Getting Held Back in Sports

I have failed a class before.

This happened when I was 7/8? years old; one of my sisters, my younger brother, and I were enrolled into summer swimming classes at our hometown private pool. I could not perform the strokes and exercises well enough; so, while my brother and sister advanced to the next level, I was held back to try the same level again.

Embarrassed, I reluctantly did the class again and still fared only mediocrely compared to my new classmates. I walked away from swimming that summer feeling like I was stupid for not knowing how to swim properly.

This year, I experienced a similar experience: my family and I went up to Beaver Creek for the Easter holiday. Most of us enrolled into ski school to learn a few things about this winter sport (none of us had really skied much, except for the Montana family). I was ambitious and registered for the whole weekend so I could get as much out of the experience as possible. Plus, I live in Colorado: shouldn’t I be required to know how to ski?

My first day of the class, we were only about 30 minutes into the class and I already felt my insecurities and embarrassment arise as I watched myself fall behind my fellow classmates. My knees locked up as I attempted to maintain balance on my skis; the instructor was patient with me at first, guiding me along while we were still in the practice area.

Then, we went up the gondola so we could practice on more realistic turf with kid skiers and other beginners. I saw my niece and nephew getting the hang of skiing in their little class; meanwhile, I was struggling still to keep up with my classmates. Finally, one of the ski supervisors came up to me and told me how my class instructor decided I needed to have special individual instruction due to my slowness holding back the class.

Again, I felt embarrassed and down on myself. How come I cannot get the hang of this like everyone else? After awhile, though, the supervisor changed my mind and made me practice up and down the conveyor belt area, all the while encouraging me, giving me high-fives when I accomplished successful form and technique.

I ended up skipping out on the ski class for the rest of the weekend, opting instead to have my oldest sister guide me in my skiing form on the last day.


I talk about these two instances because I want to point out how I freeze up with insecurity when it comes to sports, classes, etc. Perhaps growing up chubby made me feel that I was not capable of doing well in sports like all the ‘normal-sized’ kids out there. I always placed last in the mile run during Presidential Fitness Tests in elementary school; to this day I refuse to play volleyball because I am reminded of how terrible I was in middle school PE classes, serving the ball off to the left and never over the net.

Do I think something is wrong with me? No. Do I think the school system, our society, causes for kids to feel upset/discouraged/embarrassed too easily when it comes to things they are not great at? I’m not completely sure. In this day and age, we are so quick to blame society on problems in the world; but is it fair for me to use society to blame for my insecure feeling when trying sports out? My ski-school experience was definitely an experience, and I kept reminding myself during the first day that my assumptions of my classmates thinking I’m “slow, fat, out of shape” were probably wrong. We’re adults now, right? We can’t be thinking about “Oh, that person is so slow with this sport”, right?

To this day, I can’t help but wonder if, when I do do well with something athletic, if others are cheering me on genuinely or if they’re just cheering me on in a condescending fashion because they’re thinking, “Ha, this overweight girl *actually* did something right?” Maybe I need to examine my own thoughts before I go and make these assumptions again. How do I shake the feelings from childhood though?

Leave a Reply