I survived high school sports. I wish my gonads could say the same thing.

June 20, 2009

I’ve spent the past week in a broom closet that passes for an office, filing resident information at the seniors’ residence where Viking Woman works.

The one saving grace of my cramped quarters was its window. It allowed me to take a quick mental break whenever my eyes grew weary and the forms all started to look the same.

The window looked out onto the playing field of the adjacent Catholic school. Fortunately for my time management, it’s an all-boys school. Had the gender been reversed, I may never have accomplished a thing and then volunteered to put in unpaid overtime hours to do more of the same.

Despite the sorrowful lack of estrogen, I still managed to squander a few minutes each afternoon when the PE classes wandered out to the field, if only because the activity took me back to my own high school days.

Granted, we never chased around a pink spongy rugby ball. Nor would my classmates and I have ventured out on a cold, blustery, late-fall day in our bare feet. I’m not sure if this was yet another indication of  the famous Kiwi hardiness, or a subliminal way to introduce the lads to the vow of poverty.

But there were some similarities to my glory days at Langley Secondary. For instance, while the students were stripped down to T-shirts and shorts, their teacher braved the elements in long pants, winter coat and baseball cap.

And, unless the ball was within spitting distance, most of the kids either stood idly by or wandered around listlessly. They were either playing zone defence to perfection or bored silly.

I know which one would describe me. Despite playing hundreds of games of ice hockey as a twentysomething (including backstopping at least two teams to league championship trophies), I wasn’t much of an athlete in school. Unless the class was playing ball hockey, I had no real interest in participating.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I set an unofficial school record one day when the teacher decided to time how long each of us could dangle by our hands from a metal bar. The sequence went something like this:

Teacher: “Ready.”

“Set.”

* I dropped from the bar. *

“Go!”

Can you actually record a minus time in an event?

It wasn’t so much that I was lazy or unmotivated. I was once, much to my embarrassment, ordered to the locker room for bodychecking during a game of ball hockey, so I did make an effort when the game moved me.

Mostly, it was self-preservation that caused me to linger on the fringes, where I could stay out of harm’s way while giggling at the perspiration stains ringing the underarms of the jocks.

As evidence, I present a highlight reel of my sporting endeavours:

Boxing: The first and only punch thrown by my opponent hit me square in the eye. I immediately staggered off the mat and dropped my gloves. My vision was blurred for the rest of the day.

Basketball: While attempting a layup, I somehow became entangled in my own feet and crashed down heavily. With one hand attempting to control the ball, and the other hand flapping uselessly, I impacted the gym floor with my upper chest and lower face.

Indoor cricket: I was simply walking past another boy when he decided to spin around while holding the bat chest-high. I didn’t even see the blow coming before the bat hit me square in the back and dropped me to my knees, breathless and stunned.

Indoor lacrosse: Played with a small plastic scoop and a whiffle ball. I took up my usual position in goal, where the very first shot whizzed straight into my groin. (FYI: Bruised balls — not a pretty sight.)

Have you picked out the common thread in these stories? Yup — me, on the floor, breath whistling through my teeth, eyes screwed tight while willing myself not to cry.

For everyone else, PE stands for Physical Education. For me, it was always Pain Everlasting.

I spent five years in high school. I’ve got the scars to prove it.

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