There are two types of people in the world: competitive and non-competitive. I fall into the latter category. The very idea of competition makes me break into a cold sweat. What if I lose? That would suck. What if I win? That would suck for someone else.
In primary school, Fiona Douglas and I had a cross-country pact: we would run at the back and cross the finishing line with such synchronicity that the teachers couldn’t possibly tell who had come last. Except she got in before me. So I lost. Out of the whole school. I think it was planned all along.
I played only one sport throughout school: netball. I wasn’t bad at it – as goal shoot I just needed to practice a bit and if our team were doing badly I got to strike up a conversation with my opponent. I used to cycle to the netball courts on wintry Saturday mornings in Palmerston North, play a game and then hang around to watch my friends play whilst consuming my body weight in K-Bars and chips. We wore possibly the most hideous netball uniform of all time – a red top with a bobbly, woolly, black-and-white horizontally striped skirt, elasticated at the waist for extra comfort. Move over, Sharon from Kath & Kim.
Fast forward 28 years and there I am, with a little girl who wants to play netball.
“Awwww. That’s fabulous, darling. I played once, donchaknow. I wasn’t bad either, as it happens”.
“Mummy, we need a coach and you said you were really good so I said you’d do it”
My first team, of six year olds, were called the Dragons. Which made me the Old Dragon. They were cute and frustrating in equal measure and would race around the court en masse, squeaking at each other for someone – anyone! to throw the ball to them. I’d dish out lollies to the player of the day and everyone got stickers on their netball court diagram. Looking back, The Early Primary Years were my salad days, netball-wise.
As the years went by and the girls got bigger, things became a little more competitive – not my strong point, as I’ve mentioned. And really, a competitive streak is quite handy if you’re in charge of a sports team. By Intermediate I realised the other mothers who were coaching were actually quite good at it. Like, they had strategies and stuff. They would talk logistics with their teams and dish out punishment drills for bad behaviour or a lack of focus. There was an unfortunate incident involving the use of the main court for after-school practice and frankly I decided life was too short to go to Netball War with this particular mother who would have given Lois Muir a run for her money: my girls made do with the basketball court that week but we had a much better time than Lois’ team.
We won a few games and we had a good time. We even managed to win a couple of finals here and there over the years. I’ve hung up my whistle now, though. High School netball is way too rich for my blood. Even the girls know more than I do. So I stand on the sidelines, a safe distance from the coaches, making encouraging noises, telling my insanely competitive daughter to calm down, it’s only a game (she gets it from her father), resisting the urge to bring lollies for the best player at the end of the game, and thanking God someone else is doing the coaching.