Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sports Complex, Part 3 of 3

Well, after all the drama of the last few posts, including Part 1 and Part 2 of this particular thread, I thought I would share a more uplifting story.

I mentioned in the second Sports Complex post about my inadequacies as a child athlete.  My parents, God Bless them, were supportive and let me try many things.  I had ballet lessons and tap lessons, which I eventually gave up when they conflicted with Girl Scouts.  By the time I gave up scouting, when I was in Jr. High, they gamely let me take gymnastics lessons.  I think I remember the woman teacher explaining to my mother that I was a bit old to be starting, but I was only interested in it for fun.  I had no illusions about being the next Nadia Comaneci (though I had loved the TV movies made about her life).  I just thought it was fun and wanted to try it.

I was terrible.  At first, I didn't care.  The thrill of trying and learning something new (I still love to learn) was enough to make me forget the other girls who were younger, slimmer, and better than me, even in the beginner's class.  I ignored the instructors perplexed looks as they tried to teach me to wrap my ungainly body around the uneven bars to a graceful (not stumbling) dismount.  I didn't allow their frustration at my weak arms on the parallel bars to register, since I was having too much fun.

I did this for several months, until finally, my lack of any noticeable improvement, not even able to do a properly straight cartwheel, forced me to notice all these things around me.  My mother never complained about the money, or the time she spent taking me to lessons, but I knew it was a hassle.  I told her I didn't want to go anymore.  She probed a little bit to find out why, but did not press.  I quit.  That and many other things in my life have gone this way (violin lessons, Korean lessons, etc.)

Anyway, I promised you something happier, but I had to make you all really understand how not athletic I really was/still am.  When you understand that, it makes this story an even better one, which I am very, very proud of.

In high school, just like in elementary, and in middle school, I was always among the last kids picked in gym.  By then, we were segregated by gender, so it was only girls humiliating girls at this point.  And now, 1/3 of the girls didn't even want to be picked, since they were not interested in messing up their hair or getting sweaty.  I started to notice though, that even the disinterested, apathetic girls were getting picked before me and a few other girls.  We sat on the bleachers, while the same "captains" volunteered every time.  Even though this handful of "losers," as we so clearly were in the realm of athletics, were all sitting up straight, attentive, eager to be picked and to play, we were still last.  Huh, spastic enthusiasm was still apparently worse than apathetic disdain.

Then I noticed our gym teacher was asking for volunteers again.  New month, new sport,  Field hockey.  And she was hesitating in picking the captains, even though the same jock-girls had their hands up to volunteer as usual.  She was looking for something that she did not see.  I realized what she wanted.  Someone NEW to be a captain.  I tentatively raised my hand, the teacher smiled, and picked me immediately.

I looked out at the other girls on the bleachers, knowing I would get to pick a team shortly.  Hurrah--I was NOT going to be the last kid picked this time!  I eyed the jocks remaining, thinking how I would pick a great team, and we would have fun....when I saw my fellow last-picks.  When I got my first chance to name someone, I picked a shy girl with stringy hair, glasses too big for face.  She came and sat behind me in line, puzzled.  I continued to do this every round, until all the former last-picks were sitting in a line behind me on the gym floor.  There were still girls who ended up getting picked last.  There always are.  But this time it was the apathetic ones looking in the mirror, fixing their make-up.

Having missed the chance to pick even one talented athlete for our field hockey gym team, we of course, got clobbered, EVERY game.  But we didn't care.  We all tried our best, tried to learn the game, got some exercise, and not a single one of us ever blamed another or glared at anyone over a missed shot.  We just laughed at ourselves and had fun.  I continued to volunteer to be a gym captain every time for the rest of my public school career.  This was one of those moments I will always be proud of.


  1. Wonderful story, and one I had never heard before! I bet you're not the only one who remembers that incident. And look at it from the gym teacher's perspective--how important was it that she wasn't willing to just allow the same old team captains once more that day?

  2. I want my kids to grow up to be you.


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