Un-Olympic Me

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past four years, you will be aware that London is hosting the Olympic games at the moment. I’m not a sporty person, while Mister Litlove went to watch the rowing yesterday and has been glued to the television whenever possible. But what gave me a jolt was coming in to find a women’s basketball match on the screen. Seeing those scary girls, with ponytails they could use as offensive weapons, and faces whose natural default expression was a snarl, I was transported back to my early school days.

Women’s basketball Olympics 2012

‘Oh Lord,’ I said to Mister Litlove. ‘Those are exactly the kind of girls who used to hate me at school.’

School sport was not my natural environment. I was one of those utterly hopeless people who get so flustered when others are yelling at them that I would drop or miss any ball. I was also skinny, pale and bookish, and back in the seventies, teachers would take one look at me and declare it ‘would do me good’ to be on a team.  I can state categorically that it never did me any good at all. Note to all keen sports teachers: no fearful child ever overcame anxiety by being pelted with balls by hostile teammates. But, having no say in the matter, I was put on the junior school netball team, to the perfectly reasonable resentment of the capable players. I loathed netball. I hated catching the ball when it was cold, wet and gritty, I hated the bumping and the tripping and the grabbing that were supposed to be all part of the ‘fun’ and I hated the pressure of competitive sport. Plus there is no real pleasure in doing anything you truly suck at.

I do recall the one miraculous victory we had as a team. And Big Susan coming up to me afterwards and saying ‘You weren’t as rubbish and you normally are today.’ This was the highest point of my sporting career and strong praise. But it should not be mistaken as the point of transformation in the narrative. I was relieved not to be the object of derision for once, but I never thought it was anything other than a bizarre respite from the norm, as indeed was the case. ‘Ahhh, Big Susan,’ said Mister Litlove. ‘I wonder where she is these days?’ To be honest, I simply cannot imagine her as anything other than an outsize 9-year-old girl with one of those bob haircuts that finished halfway down her ears, a bit kinder than the others, in fact, as she intimidated just by standing there, a large, plain, redoubtable girl with whom one did not argue.

No, school sport was a long drawn out series of humiliations, in my memory. In the late seventies, schools were getting keen on the equality thing as a new way of torturing us, and I recall all too clearly the afternoon some bright spark decided it would be a good idea to make the girls play football for a change. Against the boys, of course, as if that was ever going to end well. Plus, we had nothing in our school games kit suitable for playing. Or at least I certainly didn’t. Believe me, you do not know what it is to feel stupid until you have played your first game of football in a leotard. Someone eventually kicked me the ball, and I had no better plan of action than to stumble over it. ‘She’s ambitious!’ yelled the male teacher. ‘Trying to dribble backwards already!’ Actually he said it quite kindly; the male sports teachers were on the whole less sadistic than the women, who believed incompetence was a wilful lack of effort, cunningly disguised.

From twelve onwards it was hockey in the winters, another ghastly sport, with the added humilation of two captains picking their teams from the huddle of girls, until only us misfits were left. I was always assigned some sort of wing position, to keep me out from under the feet of the serious players. If the ball was mercifully far away for once, hypothermia was often worryingly close. Our little pleated gym skirts and aetex shirts seemed wholly unequal to the weather, and even being allowed a hooded top did not seem much protection when the first flakes of snow or sleet began to fall. And what was the final gruesome reward at the end of an hour of freezing one’s butt off? The horror of communal showers. Believe you me, I was not the only girl who had her period for twelve solid weeks in termtime.

The only good thing about school sport was the immense feeling of relief when the whole sorry business finally ground to a halt post-16. Those of us who didn’t want to play in a team were allowed to play table tennis (which I really did enjoy) on the sports hall balcony. In this month of sports frenzy in the UK, I felt I had to put my hand up for all the irredeemably non-sporty people out there, the ones whose size or shape, whose lack of muscles or coordination, made them reviled outcasts over those hours of games lessons. However alone you may have felt, I am with you in spirit.

The thing about sport is that it requires some level of aggression, some sort of competitive impulse. I couldn’t hit or kick, and I didn’t want to. I couldn’t quite shake the feeling of guilt if I won a board game. And no, school sport did not make me a team player, or keep me fit, or make me love the great outdoors, or teach me any useful lesson whatsoever. Some of us are just not destined to be well-rounded individuals. In fact, some of us come out of the womb arrow-shaped, pointing stubbornly in the one direction, which in my case was towards the library. If only I could have spent those hours of wasted sports lessons reading. Think how many more books I could have got through in my youth!


