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  • jdettmann

There’s No Me In Team


Here’s me at five, being bamboozled by sport. Nothing has changed.

My kids are now five and seven. As of two days ago they are both students at the local primary school. They wear uniforms, they will attend five days a week, and are learning to read and mathematicise and understand what the moon does (totally beyond me). The next thing, if I am to go by what all my neighbours and friends are doing, is for them to join some sort of sports team. Around where I live, lots of very nice people have their children in netball, soccer, cricket and that other one that’s like AFL but the players are roughly 85% uglier. They all seem to be thriving. I get the feeling we should be doing something like this.

So we had a vote recently in our house about whether any member of the family wanted anything to do with that sort of malarkey and the result was a landslide: 100% NO FUCKING WAY. I’m extremely relieved, but I feel guilty because maybe, despite all my feeling about team sports, they might matter. Lots of people I love and respect think they matter.

I truly did ask the children, in a neutral way, whether they wanted to play in a sports team this term and they really did say no, but I’m worried that I’ve influenced them in a subtle way, due to my less than happy sporting past. Don’t get me wrong: we’re not a total bunch of idle layabouts. I do understand about physical fitness and the importance of it from a health perspective, it’s just sport I don’t get.

H played team sports – including rowboating, horseless grass polo and perhaps AFL (I think? Possibly?). He liked them, and I think he was pretty good at some of them, and he still likes watching many sports, thought not so much that he’d chose it over at least six other activities.

Maybe I’ve ruined watching sport on TV for him, with my extreme bafflement about pretty much everything ball and field based and my very short attention span. I remember watching a lot of sport on TV when I was a kid, although I have recently realised that I only liked watching rugby and cricket and Formula 1 car racing because it was the only time my ABC-obsessed parents let me watch commercial TV. It was my one chance to discover products like Solo and Nutrigrain, companies like Windscreens O’Brien and Beaurepaires, and figure out what kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be by committing every detail of the models on the Ski Yoghurt and Flake chocolate bar ads to memory.

There’s this weird reverence about televised sport that I don’t understand. How come, for example, when I was a kid it was perfectly acceptable to watch TV for eleventy-six hours if was the cricket but if you wanted to watch eight episodes of Press Gang back to back you’d have been laughed out into the back yard?

So I don’t I like team sports and I don’t entirely know why. I played soccer for a season when I was five years old, which, in the strangely negative terms used by sporting teams is called Under Six. It wasn’t a terrifically competitive team, composed as it was of five year olds who didn’t know anything about soccer, being coached by a peace-loving Balinese Prince. I was one of two girls on the team and we received negative feedback from some of the other parents about our habit of moving everywhere by skipping, while holding hands. As far as I could tell, we weren’t doing soccer any worse than the other kids were doing soccer – we could skip faster than they could run — but it was rather off putting to be criticised so.

That was the first black mark against sport’s name in my book of reckoning. One other time I played in a cricket game at school and when I missed a catch it a few people said ‘good one’ in a way that seemed to mean the very opposite of that.

After that I stuck to individual sports, where if you didn’t win there weren’t so many people to blame you. If you lost that was down to you, or, and this is key, I think, you could blame the judges, because I mainly did gymnastics, where winning is somewhat subjective.

Maybe I just don’t like competition that much, although in some parts of life ‘m as competitive as anyone. I encourage it in my children, to a degree. You know, just in sensible ways like dinner-finishing races and who can locate my phone the quickest when I have to log into Find My iPhone on the computer and make the bugger play an alarm.

Individual sports are ok, like diving and gymnastics and I don’t mind the odd, quite short, running race. It’s just long complicated games I can’t handle. They’re like stories but without a decent narrative arc. They don’t make sense. There are all these rules no one can explain. They have nonsensical scoring systems and each one is different.

They don’t even go for a set amount of time, which is BONKERS. I remember when I went to my first AFL game and my then-boyfriend explained how there were seven quarters or whatever and that they all went for ninety-six minutes. Right, I thought, as long as I know what I’m in for. And then seven times ninety-six minutes later, when there was no end in sight, he casually mentioned that there is overtime but no one knows how long that goes for so you just have to stay basically forever. How is this not against the law?

And then there’s what joining a sports team does to the family’s weekend. Spoiler: nothing good, unless hours in the car driving all over the city, logistical planning slightly less complicated than your average Commonwealth Games and half a day spent standing either burning your face off in the summer sun or freezing in ankle deep mud in the winter. Seriously, what is the appeal? Is it just that your kids will grow up to be physically fine specimens who can join in when people talk about the tennis?

All of this is a long-winded way of saying May Blossom and Garnet start gymnastics tomorrow at 8 am because I can hold out against the forces of sport no longer. It’s the beginning of the end.

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