The Boy Without A Sport

By
Although I’ve never been a naturally athletic person, my incredibly driven soccer mom imposed tennis upon me at an age when I was young and impressionable. My friends all played sports avidly and constantly made fun of me for being dead weight on the baseball, basketball and soccer teams. But my mother insisted that tennis was “my sport” and I believed her.

After a while I became quite adept at the game, using an effective two-handed forehand. I walked off the court triumphantly when I won, my mother rewarding me with ice cream money and praise. In contrast, when I lost my world was shattered. I would be looked at disdainfully, judged for what I hadn’t done properly and sometimes even scolded for “not trying hard enough.”

There was something my mother liked to call “killer instinct,” a Hammurabi-esque mindset that every great tennis player is supposed to have. If they call your shots out when they’re not, you do the same. If they cheat, you do the same. Anything to win.

In some instances, my opponents would cry when they lost. They sometimes threw their racquets in conjunction with their tantrums.

I must have been about twelve years old when I played the red-haired boy. He was a few years older than me, but what struck me as odd about him was that he lacked the killer instinct completely. He didn’t seem to care at all when he lost a point or made an error. Sometimes he even laughed. I asked him why he was so laid-back, and then he told me that the scores of the games we played didn’t matter. No one ever bothered to record them, no one was keeping a little black book with each player’s statistics. It didn’t matter who won or lost, as long as we had a good time playing the game.

In my first year of high school I tried out for the tennis team and didn’t make it. My mother told me that if I didn’t try harder I’d be a “Boy Without A Sport,” and thus would never be able to succeed in life. It was then that I realized for the first time that her view on the game made no sense to me. I wanted to be a writer, not a tennis player. In fact, the time I spent playing tennis was taking time that I would have utilized with paper and a pen. It disturbed me to think that the only reason I played tennis was to triumph over others. My mother didn’t care when I came up with an innovative story idea. She cared when I won.

Now I mostly hit around leisurely with friends, getting sufficient exercise in the process. When someone does want to play a real game, I don’t mind, but it no longer fazes me if I win or lose a point, or if someone cheats me out of one I had deserved. I’ve come to the realization that I don’t need to win a match to instill self-respect. My mother sees that I’m happier now and that I don’t necessarily have the same views as her, and she has accepted that. To some winning is everything, and I’m not discrediting that viewpoint, but I’d rather just enjoy myself and focus the majority of my motivational energy into my passion – writing.

I’m proud to call myself a Boy Without A Sport.





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