44 thoughts on “Un-Olympic Me

  1. Your post did make me smile, Litlove. My sporting career was similarly glorious, although I did score a rounder once. It was quite possibly the best day of my childhood.

    I’ve been conscientiously avoiding sport ever since, or at least until today when I played tennis with my ten year old son. It wasn’t actually that bad. I wonder what I’ve been missing all these years?

    • Children are just brilliant, aren’t they, for giving a person a second crack at childhood experiences that passed you by the first time around. With my son, I read all the classic children’s books I never read as a child (far too busy with Enid Blyton and the Chalet School Girls!). He hasn’t been sporty either, so I haven’t discovered any surprising late-life competencies. But it’s great that you enjoy tennis with your son – having a laugh in a situation devoid of pressure undoubtedly helps.

  2. Wow. I have never been so glad to be American. We had gym class, which I endured (along with all the team picking a sadism that goes with the territory), but they certainly had no designs to turn me into an athlete for school teams. They left me to be my uncoordinated self in the library and on stage for plays. Maybe that is why at 32 I could start doing marathons for charity and discover that, while by no means an athlete, there are some athletic things I can do if I want (I’m not fast, but I’ve done 3 full marathons and about a dozen halves–I’ll do a lot to fight blood cancers). It is probably also why I can be a rabid sports fan. Having not been forced to play much, I can appreciate the pleasure of watching people who can do it with magical skill. I am a competitive person in areas where I am skillful. Give me a scrabble board (or any other non-surfing type of board) and I will gleefully try to clobber you. Give me a reading challenge, and I am off and running–figuratively of course. But my reading challenges will be competing this week and next with every obscure sport on the screen.

    • Well good for you for doing those marathons – such a good cause. And nice to surprise oneself at any age with new abilities and interests. I am very odd over competition – I’ll only compete in areas where I feel completely safe and comfortable (so that’s hardly anywhere), otherwise competition makes me feel very awkward, and I’d rather lose than see someone else upset at not having won. Lucky you to be allowed to stay in the library rather than do sport! It’s very compulsory in this country, whatever your level of skill.

  3. Oh, I have some terrible memories related to school sports. I was short and chubby with terrible eye-hand coordination and almost always picked last for team sports. (Did they have that humiliating custom in the UK, where captains get to choose team members one by one until everyone in the class is on a team?) Almost all the sports we played (volleyball, basketball, softball, a little soccer/football) involved catching, hitting, or kicking a fast-moving ball, and I was always getting hit in the head or missing the ball entirely. I learned years later that I have a vision problem that makes it nearly impossible to follow fast-moving objects, so it’s no wonder!

    Looking back, I think one of the problems was that if you weren’t naturally good, there were no opportunities to improve. You just had to stay on the sidelines as much as possible to avoid getting humiliated or run over by the better players. When I was in college, I took a course in badminton, and I loved it precisely because the course was designed so that there was no shame in not being good. We were encouraged to find people in the class to play with who were on our level so we could improve together, and if we did end up paired off with someone lots better, we could work out a points system that gave an advantage to the weaker player, so everyone had a challenge and a chance to win. It was so much fun. I wish my gym classes all through school had been like that. I doubt it would have made me a sports lover, but it would have made me less miserable!

    • I think you hit the nail on the head here – if you weren’t good to begin with, there was no opportunity for learning. That’s exactly the problem with the sports ‘lessons’ I had. We learnt absolutely nothing, and only natural talent triumphed. Your badminton course sounds so enjoyable and well organised. Even I might have had fun with something like that. As for your earlier experiences, well, I wrote this post for solidarity, and you have mine!

  4. Always one of the last picked, I nonetheless attempted track one year in high school. Disastrous (I’d thought sprinting would be easy–ha!–& no one suggested that longer distances might have been better. When you’re no good, you get no attention, positive or otherwise). Band was my “sport” and I am close to those people to this day.

    • Oh track! I remember the curious mixture of mind-numbing boredom and nausea that came from the longer distances. I loved the idea of sprinting, but it was never anything I could actually do. You’re so right that you get no help when you are not naturally talented at sport. But so glad you had your band. It’s wonderful to have that sort of compensation.

