hockey as a game. Also, my body frame would not appreciate the knocks.
4) Not dangerous - ie. will not chip teeth, suffer brain damage, lose a testicle. Just look at the ball. And look at the stick. What's the worst that could happen?
5) Fast paced - Opposite of cricket. Enough said.
I've always enjoyed indoor hockey very much. But for some reason, I've always perceived it to be a non-legitimate sport, sort of like how Monaco is its own country. Also, getting hit by a flying puck isn't particularly pleasant. Insert Innebandy, and my problems are solved. I joined the medical student Innebandy team when I arrived, admittedly with some apprehension. I mean, Australians are stereotyped for their sporting ability, but Norwegians actually are sporty as a society if you take a look at a sample of the average population. The first time I played, I felt like I was hit by a truck the next morning. My fingers had bled both sides from my nails cutting into the cuticle each time I pivoted the stick. I also sustained a bruise on my right hip from crashing into another (much bigger) player. But it felt right, and FUN! True, the Norwegians were too polite to tell me that I sucked that first time, but to keep it into perspective, these guys are very good at their game which they've been accustomed to since childhood. The first time I played was also the first time I'd seen it in my life. So far, I've been relying heavily on my experiences with indoor hockey. My main problem now is controlling this ridiculously light ball - unlike with a puck, every I run forward with an Innebandy ball I need to double check that it hasn't bounced/gotten left behind.
Each time I play, I get better and better. Part of the learning curve is simply observing them when on a time-break. In fact, I think I'm even starting to use my feet to control the ball now. It's no joke - you have to be quite fit to keep up to pace with these guys, and a serious degree of hand-stick-goal coordination is required. But I'm glad I found this game and this team, because it gives me a break from medicine and from everyday class. I'm way too exhausted when I'm running from end to end to think about anything other than the ball. It also has more meaning than going to another party or drinking session. In fact, I'm quite keen to see how far I can progress by the time I finish the semester. Perhaps I should bring this game back to Melbourne.