Up until around the age of twelve, I never thought I was the kind of person who could be considered "athletic." Sure, I took ballet and tap classes between the ages of five and ten, but I have yet to meet someone who doesn't dance who still thinking of dancing as a sport. I started taking swim lessons at nine, and joined a swim team when I was twelve, and that was around the same time I started to think of myself as being athletic.
The school I went to from kindergarten to eighth grade had a sports day where all day everyone was split into teams and went around doing multiple sport-like things. I really loathed Sport's Day. It wasn't just that I felt bored most of the time, I just didn't like feeling incapable of doing something, and that happened to be my main feeling every Sport's Day. I didn't like running in the running races, or throwing a football, or jumping over a sand ditch thing. It wasn't that I was necessarily bad at any of those things, I just wasn't as good as everyone else. It took me a long time to realize that just because someone can run faster than you, that doesn't mean you can't run fast. At the time, I thought I must have been the most unathletic person on the planet.
Like I said earlier, I started taking swim lessons when I was nine. My grandparents found someone who could teach me and my brother at the health club near their house, and I instantly loved the pool and my teacher. At the end of the first lesson, I had learned how to get myself to float, which was something I had never thought I'd be able to do before. By the next lesson, I was able to propel myself forward by kicking my feet and having my hands crossed in front of me with my arms straight (does that make sense? I'm writing this pretty late at night and it makes sense to me but I'm not sure it will in the morning...). For the next few years, I found myself falling more and more in love with water and the feeling I got when I accomplished something new.
When I was doing PE at school, I still felt insecure and useless whenever we played football or soccer or volleyball, but when I would go to a swim lesson, I always felt like I could do whatever I was supposed to do. Right before I started sixth grade, my swim teacher said that she thought I was ready to join the swim team, and I got apprehensive when I learned that doing 60+ laps was a normal thing to do at 4:00 on a Monday afternoon. The most laps I'd ever done up to that point was around 15. But, I learned the drills and soon enough I was going to the swim practices every Monday and Wednesday.
The swim team wasn't competitive, so I don't have any stories about swim meets or anything like that, but I do have the memories of being able to say that I was on a swim team. I could feel myself improving every time I went, and I could feel myself getting stronger with each passing week. I don't remember when I first started to think of myself as athletic, but I do remember the first time I ever said it out loud. I was visiting my therapist (either #2 or #3, I don't remember...), and she had set up this project where I made this wheel thing and in each section of the wheel I wrote how I was in different parts of my everyday life. One section represented school, one represented how I was with my family, one with my friends, and another represented what I was like when I was swimming. I remember writing "athletic" and then reading it out to my therapist, and realizing that that truly was how I felt. I was surprised at myself.
When I was fourteen, I moved and left the swim team. I cried, my teacher cried, and I honestly haven't really swum (swum? that's a word, right?) very much since. I don't really know why, but I wish I'd done it more when there was a POOL IN MY BACKYARD BEFORE I MOVED THIS LAST TIME (seriously Claira, it was right there for two years and you didn't use it as much as you really should have. Goodness.). I may not swim as much as I used to, but I don't think I'll soon forget what it feels like to feel athletic. I still can't really play football, soccer, or volleyball (or basketball, or do gymnastics, or many other things), but I can definitely swim. Swimming is something that I really love to do, and I'm so thankful that I was able to do it consistently for five years of my life. It gave me the chance to feel good about myself in an area I wasn't used to feeling good about myself in.
(I should probably mention that I still have a strange fear of water that keeps me from diving too low beneath the surface, but that's not too important right now...) No one should feel like they can't do something when it comes to sports. Let's face it, sports are hard. They require a lot of energy and skill and the ability to not get hit in the face with a basketball four times in one PE class (true story), but when you find the sport that you love and makes you feel useful, it's and amazing feeling. It's certainly one of the most amazing things that I have ever felt.