  5. I shuddered many times reading this post. It’s the yelling! The people yelling at you. That was the worst, much much worse than actually just being bad at sports, which God knows I was. I got quite lucky though — I had contact lenses starting when I was nine, and if my turn to bat/throw/whatever was drawing near, or if the whole thing became too stressful generally, I used to shriek that my contacts were bothering me, and my PE teachers would let me go inside to the bathroom. And then I’d just stay inside for ages until the class was over. When I was in middle school, I skipped one in three PE classes to help out in the library, where the librarian gave me Coke and pizza. That was a pure piece of mercy by my PE teachers.

    • Yes! The yelling! (not that I am yelling here, you understand, just being very enthusiastic). If people hadn’t yelled at me every time I got it wrong, I might not have been quite so cack-handed. If only we had been allowed to help out in the library! But I don’t remember anyone helping in the library at any time. I would have run very fast indeed if escape to the library had been just beyond the finishing line.

  6. Oh my, I can certainly relate to this post. I’m afraid I have no pleasant memories of my brief and enforced forays into athletics. If they had any hope of instilling interest in sport in this subject, I must say they failed dismally. It could all disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow and I’d never notice.

    When I was in elementary school I had activity induced asthma, and my doctor wrote a note every year that I was not to participate in strenuous activity. So I was sent to the library during class gym time! My classmates thought I was being punished – little did they know I was having the time of my life 🙂

    • I had it too, but they didn’t know it. Explains why I never wanted to exercise a bit (but was fine climbing a tree to read a book). Now the inhaler is my friend and sometimes I can keep the wheezing at bay.

    • Our sports teachers had their strategies all wrong, didn’t they? I’m struggling here not to say lucky you for having asthma, as I don’t suppose it felt lucky at all. But still, getting sent to the library sounds wonderful. I was very unfortunately healthy with no such hope of escape! 🙂

  7. Oh, yes, I was also the small, skinny kid, humiliated in gym classes and on the playground whenever the teachers decided all the kids ought to do something like play kickball at recess today. I hated every single team sport I was forced to play, and like you, don’t think it did me any good whatsoever. Today, you read all over the place about how playing sports is so good for girls and gives them confidence and that women who played sports as kids are more likely to succeed in the business world. Yada. Yada. Yada. I don’t believe that. I only believe it for those girls who play a sport well or for those women who also did. Being forced to play sports when you are terrible at it does absolutely nothing to boost one’s confidence. Although I believe in trying to remain physically fit, to this day, I prefer to do so in ways that don’t involve competition and teams: walking, hiking, bicycling, yoga, etc. I still wish those sorts of options had been given to me in gym classes when I was a girl.

    P.S. I was beginning to think I’m one of the only people in the world who hasn’t bothered to watch one minute of the Olympics (not even the opening ceremonies).

    • Since I’ve been discussing this, it’s funny how many people I’ve come across who have found ways to be fit without being competitive. My sister-in-law was visiting on the weekend, and she and her husband are very keen cyclists. So when I asked her if she was sporty at school, I was really surprised that her answer was a heartfelt NO. So many people, who like being active (I did ballet every weekend, and for a while tap too) found themselves humiliated by school sport. That has to say something about school sport, right? I completely agree – if you’re good at something, it gives you confidence. But being bad – or being made to feel you are bad, is very undermining.

  8. I read your post and the comments, and the memories of those awful, awful, awful PE lessons came flooding back, and I felt just as sick and terrified as I used to all those years ago.It was bad enough in infants and juniors, but grammar school was a nightmare. Fortunately we never played football, but there was hockey, netball, rounders, tennis, cross country runs, gym, and all those horrible athletics activities.

    I was totally hopeless – short, fat, short-sighted, very clumsy, unco-ordinated. I was always the one left until last when teams were selected, when the teacher would propel me towards a group of girls who were as unwilling to have me on their side as I was to join them. Not only that, but I couldn’t see the point of any of it, and lacked any kind of competitive spirit.

    Even now I can imagine few things worse than sports day, when we were all forced to take part in at least four events. One year I suggested that since I always came last in everything they should take the result for granted, and not put me through the torture of taking part, and I was sent to the headmistress for being insolent!

    • Oh Christine, good for you for suggesting you should be left out of the torture and shame on your teachers for not seeing it as a perfectly reasonable request! Don’t you think schools back then were sort of neurotic about sport? People understood that pupils weren’t going to do well at maths or English, but failure on the sports field was like a crime against the national pride or something. It just wasn’t acceptable. I loathed sports day, too. At the end of every school year we had a three-hour assembly with cups and prizes for every sporting event you can imagine. But nothing whatsoever as a reward for academic achievement. Shame, I would have won something then.

