It is early summer, hot and very humid, and high school will be in session in three weeks locally. When I recently met a high school student participating in summer conditioning in preparation for the approaching school year, I realized that conditioning has changed dramatically since my time in high school.
My oldest son and I went blueberry picking at a wonderful farm about half an hour away from where we live. This place has been in existence a little over three decades, and my family has picked blueberries there almost since its inception. It was there that I encountered the sports trainee and her unusual method of conditioning.
After finding the absolute best row of blueberry bushes, my son and I proceeded to fill our individual containers, starting at the beginning of the row. About 10 feet from us were two women, one obviously the mother and the other her teen-aged daughter. As frequently happens when picking blueberries, people talk, and the daughter was going at it hammer and tong.
“So then Kim gets all mad, hangs up the phone and they haven’t talked since,” were the first words I heard emanating from the daughter’s mouth.
“Mmm,” replies the mother in standard “I heard you speak but I’m not listening to you” parent speak.
“Boy, what a jerk Jason is,” continued the daughter. “Hasn’t called, nothing. And it’s all his fault. How could anyone be so selfish and thoughtless? I’ve never met anyone as selfish as he is.”
I thought, “OK, so Kim has been jilted by Jason and this girl—obviously Kim’s friend—has taken up the burden of condemning him in her most acerbic manner.”
“It’s not right when a boy trashes a girl’s reputation, Mom. I mean, he’s started spreading around stories that first of all, aren’t even true, and secondly, even if they were true, he shouldn’t be repeating them. They’re real bad, something that will kill a girl’s reputation in a minute.”
The daughter was now crying, and I had begun to take poor Kim’s side, wanting something painful to happen to Jason.
The mother grunted something unintelligible to acknowledge her presence, knowing that the daughter needed only a vapid response to continue her story.
With that encouragement the daughter indeed continued nonstop for the next 30 minutes. I lost interest somewhere in the harangue against Jason, and her voice was little more than white noise to me most of the time. However, at a certain point it became irritating. I rose to a standing position and looked in her direction, wondering if she was ever going to take a breath. One sentence caught my attention.
“Mom, do you think I should stop dating Jason? I mean, for all his negative points he is amazingly cute.”
I had to re-position my assumptions. So Jason was her boyfriend and not Kim’s? There was really no connection between the sentence about Kim earlier in the conversation and anything else she had said about this Jason character?
Her verbosity about Jason continued without as much as a one-second pause. I stood there in amazement as she talked, and talked, and talked. There is no way she could have more than a dozen blueberries in her container, I thought. Also I had begun to sympathize with Jason, and was tempted to ask the girl for his number so I could call him and tell him that his best move would be to drop any relationship he might have with her immediately. Then again, listening to her empty chatter and the mother’s nonchalance, there may not actually be a relationship there, but merely something the girl had conjured out of air.
She stood up and I saw that she was wearing clothing that an athlete might wear when conditioning, someone who might run cross country. Then the light came on and I understood everything more clearly. She was not out here to pick blueberries—she was actively engaged in conditioning for her sport. Most likely she was working on her breathing, a vital part of a runner’s success. Here she had talked for at least half an hour without a break (although I would wager that in school she could not stand in front of a class and give a three-minute speech because ‘I can’t think of anything to say’.) Her breaths, if she ever took any, were so slight that they did not interrupt her. I also conjectured that she was indeed making up everything she said on the spot to accommodate her exercise. This girl was intense in preparing for the upcoming season.
My son and I finished our task, speaking a sum of 15 words between us the hour we were there. The athlete was still in conditioning mode when we left.
It is truly amazing the novel ways in which coaches get their athletes to condition in this day. I would much rather have preferred this girl’s method to the one my basketball coach used, one which found us running three to five miles each day after school on hot and humid August and September afternoons.