Sports mean nothing to me, nowadays. I like movement, but not competition. But I’m thinking what sports meant to me, before.
My mom sent me to jazzercise when I was a little kid. Does this still exist? Wow, it still does exist! https://www.jazzercise.com
I liked dancing to peppy music on a mat. The neighbor girls went too. I remember shiny blue leotards and red tights missing their toes and heels. It was fun to dance, and the instructors were nice–the only thing I did besides school or church, those years. It was a treat.
There are two photos–one of me on a jazzercise float, and one of me in a Halloween costume at a jazzercise Halloween party. I was little red riding hood, which was my favorite, besides witch.
I think doing jazzercise was related to my parents not wanting me to get fatter? Not sure–the neighbor kids were not fat, that I recall. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that my mom helped me do that, because I learned how to be in a fitness environment, a little about how my body can move, how to mirror the movements of a teacher person. Those skills helped me later as an adult, in yoga classes.
I danced ballet for a short time, which I liked also. In jr high, I did a little signing, in Sign Language Club, with the worker who came to sign with the Deaf kid at our school.
The sign language lady said I had beautiful signing hands. My hands had movement grace. I was uncomfortable in my body–I felt clumsy and awkward, always. But when she praised me, I felt so happy, that I could do something right that was physical.
Years after jazzercise, I played league basketball for a year. My brother played soccer and baseball, multiple years, but I played basketball. I was really not good at it. My parents seemed turned off by that. But I didn’t mind, not being good at it.
I didn’t need to win–it was more for the experience of it. A defined thing to do, with clear tasks and expectations. You know me–I struggle with social differences. When I know what to do, it’s more possible.
Similar to music–I didn’t need to be the best bassoonist. Being a medium bassoonist was perfectly ok with me. And I preferred rehearsal to performance. Rehearsal felt like life, to me–collaborating, problem solving, learning, progressing. Trying–trying again.
Performance felt like proving something I didn’t need to prove, and it was such a big deal. Stressful–too much intensity, dressing in special clothes, and going to a different location. Playing in another space always sounded different, on an unfamiliar stage, trying to please the audience.
content warning: mention of sexual predator
There was a league basketball coach who was creepy, and I felt very uncomfortable with him. I didn’t have shorts that fit me, and he had some a larger size for me. He told me to change my shorts in his van, and I experienced the uh-oh feeling. I felt unsafe and scared.
That guy never hurt me, but I had a really bad feeling about him. Girls whispered about him, and it seemed clear he was getting off on coaching these kids, one way or another. He was a factor in my quitting league basketball.
I played school basketball in seventh grade, which I enjoyed. But I was not so good at it, and when I tried out for the team in eighth grade, I didn’t make the team. The only reason I made the team in seventh grade was that everyone who tried out, made the team–few girls wanted to play.
The process of becoming a cheerleader was on my mind, in jr high, and I took a form around to my teachers to verify my grades were good enough. My brilliant math teacher looked at the form and questioned me harshly. “Why in the world would you want to be a cheerleader?” she asked, nose wrinkled up with disgust.
I was in math club, and Mrs Blue couldn’t have thought I had a future in math? I skipped seventh grade math, was bright, and could do some number stuff. But I was no genius, as my bestie was the genius. I was her sidekick, if anything.
But the discouragement of Mrs Blue made me wonder why indeed I wanted to try out for cheerleading. The girls doing cheerleading were somehow not like me. They seemed rich, outgoing, wore makeup, wanted to be looked at. They were comfortable in a way I could not comprehend, let alone become.
Sports have not meant anything to me, since those days. My dad liked watching football on tv. He watched tennis, for a time, as his mom liked tennis, and they would talk on the phone about who they hated. It seemed more about quirks and personality than anything. I mean criticizing players they didn’t like, for reasons that were tangential to the sport. Attitude, tics, appearance.
My dad has been gone four and a half years. The guys who live here talk about baseball, sometimes. I might hear a moment of a baseball game, in the courtyard, as a community member listens on the radio. Maybe he doesn’t want to bother me and turns it down, or disappears into a house.
Thank you to Mama for giving me a gift of body movement through dance and sports. What I learned continues to help me, to this day.