  9. I think there was something in the exam for PT (PE or Gym or whatever you call it) teachers that tested their suitability by asking questions designed to work out how sadistic they were. It being ghe 1960s we actuallky rebelled against one by all boycotting a PT lesson after he treated one ‘incompetent’ boy in a way which would nowadays cause him to end up in jail. Instead it was we who ended up in the school equivalent of jail – detention for heaven knows how many weeks but he did seem to get the point and be slightly less sadistic thereafter. On the whole I think the fellow pupils were far kinder than the teachers.

    • Oh I admire you all for organising a walk out. I wish we could have done that! Although to be fair, our teachers were ordinarily cruel, nothing that you could actually have charged them with. It’s absolutely dreadful, though, that some poor lad had to bear the brunt of temper and violence that reached such an unacceptable level. Mind you, there are still stupid things that happen in schools. My neighbour’s child hurt her leg in her sports lesson and complained to the teacher who told her not to be a ninny and get on with it. My neighbour was incandescent with rage when it turned out the child’s leg was fractured.

  10. Oh I was exactly the same. I think the problem with school sport lies in the idea that competition is the best way to enocurage intester in sport. Of course that only works if you’re good at sport. If you’d just like to enjoy running, or playing a game then competition is the fastest way to turn someone off an activity. I think I was lucky to learn to swim outside the school environment first, because I learnt there that sport could be fun and competition wasn’t the be all and end all. Unfortunately the whole school sport system lasted for a LONG time so lots of my enthusiasm was knocked out and a lot of exercise does feel like a chore which has serious problems attached when you think about things like health. HapillyI can watch sports events without flashbacks though, so school hasn’t killed all my sports enthusiasm.

    • You’re so right – it’s that fierce competitiveness that is so impossible to dissimulate. Either you feel it or you don’t. I certainly didn’t. I learned to swim in an outdoor pool that was always freezing and had things floating on the surface that you didn’t want to think about. Well, to this day I can’t swim properly. It wasn’t competition that did for me there, just a problem with my own fastidiousness! I’m glad you had your swimming experience, though, as it does at least give you hope. And I do like watching the gymnastics at the Olympics – I don’t think those are real human beings so I don’t feel inadequate in any way. 🙂

  11. God, I was SO bad at all games that nobody dared suggest I be on any team even to do me good, I imagine that it would have destroyed the morale of all the others! You have taken me right back to those dreary autumn afternoons lurking in the mud on the wing of the hockey pitch while my legs turned purple with the cold, although I have to say I hated swimming more, the stink of the chlorine and feeling scared because I am so short-sighted I can barely see without my lenses. Ugh!

    None of this was helped by my utter addiction at the time to the novels of Angela Brazil, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer and others of their ilk, the heroines of which were always strangely fond of sports when not rescuing weaker girls or playing japes. Also of abiding by Schoolgirl’s Honour, which I attempted to do iand was bewildered when it didn’t seem to work in the 1980s…

    Despite the memories, this seems to be a very therapeutic post for many of us although Christine Harding’s memories in particular make me sad, poor little girl.

    I hope things have changed in schools these days!

    • Oh dear, I didn’t mean to come across as a poor little girl! I think it was the element of force that was so wrong, and the emphasis on team spirit and joining in. It would have been nice to have some recognition that not everyone was good at PE, and some kind of effort made to show people like me that sport could be fun, and encouragement given when we managed to do something.

    • Yup, the point of the post was so we could all vent! 🙂 I wish I could believe things have changed, but when I asked my son (now 17) what he remembered of school sport he just said ‘Bad’. And I didn’t think he’d suffered too much because he spent a lot of his time playing badminton which he enjoyed a tiny bit. I know just what you mean about reading the wrong sorts of literature. I loved all those boarding school books too, and was mortified that I couldn’t possess that sort of narrative.

  12. I can relate to this post in many ways! I have never been very good at sports, and I remember that in elementary school I had a nasty gym teacher who made me compete with other kids when I have six or seven–and I could never run as fast as they could! But then I felt better when we got back to the classroom where I was in the highest reading group though this is not a good measure of intelligence these days, and it would not be a confidence booster for those kids in the lowest group.

