This is the second installment in a series of stories tracking our writer Matt Crossman’s progress on improving his scores in the SAT for Sports … if he makes any (and that’s a 40-yard tall IF).
My 10-year-old daughter and I invented a quarantine-time-passing game called Frisbee Ball. The tools required are a tennis ball, two paddles with Velcro to catch the tennis ball, and a Frisbee. We stand 10 feet apart, and at the count of three, one of us throws the tennis ball while the other throws the Frisbee. Our goal is for each of us to catch the object 10 times in a row.
As we played last week, it occurred to me that the quick-twitch agility required to catch my daughter’s sometimes errant throws would help me improve on the SAT for Sports, a test of athleticism for which I am training and writing occasional diary entries, the second of which you are reading right now.
Frisbee Ball produces better agility, better agility produces better SAT for Sports scores, and better SAT for Sports scores is the goal of this assignment. Ergo, I’m getting paid to play Frisbee Ball.
I am the greatest solopreneur in history.
We play Frisbee Ball outside every day. We take occasional breaks to skip a lap around our house. That is work, too: My physical therapist told me to skip to help my tweaked hamstring heal. I became a journalist 26 years ago to Speak Truth to Power, to Stick It to the Man, to Root Out Corruption Wherever I Found It, to Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comforted, and I don’t know what happened but now I skip around the house with my daughter and take notes about it.
A time unlike any other calls for an assignment unlike any other, and my quest to become an average high school athlete at 48 is every bit of that.
Quick primer to bring you up to speed: Mike Weinstein is an entrepreneur who owns a business called Zybek Sports. He created the “SAT for Sports,” comprising the 40-yard dash, broad jump, high jump and two agility drills. For the sake of this series, I am defining “average high school athlete” as broadly as possible—an average score of at least the 25th percentile, according to Weinstein’s data. (He administered the test to 20,800 people last year, the vast majority of them high schoolers.)
The St. Louis franchise of D1 Training, a nationwide network of gyms, designed my training regimen and will score my tests using Zybek’s equipment. After five weeks, I will take the entire test as a final exam, assuming my hamstring is healed by then.
It’s appropriate that I’m not 100% healthy. Nothing is 100% right now, certainly not my writing business. One magazine I wrote for extensively last year closed. My most reliable client of the last five years isn’t taking pitches and won’t for the foreseeable future. Travel writing is a big chunk of my work, and no magazines will assign travel stories now, and I wouldn’t take one, anyway. Making matters worse: Many journalists have been laid off in recent weeks, which has flooded the market. More writers competing for fewer assignments means finding work has become that much more difficult.
Solopreneurs across many industries are facing similar challenges. We are being forced to expand our skill bases, to reach into adjacent industries, to adjust what we do for a marketplace that doesn’t resemble itself from six weeks ago.
I launched this SAT for Sports project to be an example of the pivots many of us must make. I’m not learning completely new skills. I was devoted to fitness before I began. With the SAT for Sports, I am redirecting that passion from endurance events, for which the only goal is completion, to specific, measured, timed events. It’s a change, yes, but not a huge one.
How can I, how can you, do the same thing with work? I am venturing outside of magazine journalism into other writing fields. Or I’m trying to, at least. I remind myself constantly: I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Early in my career, I pivoted from politics to sports and from newspapers to magazines. Later, I moved from staff to freelance. As a freelancer, I’ve jumped across genres in “micro pivots” and am looking for ways to do more of that now.
Speaking of micro: I recently took the broad jump and high jump tests to get a gauge of where I am.
The numbers are embarrassingly low, so I’ll distract you: What I lack in athletic ability I make up for in momentum. When I started this project, I thought two people would train with me. That number has ballooned to more than a dozen. (Email me if you want in!) I’m calling us Athletes for the SAT for Sports (ASS). Oh … shoot … maybe not.
We range in age from early 20s to late 40s and live in Seattle, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. One is a former Green Beret. When the coronavirus hit, he was riding his bicycle from as far north in Alaska that you can ride a bike to as far south in South America as you can ride one. He had gotten through Mexico and into Guatemala before he decided to fly home. Prediction: He will score better than I do.
I suspect the number of participants will continue to grow. I keep asking friends, and they keep saying yes, and that tells you something about my friends. It tells you they’re crazy. Wait, no, it tells you they are hungry to stay connected, even if virtually. We are doing this together, even though most of us won’t see each other in person.
My heart is filled to bursting at this show of companionship, friendship, love. It gives me hope. It gives me comfort. It gives me great joy. No matter how slow I run, no matter much of a fool I make of myself, no matter how much stronger gravity is under me than anybody else, at least I know, deep down in my soul, that the friends that I love most in the world are laughing at me.
I’m giving them plenty of reasons to.
The following are my results so far—event, current score, score needed to get to the 25th percentile, and my own analysis of my chances.
- 40-yard dash, 6.14 seconds, 5.95 seconds. Doable? Probably.
- Standing broad jump, 68 inches, 89 inches. Doable? If I bring a rocket suit.
- Standing high jump, 15.5 inches, 21.6 inches. Doable? Maybe. I felt like I left something on the table with this one.
The good news is I can only get better. Or at least I hope so. If I can’t improve on those numbers, I need to give up on the SAT for Sports and focus all of my attention on Frisbee Ball.
Photo by seekeaw rimthong/Shutterstock.com