When I was 10 years old I was on the Primary school netball team. I was the same height then as I am now – and 5ft6 (a fairly average height for an adult) was a great height for a 10 year old netball player. I was Goal Defence and I mostly just had to stand in front of people with my arm in the air to stop them shooting easily. It was a fairly relaxed gig.
The school, in its wisdom, decided to host a parent and child netball match at the end of the year. I signed my mum up immediately. She is one of the most competitive people I know and I knew she’d be a good ally in the world of Primary school sports. The first match was great – mum and I were on the same team. Then someone thought it would be a good idea to have a parents versus children match.
My mum was a legend – she ran, she dived, she dodged, she scored. Time and time again. Children were flying out of her way – she was a woman possessed. At half time the teacher who was acting as referee asked her to leave the court. I saw the fear in the teacher’s eyes – this was one competitive mother away from a first aid disaster, a law suit waiting to happen and a newspaper headline in the making.
So my mum was benched. Needless to say that after that the children’s team picked up swiftly and we went on to win the match.
We have a print in our hallway which reads, “The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree”. Flash forward a few decades and now I am the mum attending a school sports event. This time it’s the Preschool Sports Day. Our son wasn’t keen to partake this year – it was his first time and he was feeling a little shy. His mother, on the other hand, was not. I marched over to the manager of the Preschool, eager to see when the parents’ race would begin.
It turns out that until this year no such thing existed – there was a Dad’s race (incidentally, I’m pretty sure the guy who won it was wearing flip flops so I’m not sure how seriously it was being taken) but I’m not a Dad. I immediately insisted on a race I could take part in, at which time I put a sports bra on over the top of my jacket, tied the laces on some old trainers and got into the runners’ starting position. I was going for gold.
I came third. But to be honest, since the race had only been declared “open” minutes before, we didn’t pull in huge numbers of competitors. Still, I was happy with my plastic medal and spot on the winner’s podium. But next year I’ll be going back with a vengence – Plastic Gold will be mine.
In the case of my 0-100 days of exercise challenge, I don’t have any real competitors. I am competing with an idea I set myself and my inner (lazy) voice, who says life is fine without exercise and sitting on the sofa eating share bags of chocolate to myself will have no long-term negative effects on my health. My internal monologue convincing me that I don’t need to exercise has won for too long – it’s time to shake up the game.
So does competitiveness run in the family – are we born competitive or does it become us? In December 2011 my Grandmother declared that my husband and I had “ruined Christmas for everyone” because our competitiveness had gotten out of hand during a game of Trivial Pursuit – my husband maintains that we were just following the rules efficiently, like all good teachers.
In the case of me and my mother, the apple definitely didn’t fall far from the tree of competitiveness. We have to be on the same team for Christmas boardgames now or things can get messy. I just have to hope that next year at the Preschool Sports Day they don’t open out the races to include Grandparents too.