I had a pretty airy fairy upbringing.
My parents were never really strict about anything. My brother and I have chores to do but our relationship with our parents was quite unlike the authoratarian model many of my friends experienced.
I grew up in an open and honest enviornment. My parents never shied away from talking about porn, homosexuality, sex, drugs and alcohol. We talked openly at the dinner table and nothing was taboo.
My parents never forced my brother and me into anything. We had dialogues rather than orders.
I played a bit of sport as a kid. I played soccer when I was in Year Five. That’s the first time I remember playing team sport outside of school. At this age girls played with boys. We didn’t distinguish between genders. If you got into a team it was based on merit rather than your gender.
I gave up on soccer after two years.
I moved onto netball when I was in highschool. The uniform wasn’t like soccer. I wore a dress as opposed to my footy shorts. I wore fashionable trainers as opposed to my soccer boots. And there were no more boys. I was playing only with girls.
We would rock up at the courts in winter, wrapped in wollen jumpers. Our flimsy netball dress didn’t do much to keep us warm and goosebumps peppered our legs.
I played netball for three years. Then highschool started heating up. My priorities changed. It all got too hard. I gave up.
My boyfriend has played sport his entire life. He dabbled with a few sports when he was in primary school. He moved onto basketball at the beginning of highschool and took to it like a duck to water. He had the athleticism and the build for it. He dominated. He practised and he got better.
Through his sport he made lasting connections and life-long friendships. Sport has provided him not just with physical health but with social connections and skills he will apply to his life forever.
I envy this greatly. I wish that I had been exposed to team sport earlier. I wish I had tried different sports, found a sport I loved and stuck to it. I never tried touch football even though I’ve been a footy fan my whole life. I never tried Little Athletics or long-distance running. I never tried swimming or rowing. I certainly never tried basketball (I’ve always been short).
I wish my parents had made sport a non-negotiable.
I gave up on sport primarily because I thought I wasn’t good enough to play. I felt that if I wasn’t good enought to be the best I shouldn’t bother.I wanted to experient but I felt like an intruder. I felt that, as a woman, I was impeding on a male domain. I was embarrassed to give it a go.
Looking back I realise how inherantly flawed both of those points are. Sport is not just for elite players. Sport has multiple purposes. It’s for fun, for community and for physical health. I also realise that by not participating in sport I was perpetuating the stereotype that sport is the male domain.
I haven’t played team sport in over four years. I miss it. I miss the community. I miss the calls of, “PASS HERE!” I miss the smell of the sausage sizzle and the supportive cheers from the sideline.
I want my daughter, if I am lucky enough to have a daughter one day, to experience the joys and challenges of sport.
I want her to be exposed to sport as a means of physical activity from a young age. I hope that for her, physical acticity isn’t a chore but rather an opportunity to have fun. I want her to be surrounded by a sporting community because there really is nothing like it. I hope that by playing sport as a young girl, she will make friends that she will carry with her through to adulthood.
I want her to play sport so that she can learn the importance of teamwork and cooperation. I hope that by being part of a team, she can understand how working with people rather than against them is the way to succeed.
I want my daughter to play any sport she wishes. I will encourage her to experient until she discovers a sport she enjoys. Then I want her to stick to it. I hope that by sticking with a sport she learns the importance of commitment and hardwork.
I never want my daughter to feel embarrassed by her gender. I never want her to feel like she shouldn’t participate because she’s a girl, like her Mum did.
I want her to play sport so she can appreciate what her body is capable of. I hope that by doing this she will understand that how she cares for her body is more important than how her body looks.
I wish my parents had pushed back when I wanted to chuck in the towel. I wish they’d told me that although I may hate it now, the training and the knowledge would be worth it in the end.
But I can’t go back so what do I do? I start participating. I chuck the footy at the park. I sign up for social sport. I don’t shy away from the weights at the gym because the area is dominated by men.
I stop feeling embarrassed that I’m not good enough and I give it a goddamn go.