How does the world of sport and a rebellious attitude to life fit together? …Do they? …Can they?
Well, the interesting thing about sport is that it’s so diverse that there’s something for everyone if you’re just prepared to be open-minded and go out and look for it. Every single body type and every personality type will have at least one sport out there to which it is well suited, but a lot of the time people don’t think that way. Instead, they fall foul of the sporty/non-sporty dichotomy: they put themselves in a “non-sporty” box and focus on other things.
A lot of this comes from childhood and school years. That may be a slightly trite, pop-psychology sort of observation, but it happens to be true. That particular school sports atmosphere can certainly be good for one’s development, but it can also be quite damaging. When you think about the different rates of physical development and adolescence, it means that you’ll often have kids in the same year group who are practically adults pitted alongside those who still have the bodies of children. A point often overlooked is that those who are old for their age group, with a birthday that comes at the start of the school year, are at a considerable advantage compared to those with a birthday that comes at the end of the school year. Often, through being shy and intimidated, young people won’t fulfill their potential or simply don’t develop in as well-rounded a manner as they might. They could leave school with an idea of themselves as someone with no athletic ability, and then go through adult life with this limiting self-concept as a natural and logical result of their experiences at school.
In sport beyond school, sport in the “real world”, we find that there’s a more democratic situation. There are certain sports that are very “mainstream” and others that are more or less counter-cultural. In Florida for instance, there are the obvious big pro sports such as football with the Miami Dolphins, baseball with the Miami Marlins, basketball with Orlando Magic, hockey with the Florida Panthers and even soccer and lacrosse. There’s certainly some room for rebellious personalities in these sports, but not much. In general they’re aligned to that middle lane of society. Training is extremely heavily regimented – this is modern professional sport, not that old-fashioned, gentleman like, amateur approach to what is, after all, just a game; meanwhile the funding comes from corporate sponsorship and players are heavily penalised for certain sorts of behavior off the field.
Look outside of that though and you’ll find another way. Take something like indoor rock climbing – it’s a totally different world. Here, even at professional level, the eccentric, rebellious, introvert can be comfortable in that mental (and physical) space where it’s just you and the wall. In fact, most extreme sports have their origins in a counter-cultural movement before going on to becoming much more “mainstream”. Surfing and skateboarding are classic examples, as stylishly illustrated in that timeless documentary Dogtown and Z Boys – even in the trailer we get the great line: “We were the guys that would’ve been chosen last to succeed.”
The bottom line is that the great strength of sport is its inclusiveness. You just have to be open to trying new things in order to find the sport that suits you.