I have Olympic blood in me. My uncle, Anthony Madigan, was a boxer; he most famously fought Muhammad Ali at the Rome Olympics. He won a few Commonwealth medals and competed in three Olympics. My Dad is also athletic, in his younger years he did boxing and although never quite reaching the heights of my uncle, he was no slouch. My whole life he ran pubs in low socio-economic areas and he carried himself with the confidence of a man that could really hurt someone if required.
My mother was a champion swimmer in her younger days, and used to get up at five every morning to swim laps. My Nan has countless trophies my mother earned, proudly displayed to this day. The only time I ever got up at five in the morning in my childhood was if I had a bad dream or it was Christmas. Growing up, my older sister was quite good at tennis. She ended up playing in a mixed division and beating a fair few boys her own age. I have a clear memory of one crying after she won a match. I like to believe that was the beginning of her feminist journey.
“I have all the genetic make up that should mean I am good at sports. Surely I should have some kind of head start, some kind of athletic ability that runs in my veins. I learned the hard way in my childhood I did not have even a drop of it.”
I did not inherit my Dad’s tolerance for alcohol, as I’m the kind of person that throws up in a nightclub and then has to awkwardly dance away from it. I also did not inherit my Mum’s problem solving skills, when things get hard I just tend to burst into tears. I did however inherit my Dad’s squinty eyes and his habit of waiting until 11pm to confess what’s been bothering him for the last three months, when everyone else is too tired to care. I did get my Dad’s really blue eyes, although his ex-wife once pointed out to me, unkindly, they aren’t as nice a shade as my Dad’s.
To be honest not being athletic shits me. My whole childhood, I kept thinking I would finally find MY sport. One where my natural abilities would shine. Spoiler, I never did. I used to spend my time as a netball goalkeeper trying to chat to my rival. I was always confused if they didn’t wanna chat back because they were concentrating on the game. I’d just chalk it up to them being boring. I tried swimming, but I found the whole thing a bit ‘much,’ and then there was my tennis career, which was held back by my complete lack of hand and eye coordination. I just could not work out where the fucking ball was going. Ever!
It was quite depressing to discover I was not athletic. I grew up in coastal town where being good at sports was like a superpower, so I felt it was holding me back from being ‘cool.’ I think my love of sparkly headbands was also holding me back from being cool, but hindsight is 20/20 right?
I gave up on sports completely around fourteen, and honestly I’ve never looked back. It was a relief to stop doing things I was bad at. Plus, it was around that age that the parents of my teammates were getting weirdly aggressive about whether our Netball team won the Grand Final or not, so it was more pressure than I could take! I was mostly there for the cut-up oranges at half time. My parents were not stage parents, and my Dad preferred not having to attend Saturday sports, because there was no alcohol and it was windy. Still I always felt they were slightly disappointed their child was never going to be an example of their combined athletic ability.
This week at Lyra was week five, which marks five weeks of me falling out of a hoop. We are at the point where we are expanding on the moves we’ve been previously taught, but I am still working on the first moves I was taught, still trying to get my body to cooperate. I often feel like teaching me would be similar to teaching Britney Spears choreography during her 2007 breakdown.
To be honest, I’m the person in the class that struggles the most, my body is not particularly flexible and none of it comes naturally to me. I have to work hard to master any move and I constantly seem to forget where exactly my foot should be. Sometimes it can feel a bit shit, it’s a universal truth we all want to be good at things, and a part of me often thinks maybe I should just quit. I’m not as good as everyone else, what’s the point?
“A larger part of me wants to get better because even though my progress isn’t as fast as other people in my class, I am progressing. My leg now easily swings into the hoop, rather than me attempting one or two times, I can hang my body off one side of the hoop, I am improving, just perhaps not at the rate I would like.”
On the other hand, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in doing something you are not naturally good at. There is something truly fantastic about learning to do something you just did not believe your body could do, and that high keeps me coming back, though sometimes classes hit my ego where it hurts. I would be lying if I did not say I find it frustrating that what’s easy for some people in my class feels impossible for me. It would be wonderful if it came naturally. It helps that my instructor is really great at highlighting the things I can do, she’ll point out that something is easier for me than it was in week one, and that reminds me that I am not on a completely hopeless pursuit, and that my body is still learning and achieving things, just at a slower rate than I would like.
I think as adults we are really good at creating a world where everything we do, we are pretty good at. We chose careers because we have passion for them, but also because some of the skills required to do our jobs come naturally to us. We pick friendships that are easy to maintain and we tend to pick activities that we are also good at it, whether that’s sun baking, day-drinking or doing Yoga. It’s about creating a nice comfort zone. We don’t have to do anything we suck at. Gone are the days where we are forced to run in the cross-country, or in my case, find a shady tree and eat the snack I’d hide in my pocket. We get to live in these bubbles where we create a life where we can avoid doing anything where we don’t naturally excel.
Lyra is hard for me, and for the first few weeks that was the hardest thing for me, doing something every week that I just wasn’t particularly good at. I wanted to possess some kind of natural ability, I wanted to be able to throw my leg over the hoop effortlessly the first time. Instead I tripped over my own feet. I wanted to be able to master the mermaid pose but I still can’t quite get my body to lean in the right direction. This is sometimes disheartening, but this week in class I tried the mermaid pose again, and while I still did not master it, I managed to get closer then I ever had before, and that felt really good. I realised I was getting somewhere.
Sometimes I look around my class and I see people doing better then me, being able to master moves with much more ease, holding poses for longer, and having coordination and muscle that I just do not have. It’s not always great for my ego not to be the best. I think we live in a society where we are taught if we cannot be great at something, why bother? But I bother because I am learning, my body is doing things I never thought it could do, my high kick is actually, well, high now and the satisfaction of learning something new every week (even if it’s not at the same pace as my class mates) doesn’t take away from the fact I am doing well.