I loathed it. I was crap at it. It did nothing for my self-esteem. Nobody wanted me on their team. Not even me. I didn't even want to be on a sodding team. The difference in things like gymnastics was I was competing with myself. I could challenge myself to do the next thing. I am not particularly competitive against others, but I am competitive with myself.
The result of enforced competitive sports at school was I decided I was shit at sport, hated sport and would never do it voluntarily. A feeling that has stayed with me. I loathe exercise. Probably deep down somewhere I am still the shivering girl picked last and laughed at, and subconsciously, were I to don Lycra and go for a jog, I imagine that I would soon be surrounded by a bunch of sniggering teenage girls laughing at my ridiculously poor technique.
Enough of analysing my own inner child and onto the reason I started to write this. My son. He has just hit the age where they have started taking competitive sport a bit more seriously at school, and unfortunately he seems to have inherited my innate inability to care about moving balls, as well as my inability to do anything other than flail blindly at them.
He had rugby properly for the first time a couple of weeks ago and found it thoroughly traumatic. To the extent that the idea of it happening again is causing a lot of anxiety and cases of 'school tummy'
I do not want him missing school, or feeling stressed and losing sleep over a stupid bloody sport. Now I absolutely agree that exercise is important. I will always try to both air and exercise my boys on a dry day. It does them good, makes them happy and tires them out! But having been scarred by school
sports to the point I do no exercise at all as an adult, I question whether there isn't another approach they could take.
Lets look at Maths as an example. It is often steamed. My boy may be crap at catching an egg ball, but he is a bit of a genius in Maths and goes off to a special group so he gets stretched and challenged appropriately. Equally those that struggle are also privy to lessons suitable for their level and ability. Nobody is sticking the child with numerical dyslexia in the advanced maths group. It would be considered the opposite of helpful and verging on cruel, as well as liable to make them feel like failures and put them off the subject for life. That approach to maths has been taken for a long time and is believed to be the best way to ensure everyone has the chance to reach the best of their own personal potential in the subject.
Why not take that approach in sport? Surely the same applies- some have natural ability, most are in the middle, some need extra help. So why lump them all in where the ones with the poorest ability just get bundled to the floor and mocked by their peers.
I would love my son to grow up considering that exercise is an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle. He would be much happier in an activity where he is competing with himself. Timed laps round the school for example, where he could just work on improving his own speed. Or he loves things like orienteering. P.E. need not be cricket or rugby. It could be jogging- something he is far more likely to continue into adulthood. Why not stream sports by ability? Or offer options to those who want an alternative?
As for rugby - I can offer words of comfort, and a hot bath at the end of the day. My other half can offer tips like 'just try and run fast, get rid of the ball quickly and stay out if the way as much as you can'. But I don't know if I can persuade him to like it. So we are stuck with a weekly panic and a night of disturbed sleep which no doubt effects his academic ability the next day.