Growing up, I loved my sport.
Was I any good? Nope. I was complete rubbish – totally unco.
I played tennis every week and I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I actually made contact with the ball.
But I loved it because it was social. I loved it because it introduced me to new people, and I loved it because even though I was rubbish, my mum would come along every week and cheer me on like I was the greatest player at Wimbledon.
And then one day, I didn’t want to go to tennis anymore.
The sudden turnaround confused my parents, who were understandably perplexed about the change of heart.
But I insisted I wanted to give up. I wasn’t getting any better, and one particular comment from the dad of an opponent really sealed the deal.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Nestlé. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
As a 10 year old child, to hear a parent say “This one is awful, I can’t believe you would pair my daughter with someone who can’t even hit the ball” is horrible. It’s damaging, and the effects are felt long after the match is over.
Even though I fought with her about it, mum made me continue. She didn’t want to see me give up on something I loved so much.
She didn’t know why I had suddenly changed my mind, so she made me persevere.
I’m guessing mum must have had a chat with the coach, because one week he pulled me aside to ask what was going on. I confided in him that I felt I wasn’t good enough to play, and that everyone was better than me. I felt embarrassed that other parents were making remarks about me, and was humiliated that the other father would comment so loudly on my (lack of) ability.
And the coach’s words have stayed with me: “No one wants to watch someone win all the time with a miserable attitude”. He stressed that instead, people wanted to watch someone who was trying their best and giving it their all. And he was absolutely right.
Next school holidays, I enrolled in a tennis camp and had the time of my life. I met a girl there almost as bad as I was and we tried our best to hit the ball to each other between giggles.
That girl sat next to me last week celebrating her 30th birthday so for me, my involvement in sport provided me with a friendship lasting 20 years. Were we the best players in the team? Oh god no, but we were the ones that had the most fun.
As a parent now, I feel that sport is a rite of passage. It’s a method of socialisation, a way to teach boundaries and respect for team mates. It’s an outlet for emotions and for some (though clearly not me) it is a path to success and self-esteem.
It doesn’t matter if your child is the star player or the worst one on the team, you cheer them on all the same. You encourage them to have fun and to make friends. And you share in the enjoyment that sport provides to young people.
What sport did you play as a kid?
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