I’ve never been the energetic or athletic kind. It’s stereotypical but I was always the last to be chosen for any team, except the donut eating challenge team. I had the brains but the only Braun I ever had was my toothbrush though I remember forward rolling and cartwheeling around my primary school playground telling the dinner ladies that I wanted to be a gymnast and could go to the 2012 Olympics if I trained hard enough. I even joined the school gymnastics club, but that was mainly because you got to use the apparatus you weren’t allowed to in normal PE. Except I soon learnt that you had to be a certain grade to do that. I was restricted to handstands against the wall and trying to jump over a box with a small trampoline.
Alas, I am not the gold medalist I ever dreamed of being as I teddy bear rolled my lunchtimes away. The sportiest I am nowadays is when I play netball every Monday though I am usually stuck in Wing Defence and usually get penalised for putting my arms out to stop someone else catching the ball. Either that or I get too excited that someone has actually passed me the ball for once that I screw up my footwork. I tried Zumba once but it was full of women my mum’s age, which kind of put me off. Plus we were going at snail speed so that the two with zimmer frames at the back could keep up.
I’ve always thought that I could be the next Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis Hill and it wasn’t my determination or enthusiasm that stopped me – it was more my body. Mentally I was fantastic at every sport I tried and felt like an athlete just waiting in the wings of stardom but after dragging my lacking body around the sports field during cross country running and dreading ten minute runs around the playground, I doubted that my career was destined in sports. I couldn’t even make the B Teams. The only reason I joined the school netball team was so I could be in the sports team photo.
My sporting ability was always displayed at Sports Day. At primary school they were a ritual whereas at high school I signed up to do anything I could to get the day off school, plus my house was two minutes from the park that we used so I could be home for 3.32pm easily. That’s how I ended up in the 60m sprint in Year 7 – no one else wanted to do it and when I was left covered in dust at the start line I found out why. The only chance I had at coming third was if there was three people in the race, however, in my later years I took up a wider range of sports in order to participate. In Year 8 I did the obstacle course, which I was winning until I couldn’t keep a tennis ball between my knees when running to the bucket. Year 9 allowed me to tackle the ultimate Welly Wangle, which when said fast sounds like something completely different. It was basically throwing a Welly as far as you could, pretty simple eh? Well, that was the only one I trained for. I spent several nights of my thirteen-year-old life chasing my wellington boots around the garden and what did I achieve in the end? Forth. Lousy forth. Even with a good underarm throw, it turned out everyone else must have put much more effort in to their training.
However, this is all very different to six-year-old Nicola’s approach to Sports Day. Sports Day at primary school was a fierce competition, for both teachers and students, and it also meant we got to have ice cream and those plastic cups things where it’s really cool if you chew the corner. I was placed in to my team but was reluctant to do anything. The netball was okay but the post was at least three times the size of me, I could just about manage to balance a bean bag on my head and the salaam was do-able but walking along an upside down bench in front of parents was not how I wanted to spend my day.
So I refused. I told Mrs. Briggs that I didn’t want to take part.
Mrs. Briggs was a lovely lady – think of Miss Honey in Matilda and you’re pretty spot on. I think I even started to cry and brought out the puppy dog eyes for extra effect. Eventually, after much persuading and even more refusal, I didn’t have to take part. Well, I had to take part in her netball event, which I think I enjoyed, but I just got to help her all day. I spent eight hours sat under the netball post watching everyone else carrying eggs and throwing foam rockets whilst quite happily making daisy chains and waving at my mum.
Oh yes, my mum took the day of work to come and see my star performance of sitting down. She had a great day. I mean, she had such a great day that she sent my grandparents the next year to record me actually doing the ‘sports’ on my grandpa’s video camera, except the left the lens camp on. I don’t think my mum’s ever actually seen me participate in a Sports Day. And I don’t think I’ll ever be the Olympic gymnast I dreamed of.
However, after my starring role sat under the netball post, I think there is one thing I could just about manage to do at the Olympics.
I think I was born to umpire.