A Virtual Athlete

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Wii what??? Around ten years ago, one of the fourth grade students in my class enthusiastically educated his clueless teacher on his new Wii gaming system. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it sounded really cool. I remember being left thinking, “I wonder if this device would allow me to play sports, especially tennis?” 

After a decade, the world of virtual reality has finally entered my reality. I recently purchased an Xbox One Kinect. Now, I know some of you are thinking,”Bless her heart. Doesn’t she know they’ve been discontinued?” Yes, I know, I know…

 When it comes to the Xbox One Kinect, it’s the Kinect part that makes it special. The Kinect adapter’s motion sensing input system gives me the ability to operate the Xbox One, using only my hands, eliminating the dexterity needed to manipulate the controller. As a novice, I thought it wiser to dip my toe in the water with a less expensive, out of date model that I could actually play.

Unlike other gaming consoles, which are more hip and current, the Xbox One fits my needs perfectly. I held my breath as it used my image to create an outstandingly, fine-looking able-bodied avatar. Manipulating my avatar will provide opportunities to move my own body in new and different positions than I otherwise would while working with my trainer or swimming in the pool. The nuances of holding my arms out while riding a pretend jet ski, or trying to grab the bowling ball before even throwing it down the alley is challenging…and kinda funny!

My favorite Xbox One game is tennis. I enjoy practicing my mean backhand, following through accurately with my forehand, and powering serves over the net. The aspect I love the most is how it takes me back to my days when my mom used to play tennis with me as a kid. Albeit in the driveway or on the tennis court, there were few things I loved more than playing tennis with my mom. She taught herself to play as a child, and as an adult, she humbly held accolades as local tennis champ. She won more trophies than our house could hold. She was good! Her patience overrode her greatness when playing with me. She could see the same athleticism and eye-hand coordination in me that she, herself, possessed. I was great at connecting the ball to the racquet,..I just couldn’t run fast enough to get there. Thankfully, she was talented enough to hit the ball directly to me. Hearing the exhilarating ping of the fuzzy yellow ball bounce off my racquet made me smile. I LOVED every minute, and always anxiously awaited our next match!

The Xbox One renders an environment to practice similar real-life tennis skills, yet contrary to mom, it lacks her patience and encouragement. New to gaming and being the rule follower I am, I clicked on the tennis tutorial with a virtual coach. A guy who  looked like an athlete straight out of MMA wrestling. If I was gonna do this, I wanted to do it right. I looked forward to the kind guidance of a coach. Ha!  As I began to play, it was NOT what I expected. Shockingly, I had to laugh at the blinding insults continuously spewing from the coach’s mouth. Such things as, “That’s when most people would try to hit it!: That thing in your other hand, that’s a racket.; Wake up buttercup, get your swing in on time!: You still taking part in this match?; This is not promising!“. HOW hilariously RUDE! Obviously, I wasn’t very good traversing the virtual court, at first. Would these words be exiting this bully’s mouth if he was aware of my physical challenges? Probably so. On  the other hand, this meat head motivated me to lessen his insults and improve my skills. Consequently, the coach and I have developed a love / hate relationship. 

Achieving the long term goal of playing a gaming console is uplifting. Although, it may seem minuscule in life’s grand scheme, even the smallest of blessings can assist me in moving my health forward. I am so thankful that the Xbox One will uniquely challenge my body, and I look forward to “kicking virtual butt”…with continued strides of faith, of course!

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