Image Credit: Tim Dennell
No confidence? No problem. Society has progressed enough to make space for sportspeople who don’t particularly want to win — people just here to have a good time. This isn’t the dark ages anymore. There is a widely understood trend that shows people gravitate towards activities that they’re good at. Why do promising chefs keep obsessively reforming their recipes and methods until the day they die? Why do Olympians return for their second, third, sometimes even fourth Olympic Games? We like what we’re good at, and we keep getting better at what we like.
But there are exceptions. I’m pretty average at football for my age and pretty indifferent at tennis as well. Yet I love them both. I love watching them and I love playing them. I plan to spend a lot of my summer kicking a football around and hitting tame second-serves to my brother. Enjoyable. Crucially, risk-free.
What makes me retreat into my shell is the thought of exposing my (lack of) ability to anyone I might know less well. Anyone who might make me look crap at sport. For that reason, I’ve made less-than-regular appearances at the Derwent football and Derwent tennis clubs this year. I haven’t wanted to show myself up. The person who serves a double-fault or misses an open goal is supposed to be someone else, not me. That’s not how anyone wants to be remembered once everyone’s gone home for their evening.
Don’t do a me. It’s not the way to get the most out of sport. I should realise in those moments that enjoy- ment from playing sport doesn’t only come from winning. Fun should also derive from just being out there doing sport. Whenever I do turn up to football or tennis, I do the odd nice turn, but more importantly I thoroughly enjoy myself. I see it as socialising while playing sport.
The people who look like they’re enjoying sport the most are often those least concerned with what the scoreboard reads. Turning up to ‘compete’ doesn’t have to mean turning up with the sole priority of winning. Sport is about fulfilment and fitness just as much as it’s about gold medals and personal bests.
Inevitably, turning up to a basketball or hockey club just for the sheer enjoyment of sport could see you run into problems. While you might not be one, there are those who are devout players of those sports. They turn up to win and their weekend is ruined if they don’t. If this is an off-putting atmosphere for someone new to sport — or new to a specific sport — then there is always non-competitive sport.
Kayaking, running and cycling are all fantastic sports which give you the pleasure sport offers, without the competitive aspect. They can be competitive, but certainly don’t have to be. All four are sports which can be done on your own, or can be done in a group. All four can be picked up with almost zero base skill level and worked on, if indeed improvement is your priority. It may well not be.
A lot of the appeal of sport comes from a desire to get fit. The gangly man that I am, I still find myself very much combating my hesitance to set foot in a gym. But there’s an empowering feeling when I go along, work as hard as I can — at my level — and focus on no one but myself. Difficult, but getting easier every time I pass through the revolving doors. Sport isn’t the ‘us and them’ entity it once was. It’s not exclusively for those who are good at it and by those who aren’t.
Gone are the days when we thought there were the nerds and the jocks. Now, everyone does sport or physical activity of some sort. Today’s approach to sport should be a confidence boost to those who need one most. Ability and competitive drive aren’t the sporting necessities that we once thought they
were. They are now just extras that can be harnessed by those who have them, ignored by those who don’t, and even developed by those up for a real challenge.
As we come up for air after a year of isolation, sport can con- tinue to fill the same void that it filled back in the groundhog days of pit- stop walks and cycle rides for the sake of it. Sport can be whatever you want it to be. Personally, I want to fit in more football just for enjoyment, and maybe fit in the odd gym session whenever I have dedication and self-discipline to spare. I might try something new. It won’t mat- ter if I’m a bit rubbish, because I’ll be doing it for myself and for the mid-game conversation. And for the absolute hell of it.