    The difficult part for me was also the fact that my mother and brother were wonderful athletes, and I felt like a fish out of water in my family. My mom was a fantastic tennis player, and my brother could do gymnastics, as well as play lacrosse and football. I remember I tried out for the tennis team in high school, and I did, in fact, make Varsity. But I had to practice hard to become a good player, and I think I succeeded more because I used my mind when I played and because I had stamina than because I was greatly talented!

    • Ah but so much of it is figuring out the right strategy! It can’t have been easy, feeling like you were the odd one out in a sporting family, but it sounds like you managed to make the most of your abilities and to use your natural intelligence in all sorts of creative ways. Plus, it’s good to have some awareness of other abilities to balance it all out. It took me to 15 or so before I had properly figured out I could do school work easily, and it certainly helped me to feel there was something I was good at!

  13. I was pretty much a conscientious objector when it came to team sports. So, we would be diviided up randomly into two teams, and I was supposed to care whether the team into which I had been randomly placed won or lost??? *scratches head*
    Same goes with football – why the hysterical support for a local team when not one of the players is even remotely local? Footballers are for sale anywhere in the world to the highest bidder.
    As for the olympics, my children are showing an alarming amount of interest so I may actually have to endure some of it. But nationalism gives me the creeps. My natural inclination is always to support the underdog, so I’ll be cheering for Timor-Leste or Djibouti, or any other country that is virtually without hope of a medal.

    • Oh I love the term ‘conscientious objector’ in this context! It’s that tribal belonging thing, isn’t it, that urge to own a club or team through supporting it. And some of us just don’t do well at belonging. I find myself always easing one foot outside the boundary, no matter where I am or what I do. It seems to just happen. My husband was at the rowing race where the crowd gave the biggest cheer to the rower from Niger, who had only been rowing for a few weeks before competing and came in almost two minutes after the others had all finished. He said it was a great moment.

  14. I was no good at games either, but I was brought up by my Yorkshire Dad to love all sports and so we are a very active Olympic household at the moment. The best experience I had where school sports were concerned was an athletics scheme run by what was then the Milk Marketing Board when I first started teaching back in the 70s. Each child established a base time or distance at the beginning of the term and then got points for their team if they bettered that original mark regardless of where they stood in relation to their peers. That meant that the least able sporting child was still able to contribute and their achievement celebrated accordingly. I used to love running that.

    • That sounds like such a wonderful idea! So much better than the old picking-team humiliation and the subsequent ugly battle for mastery. That seems so much more humane, and every bit as much in keeping with what sporting endeavour is supposed to be about.

  15. Well litlove, this Olympics just showed, thanks to director Danny Boyle, that arts and literature can go hand in hand with sports. You ought to be proud that Great Britain/London is hosting the Olympics, and that the opening ceremony paid tribute to your great nation’s literary and cultural history. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the opening, and was thrilled to see Danny Boyle selects literature (in particular, children’s lit) and social history to highlight. That scene of the industrial revolution looked like a scene from Dickens. What a fantastic show that first hour of the opening was. I feel for you about your school exp. in sports. As I always tell myself, it’s spectator sport I participate in… as a spectator. Yes, real hectic now during these Olympic days. 😉

    • Ah, well, sports and culture are indeed linked in this country as they are under the management of the same government department. Since we knew we were hosting the Olympics, all the culture budget has been transferred to sport, and given this is the most expensive Olympics ever staged, will be for some time to come, I expect. It’s hit the graduate students hard as there is scarcely any funding for PhDs. So my feelings about the links between art and sport are quite complex right now.

      But I’m glad you enjoyed the opening ceremony and hope you are enjoying the Olympics altogether. I’m not dissing them at all in this post – and sincerely hope that they go off very well for all concerned – it was just a post offering some solidarity to those of us who were not sporty at school.

  16. Bravo, bravo, yes, yes yes! I hated even the *sound* of those squeaky sneakers on the basketball court. To this day, if I hear that sound, I feel lost and sad. They tried me on the uneven parallel bars and I almost killed myself. I was moved around from sport to sport until finally they found two that I did fairly well in: archery (I had a good eye for the target) and fencing, which I loved. I took ballet all my childhood, into my twenties, and fencing was a little like dancing to me. But I like watching some of the Olympic events…mostly winter though.

    • I would have loved to try fencing! I did a lot of ballet too as a girl, and I still gravitate towards dance-related exercise, like t’ai chi. Oh I know just what you mean about the squeaky sound of sneakers – when I read those words I instantly had the noise in my head! My son did an archery course when he was little – I thought that looked like a lot of fun, too.

