My wife wrote this article. I like it because she’s better at writing than me! – Simon.
The possibility that the children Simon and his coaches are working with will end up with a healthier, more fulfilling relationship with exercise than I have.
As a very young child I loved sport and exercise, and I had no reason to think that I wasn’t great at it. It felt good, and that was all I needed to know.
In my primary school years though, I started to get the message that I wasn’t much good at it, and well-meaning adults were quick to tell me that I should focus on more creative or intellectual pursuits. They were very keen for me to adopt the label ‘not sporty’, which I hated and took on board grudgingly, but eventually accepted as part of who I am.
I persisted all through school though, because I still enjoyed being active, and I wanted to believe that I was more ‘sporty’ than I actually was. (Probably because my brothers were provincial-level sportsmen.) Looking back I remember being disappointed so often when I’d turn up eager to play whatever sport I’d signed up for, only to find that my C or D team would have to spend our practice time acting as score keepers for the cricket boys, or setting out chairs for spectators to watch the much more important A and B team games.
And so I hit adulthood feeling like a bit of a fake when it came to exercise and fitness. I wanted to join that special club of sporty people, but knew deep down that I wasn’t good enough. Somehow I fell into a group of friends who were all in the ‘sporty’ category, and I constantly had to squash the feeling that I was an imposter in their world. It felt almost as if I wasn’t allowed to train, or enter events, or join their clubs.
It took quite some doing to feel ok about exercising just for my own well-being, and it’s still a big mental battle to keep myself motivated when I compare my strength or athletic ability to that of friends and find myself coming up short. Still today I get really anxious about situations where people might find out just how useless I am. Isn’t that ridiculous?!
Almost every time I speak to another mum about what Simon does, I get the same reaction: ‘I wish there’d been a Fit Kids when I was at school!’ It seems so many of us were told at school that we weren’t sporty, or perhaps just not sporty enough to be noticed, and now as adults find exercise a bit of a mental struggle. Why can’t we be ‘not sporty’, yet still feel great about exercising?
It’s because we’ve been taught that exercise equals sport, and that sport belongs to sporty people. It’s harder for us to change our attitudes now, but I know that we can pave a different path for our children.
Just imagine if I’d had a Fit Kids experience, where my pre-school love for movement and exercise had been nurtured in a way that made me feel confident and capable.
Imagine if I’d been taught to see my primary school body as amazing for all it could do, instead of something to feel ashamed of for all it wasn’t capable of achieving.
Imagine if I’d learnt to compare my abilities to my performance from last week, rather than to the next person’s abilities.
Imagine if someone had shown me that exercise was simply a normal part of a healthy lifestyle, not something you did to improve sporting performance, to be better than the guy next to you, to make the team, or even to lose weight.
Knowing that he’s having this kind of impact on children’s lives is what keeps Simon motivated to reach more children, parents and teachers every day.
Isn’t that a great thing to wake up for every day? I would be jealous, but now I get to be a part of it all too!
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