Most people who know me probably wouldn't expect me to have played a sport regularly at any point in my life. This is partly because I show very little interest in watching any kind of sport and partly because I am the clumsiest person in the known world. I do actually enjoy exercise but have no real interest in any kind of organised team business. I never want any company, preferring to walk or jog or lift weights by myself. I guess you could say I'm not a team player. This wasn't always the case. I actually played a fair amount of sport when I was in high school. For those keeping track, this was when I was working on cementing my position as 'Most Overcommited Teen Ever'*.
The main sport I played was water polo. I had done a lot of swim training before (we lived down the road from the beach and my parents wisely decided I should be good at swimming) and it made sense for me to play a water sport. I had all the grace and co-ordination of a newborn fawn who is also drunk somehow, but I put up a mean egg-beater kick.
I was never that good at the game. I played in a mixed gender league and while I discovered certain advantages in the double standard that none of the boys could hurt me when I hurt them (official water polo motto: It's not whether you win or lose, it's how badly you injure the opposition), they were still much bigger and faster than me. And could catch a ball. That probably helped.
On land, my main thing was running. I have always loved running, although I have had a lot of knee trouble from doing too much of it while my bones were still growing. I can remember how surprised everyone was at school when they first saw me sprint. I only had tiny legs, so no-one was expecting me to actually be fast. From the way they described it to me afterwards, I'm assuming it looked like something out of a Warner Bros cartoon.
The problem was that I didn't care much about competitive running, but my teachers did. It was an academic school and the entire PE department had a huge complex about it. They would pump their fists and insist that they didn't teach at a nerd school, that there were heaps of jocks who were all just wagging class that day. I remember one year I hadn't bothered showing up to the school cross-country. I don't remember what excuse I gave, just that I wasn't there. I'm not sure what the system is elsewhere, but at my school the criteria for going to the regional cross-country was that you'd achieved one of the fastest times at the school event. Imagine my surprise when my teacher handed me a permission slip.
"I... you realise I didn't actually compete? I can't have qualified. On the basis that I wasn't present," I stuttered, legitimately confused.
"Yeah, I know," she replied, "We know you can run so we'd like you to go anyway."
I was flattered, but as it turned out I couldn't go anyway due to a music thing that was on the same day. "Priorities". But I was lured back into the world of school sport when the girls' rugby team started recruiting. They desperately needed new members and I guess they figured I was better than nothing. I had one training session before the first (and last) game of my rugby career.
As always, I wasn't taking it seriously at all. I thought it was all a big laugh until I saw the girls I would be playing against. All of them were twice the size of the biggest girl on our team. Then, the game began. I had never before seen a school sports event that turned into that big of a bloodbath. And I know I'm not exaggerating because the boys' team were on the sidelines, gasping in horror.
"Geez, girls play dirty!" I heard them shout as yet another player left the field, too badly injured to continue. I gulped and took my position again. Keep in mind that I was one of the smallest people on either team, so I knew I could be in trouble. Usually the aim of sport is to get the most points, but after the first half of the game or so, my aim was to get out of it without sustaining any permanent damage.
By the end of it, there were more players off with injuries than there were players left on the field. I'm not even kidding. It was like Roman gladiators. The only thing I remember about the last portion of the game is seeing the fear in the other girls' eyes during the scrum. Everyone was terrified.
I made it out alive that time, but I never played for the girls' rugby team again. I still watched their games though. Sensational entertainment.
*If you don't believe that I deserve this title, this is what I was doing when I was around sixteen: studying for my school certificate, going to weekly after school lessons for singing, piano, saxophone and drama, rehearsing for a local amateur musical, swim training once a week, water polo training twice a week, water polo game once a week and also I was working part time at Video Ezy. I also somehow managed to write a novel that year, although I never had the confidence to show it to anyone.