  17. I’m right there with you only i would’t say I’m not sporting but I’m NOT team sporting. I used to dance and jazz dance but no competition. At school they tried to force me but it didn’t work. I went Ghandi on them, sitting down in the middle of the field not moving or starting to read and when the teacher started to want tolecture me I lectured back telling him or her that it would improve his intellectual capacity more to read than running after a ball…
    The interesting thing is – I got away with it. No sport and no maths for me and I passed my A-levels successfully. 🙂

    • Woah, your school was clearly very enlightened when it came to student protest! I’m glad for you that it worked, but I do not think I would have got away with it at my school. Mind you, I can’t say that I ever tried a sit-down protest. I did a lot of ballet as a child, and I still like dance-related things. That was never competitive for me, either. Much better that way!

  18. Oh I love the Olympics! I like watching all those athletes doing things I could never do and imagining what it must be like to be so fast or tall or strong. In high school I played for two years on the girl’s football (soccer) team and made a competent player. Even got voted by my teammates as most inspirational! I also played tennis for a year as did my sister. We played doubles and had lots of fun and even won now and then. I don’t consider myself athletic but I am competitive and my desire to not be humiliated spurred me on 🙂

    • My friend, if you read the comments above, you will see that in this company you are a sporting superstar! Mister Litlove read through this post and said that he always imagined us to be sleek librarian types, and now he had the picture of us as albatrosses – graceful in our element, but waddling when out of it. I definitely conform to that image – I can do anything in the virtual world, but limp along in the real one! You though, will just have to be a sleek librarian in all territories. 🙂

  19. In spite of the fact that I’m a competitive cyclist and therefore do have a sporting side, I identified with this post so strongly! I had horrible experiences in school with sports, and was so grateful that while I had to take physical education courses in college, I could take dance to fulfill the requirement. I was so awful at any game requiring coordination, throwing, catching, hitting, etc., etc. One of the best things about being an adult is that NO ONE can make me play softball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, etc, ever again! And I swear I never will.

  20. I don’t know why schools just can’t let kids be themselves. I can relate to your story, though as an adult I’ve discovered that skating and swimming can be lots of fun, in part because you don’t have to be good at it. Just the fact of being middle aged and getting on ice or in the water is impressive enough!

  21. Reading your post (which is wonderfully amusing and has struck a cord with me, too) as well as the comments it makes me think that school is great for demoralizing small children. Bigger ones, too. How awful to think back on some of these things. I was somewhat roly poly in my younger days and pretty much one of the last girls picked for teams every time. I hated PE and though I wanted to be part of sports teams (camaraderie and all that foolishness) I was rubbish at it all. Now I like exercise and working to be healthy, but boy has it taken me a Long time to feel (and I am still not entirely so) comfortable at the gym. I have to say there is something a little cringe-worthy about games mistresses in British books–now I see why! 🙂 School also managed to ruin certain books/authors for a number of readers, too. Funny how education can screw you up! 🙂

  22. Litlove, this was magnificent. I’m a little ashamed to say that I enjoyed reading about your discomfiture, though in my defense, that is only because you write so wonderfully about it. I’ve been away for a long time – captivated by blogs on bicycles and stuff – but it is awesome to be reading your blog again!

    I’ve stayed away from the craziness of the Olympics, having chosen to remain TV-less now for some years. But I agree: one look at Phelps and Bolt and Franklin, is enough for me to start having self-esteem issues 🙂 .

  23. Oh gods, the absolute grinding misery and humiliation of all school sports, always. I am pretty sure that it’s school games lessons that mean I’m unwilling ever even to try something unless there’s a fighting chance I’ll be good at it because it was so hammered into me that being rubbish is such a wretched feeling. I loathe team games and sport of all kinds and I could not possibly care less about the Olympics!

  24. I absolutely love this post! Every paragraph, every sentence, resonates within my heart. Like this one: “Note to all keen sports teachers: no fearful child ever overcame anxiety by being pelted with balls by hostile teammates.” What perfect irony! I, too, despise sports, and most of the people who play them are on the receiving end of my scorn. It’s only fair, since I usually find them illiterate. No, that’s too harsh. Suffice it to say, that I join you in loving literature far more than beating one’s opponent. Even if it is for the Olympic gold.

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