Friday, June 13, 2014

Because they let me play sports, Part 1

In 1995, Nike ran an ad campaign about the benefits of girls' sports. Not things like "I will be less likely to be overweight". Things like "I will like myself better" and "I will be less likely to get breast cancer" and "I will be more likely to leave an abusive relationship" if you let me play sports.

Not "it will make me prettier" but "it will make me stronger and healthier and happier". This was 20 years ago, and the ads were trying to sell me something, but that thing was not just shoes, it was "what you are doing 5 days a week is going to help you forever."

My parents were big on participation in athletics. I tried soccer, basketball, volleyball, diving, gymnastics, dance, about a month of karate. I was not actually a natural athlete either. But I played sports.

I was blessed (or nontheistic equivalent) with truly gifted coaches for much of my sporting career (first grade soccer, 9th grade diving, & 8th grade when my mom tried to be a volleyball coach are the exceptions). Coaches who didn't see their job as building champions, but as building happy healthy adults. My coaches--all of them--emphasized that the people wearing the same uniform are your teammates, not competition, that your job with regard to your teammates is to build them up, that everyone is valuable, that doing your best matters more than winning, that the competition isn't the enemy either, that your real competition is with  yourself.


I had mostly great sports experiences. I like myself more, because I played sports and had such positive experiences. I sucked when I started, but succeeding, feeling the impossible become difficult become easy become automatic? Confidence boost. I felt capable, because I built competence. This built confidence. I was valuable, even if I floundered everywhere else.

I like myself better, because I played sports.

I've written before about my mother being abusive, and about my last name donor's wife too. In light of this, it's strange that my parents had me play sports (or maybe not. People are complicated.) After all, if you let me play, I'm more likely to leave an abusive situation.

My mother was unpredictable. Last name donor's wife moreso in some ways, more controlled in her cruelty but therefore more innovative. Neither was a good parent by the time I hit junior high or so--when I really started succeeding in athletic endeavors. Last name donor's wife got scary first, & I started refusing to go over there. I was trying to leave an abusive situation.

And when my mother told me that if I went to my state meet on my own instead of trusting her to get me there on time after church or I wasn't coming back? I took her at her word. I still to this day think her goal was to intimidate me into staying & doing as she wished, but I left, and not much later I left that region of the country, out of her reach. She and my last name donor's wife harassed me at the homeless shelter (which really meant harassing shelter staff) and they harrassed my friends, but I would not be intimidated into going back.

Yes, I left the abusive situation, something I was statistically more likely to do because I played sports. I don't know if nonjock!K would have too, but maybe not. The world will never know. It's just strange to me that my parents may have given me the tools for me to leave when it was necessary for my safety.

Because they let me play sports.

Part 2 coming soon. That will be about disability & sports.

6 comments:

Lindsay said...

I got into sports (specifically weightlifting) a little older, so I don't remember seeing that particular ad campaign.

Doing it gave me so much, though. I honestly don't know who I would be if I hadn't done it.

Janesprints said...

I never played sports. I was bullied so badly in Phy Ed (by the instructor and the other kids) that I ran far, far away from any of that. The closest I got was technical rock climbing and backpacking, when I was MUCH older.

ischemgeek said...

My parents did the "Openly encourage, subtly sabotage" thing with sports (and most other hobbies I had, for that matter), so I didn't play much as a kid. I started playing when I got older.

I don't think it's a coincidence that when I started martial arts and really dedicated myself to a sport is when I started to have the confidence to stand up to them and set limits. I did it later than you did in life, but I did it. There's a lot of reasons why, but a big part, I think, is because I started to play sports. Learning how to do stuff that used to seem impossible is a huge confidence booster. All kids should be encouraged to play sports.

Robin Tanenbaum said...

In 1995, Nike ran an ad campaign about the benefits of girls' sports. Not things like "I will be less likely to be overweight". Things like "I will like myself better" and "I will be more likely to get breast cancer" and "I will be more likely to leave an abusive relationship" if you let me play sports.

Sorry to be picky about errors, but I think you might want to use the word "less" there.

chavisory said...

"My coaches--all of them--emphasized that the people wearing the same uniform are your teammates, not competition..."

That would have been amazing. :P I might've stayed more into sports if I'd ever been actually wanted on a team.

DanYellow said...

The male equivalent is dance. I was never into sports, an apathy that worsened when the school's only priority was getting their football to win games. I only started taking dance classes in college because I figured that as an actor I ought to be able to dance for musical theater. Then that interest took over so much that I might as well declare myself a dance major. I don't look much different, in fact my weight has only gone up because I'm staying at the same fat percentage while building muscle, but I have a great body image and generally feel healthy. On the disability angle, tap dance is a wonderful stim.