Like most Aussie girls, my netball career started in Grade 3 at school. It was compulsory. Every Friday afternoon, we would don our netball skirts and silly bibs, and head out to take part in the regional competition, a fully-fledged, graded comp incorporating all the Catholic schools in the area. My team was in Grade F – the lowest of the low.
Somehow it was decided that, being a little taller than most (at a fully grown 164cm – huh???), I would make a good Goal Keeper.
I was a dreadful Goal Keeper. Each Friday my long suffering Mum (and Dad on his flexi days) would come to watch from the sidelines. “You’re not doing ballet now… Get in there… Go for the BALL!!!!”
The first season we lost almost every game 30+ to nil. In one game, our Goal Shooter managed to shoot two goals – we only lost 7-2. It was awesome – we celebrated! She was promoted to the next grade.
In Grade 4 it was just as bad.
In Grade 5, in a new school, I had my first taste of victory. For a start, they moved me to Goal Defence and occasionally, Wing Defence. We only had one team and one grade. We made the finals. Alas, they “forgot” to tell me the time/date of the game. I missed the finals, because… I didn’t know it was on. I think they thought they’d do better without me.
In Grade 6, back at my old school, a friend and I managed to get special dispensation from the netball team. Somehow, we convinced the powers-that-be that the school would be far better off without us “representing” them. Meanwhile, we had a lot of fun hanging about, doing “intellectual things” on Friday afternoons – far more fun than we would have had on a netball court!
Fortunately, at high school, I was no longer was obliged to play competitive netball. PE classes – sure, but out there, in the real world, nope. It was freedom!
And then one day, in Year 9, something amazing happened. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but in a PE class, I was given the opportunity to play Centre. I am not small, not fast, not at all athletic, so this was a MASSIVE surprise!
It was the best game of netball I’ve ever played.
I may not have been the best Centre ever, but I was OK. I got in there, I received the ball (i.e. I actually CAUGHT it!), I identified the tactics of play and controlled them, I even threw it off to the right team! In a netball career that to date had been seriously crushing to any sense of self-esteem, it was a triumph. That one day gave me hope… that I could play a sport… that all was not lost.
I later went on to achieve a 1st Dan black belt in Taekwondo, and to play in the World Masters Games in Touch. I will never be a sporting champion, but I can hold my head high and relish the opportunities I’ve had to participate in competitive sport – to sweat out the training, to experience the camaraderie of a team, to enjoy the “rush” (and the odd headache) of competition.
I think it’s a truth that we sometimes forget – that we all need a little break every now and then – a chance to shine. We don’t need to be champions all the time, but sometimes we need a break – just to see the spark.
To my Year 9 PE Teacher, thank you for making me Centre that day. It made all the difference.
This post was inspired by our Kid Stuff Story Starter conversation cards. The cards chosen were “My first memory…” and “Sport”. We’d love to hear your sporting stories too. Were you the sporting hero, or like me, the complete klutz? Don’t forget, we offer a pack of your choice of Story Starter conversation cards to the winning story each month (providing we get sufficient entries, that is!) So please, send in your story on Facebook, by email to contact[at]leafjournals.com or by leaving your comment here.