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Sports Series: Cross-Post - Sports Just Don’t Jive With Me

August 30th, 2013     by Christine Smith McFarlane     Comments

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This piece originally appeared at Christine’s Blog.


The very word “sports” makes me cringe. Sports have never really jived with me, and I envy people who can get out there and enroll in any form of sport and have fun while doing it.

To me, sports have meant more than just going out there, playing a game, being a part of a team, learning sportsmanship and making friends. The very act of taking part in activities has always been met with a great amount of anxiety on my part, and that’s in huge part due to how I was taught to see myself while growing up and being one of those kids who was the last to be picked in gym classes.

My memories of sports aren’t great. Even at the young age of seven and eight years old, I was always very anxious and self-conscious of how people saw me. It didn’t help that in every type of sport I was enrolled in, whether it was dance, gymnastics, soccer, or swimming, there was some type of punishment meted out when I made mistakes that made me want to just keep to my books and to my writing because at least then no one could make fun of me.

I remember, as a child, being put into the requisite dance classes - tap and ballet - and being singled out because I couldn’t just swing my body around like the other little girls in my classes. I was a tiny little girl but I felt like a klutz because no matter what I did, I couldn’t be as graceful as the other kids in my class. The dance instructor would say, “come on, Christine, throw your arms up, swing your legs up, dance like you’re a butterfly,” and two minutes later, there would be a thud, as my heavy feet would hit the ground in one of those ever so graceful spins I was supposed to make.

Not long after that, I had an incident in my tap dance class where I got a bit over zealous and kicked the calf of the little girl in front of me and made her cry. The instructor told my adoptive parents about it when they came to pick me up, and even though they were told it was an accident, I was removed immediately from the class, and I never went back.

At 12 years old, my foster parents, on the advice of my social worker from the Children’s Aid Society, enrolled me in gymnastics and swimming, and though I liked gymnastics, I was too afraid to do the balance beam. My fear of falling off the balance beam had others in my class standing on the sidelines and snickering, while the teacher tried to cajole me into getting up onto the bar. I eventually did make it up onto the balance beam, but I never could do those fancy tricks you see gymnasts do on TV.

Swimming: I used to love swimming. I remember swimming in the community pool at the group home I lived in when I was ten, and the staff would have a hard time trying to get me out of the pool. I loved doing the back float, the butterfly stroke, and hanging onto a kickboard and splashing everyone around me. It made me feel free.

In swimming, I thought I had found my niche. I excelled at my swimming lessons, and was even slated to participate in a Windsor swim team meet, but that all changed when I was taken off the Windsor swim team by my foster parents as punishment for running away from home.

So, you see, I often associate sports with punishment or ridicule because the memories I have are not the greatest, but I am realizing now that I can change these memories if I choose to, by making new memories.

Sports: I’ve never really liked them, and I’ve never really been good at them, but one of these days I would like to sign up at a gym and try my hand at something. I’ll move beyond my solitary walks or playing sports on my Wii game console, and go and work out on the machines or take a small class.

I want to get over my fear of sports and get myself out there. I have to stop being afraid and the only way I can stop being afraid is by the adage “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Tags: sporting goods

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