At school I was never “good” at sports. The whole endeavour was fraught with emotional challenges. Would I get picked for the team and at which point? That was the question, on the day sports lessons were timetabled, fresh in my mind as I got ready for school in the morning. It was not nothing as a question for a young girl. Your juvenile career as popular or unpopular in your peer group was about to depend on the composite answer. Ok, the matter would not be capable of proving your irretrievable demise but it was, shall we say, about to appear on your social CV in small print.
Schools where I grew up had a practice of choosing two children (usually ones good at whatever sport was about to be played) and placing them in the playground at the front of the class and then the teacher handed those kids, like it was a good idea (not always the generous, kind, thoughtful kids got this task) the power to publicly establish:
- Who is known and recognised as good at sport/s (they get picked first)
- Who is the best mate of the person with the choosing power or who is otherwise pop.u.lar (they get picked first or next)
- Who is not a loser (next)
- Who is a loser (next)
- Who is deeply bad at sports for reasons only children can decide and often get it wrong because they are childishly judgemental if possibly also right (next)
- Who the person choosing simply, deeply hates for reasons not grounded in logic (last)
And so, the line up formed. The games began. The emotions were knitted into everyday life and particularly if you had had to wait long to join your team. Perhaps some of us felt this ritual more than others.
What I do know is that many people do not do enough sport, including me for now, and I wonder: did we form “sport exiles” in moments like this?
Furthermore, I definitely am wondering if IFS can help.
You see, sport is important. It’s worth the curiosity.
Sport requires connection. To oneself and to a certain practice. As well as to time and space and nutrition and so many other things. It’s complicated in its rather simple way. I never understood it. I didn’t ever, like Tracy, take up a Pilates practice in my lounge and end up with a fit, firm gorgeous body. I went round Tracy’s house once (because I was dating her brother) and spied her through the living room door, age 12, deeply engrossed in a fitness video, swinging her leg high from the mat with powerful precision. It made no sense to me. Why? Just why?
Could IFS with its ability to do the Self thing of connecting us up help people like me connect more to what sport is and can be for our genuine benefit? Anti-stress, good-looking bod, fun and fitness.
Obviously, there are seemingly burdens in the cooking pot, (above I diagnose low self-esteem, lack of support from family and school, anxiety, confusion) swirling around, so getting sporty would not just be a case of “sob, run, jump!”
IFS can help. IFS can make us more sporty and in a good, balanced way. Not the way of Samantha…
Hurdling and Samantha
This is a sad tale. Samantha was the all-round sports star at school. She was particularly good at hurdling which had become, without anything close to cosmic destiny, my favourite sport. That might have been because I intended to futilely pit myself against the might of Samantha for personal reasons unknown and forgotten in the mists of time. Difficult to say. Anyway, I was into hurdling.
I would stay behind after school on Thursday just to hurdle. Can you imagine!? But Samantha always lingered at the back of the sports field, going faster, jumping better, smiling nonchalantly, because it was all just too easy. She had really long legs.
The sad bit is not my ineptitude at the wrong sport but that Samantha turned into a seriously anorexic young lady two years later and nearly died. I’m not a therapist or a medical doctor so my guess is vague, but it’s something in the territory of Samantha and sports did not have a healthy relationship.
We clearly both struggled in our ways and there is the thing: writing this article makes me realise that me and sports? Well, it’s been a series of flops.
Not great emotions.
In fact, sport is emotional, and often not in the best way of self-expression. Here’s my pitch: IFS has got a lot it can offer the matter of sport in a person’s life. Whichever way we turn it, sporty Parts need attention, kindness, understanding, some “there-there” pats on the back, or the head, with actual compassion attached.
Too many of us non-elite athletes stare at the weights we own or the yoga mat wrapped up tightly in a fancy cotton draw-string bag. errhmmm….
Maybe with some focused attention paid to our sport potential – to not just do it, but also to flippin’ enjoy it – we might get out there more.
I’m regularly dragged out the house by my friend to walk at a pace along the lovely Tuscan lanes, but I don’t have access to a Part who takes it upon themselves to push me out the door most days, whatever the weather, by myself. I call myself too lazy or claim I have little time. (That right there is a self-critical, self-limiting protector Part having its say?) Writing this article has made it crystal clear to me that in fact the problem is not laziness, or busyness, but emotions. Things like a sports team selection by a girl staring at me without a friendly face. That was 40 years ago. And yet, the taste of the moment remains, as IFS well knows.
I know enough about IFS to know that there is a Part of me, and maybe even more than one, that enjoys sport/s, but is likely currently working hard at somehow sabotaging my life, instead of getting me toned and active. A Part or Parts who would like to do sport well, often and be left happily breathless. It would be good for my body if I connected with those Parts and gave them the time of day. It would be good for my soul.
Anyone resonate with this? I think we need more information about IFS and sports so we can jump over the hurdles we put in our way of joining the club, making the team, smiling when we lose and when we win, making the friends though sport, running the lanes all alone (with a water bottle in hand and possibly some neon pink compression socks on). Sport is vital for a happy healthy life. Whilst sports can easily be seen visually as high stakes drama on the world stage- such as here:
There is another story of the private, the small, the important, but not glamorous. The uneducated, blocked, hopeless sportsperson who could get fit and have a body and mind that is healthy and happy is not about to make prime time TV for their prowess, but their ordinary, small-scale-world story also matters.
Emotions get in the way of sport. We need to ask how a method brilliant for uncovering and clearing limiting beliefs leading to difficult emotions, such as IFS, can help people get sporty. When illness costs so much money to handle within national health systems, might not this attention be a cost-saver, apart from anything else?