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Misfits and rejects - the hidden blessing of being picked last

I am not a sporty person.

When I was a kid I was never a priority for the team picking. It's not that I wasn't able, despite the knee braces and nonsense, it was more that I didn't really care for it. My family don't "support a team", or play much sport. My brother played cricket, as a small child I found it intensely boring. My father sailed. My mum watches Wimbledon while knitting. I never really understood the appeal of watching someone else do sport, and none of the sports that were available to me interested me.

You want the ball so badly? Have it! Why are you throwing it away? I thought you wanted it?

I am not a sporty person.

So it came to pass that I reached an age where my peers were getting into their competitive sports, with school teams and suchlike. But I wasn't on the teams. Not even the 3rd reserve team. I didn't mind because it just wasn't my bag.

Those of us who didn't make the teams often referred to ourselves as "the rejects" (officially "non-match", one of the staff called us "salon de refuse", which is nice). We would have our own sports sessions, because the school was obliged to exercise even those of us who weren't contributing to the glory of the school name.

Had it not been framed as such a booby prize though, it would have been a pretty brilliant session. While our more talented peers were out chasing a ball around a muddy field, we got to try all sorts of other things. I did squash, badminton, dodgeball, step aerobics, silly fitness games, or just sports with no pressure and no technique drills. I was actually quite into it.

I recall one afternoon our teacher had merged us with a group of boys in a similar "freeform sports" situation, and we had a huge basketball match. One of my friends, who had finished her match early, came by and watched. Afterwards she expressed surprise that I was "really good". Which she had a right to, because on the netball court I was about as much use as a wet piece of tissue paper.

But that was the key, I was quite good, when I was enjoying myself and not being pushed to perform in a competitive sport.

There are a few things I could take away from this experience.

First is my eternal bugbear where children who are exposed to a fairly limited spectrum of physical activity "learn" that they are not suited to being active simply because it doesn't happen to be a good fit for them. Many of those children grow up to be inactive adults, because they are "not sporty".

I feel immensely privileged that while I still had this millstone upon my self esteem, I also had parents who took me hiking and to swimming lessons, my father took me to the gym with him, sowing the seeds for later in my life when I needed to find a way to fitness that worked for me. I also got to ride horses and then when I got to university I discovered martial arts, then dance. I found the activities that I loved and wanted to do, every day.

Here's my second takeaway. If I had been on the teams, I don't think I would be as active as I am today. I learned, albeit in a pretty crummy environment, to have fun being active in all kinds of ways. To try new stuff without the pressure of having to be "good" at it. I'm still doing that at 37 years old with things like powerlifting and strongman. If I had spent that time perfecting my skills in a specific sport, I would probably have given up in adulthood when I reached the limit of my talent or the proximity of a team.

So I'm not a sporty person, but that's OK, because I have found ways to move my body, to feel good and stay healthy, which I enjoy. And I get to help other people like me do the same. There's no trophy can beat that.


I believe that every individual has the right to access health and fitness as an enjoyable part of a life well lived. I help people do this through my online and in-person personal training services. 

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