Lani Writes: On being tall, and terrible at sport, and trying anyway

Metro columnist Leilani Momoisea laments the curse of being more than six feet tall - but totally lacking in athletic ability.

Have you ever wondered how to be a constant disappointment to strangers and friends alike? You just need to be tall, and bad at sport.

Being over six feet tall with below average sporting ability makes you the physical manifestation of over-promising and under-delivering. Just the act of existing, being seen, is an emotional rollercoaster with every first interaction. You must play basketball, they will say, peering up at you for the first time. No, you will reply.

But they will persist. You must have played netball then. Yes, you will say, but I was never any good, you’ll feel compelled to explain. Then their eyes will narrow, and they will mutter under their breath with contempt, but what good is being tall, if you can’t play ball?

Throughout school, you will have gotten used to the familiar look of hope, the sparkle in the eye as they measure you up, and think of all of the good that long reach and those long strides will bring to the team. You’ll try to make clear that you don’t really know what you’re doing, but they’ll mistake it for humility. They won’t believe you. Until they see you play.

Then they will abandon you, and the dreams they had for you. They will put you in the F grade netball team. You will look strange, because you are by far the tallest one there. This will be repeated at every new school you go to. The dissatisfaction even worse if they connect you to your siblings. Your parent’s athletic genes being passed on to all their children but you.

You’ll know your talents have finally been correctly measured when a new kid is momentarily intimidated as they line up next to you at the start of the 100-metre sprint, and a classmate whispers, don’t worry, she’s not that fast. And as hard as you’ll try, you’ll be happy as long as you don’t come last.

But you will keep trying, because you want to be good. You will keep trying because you want to someday be as athletic as you appear. You’ll keep trying because though you know you unequivocally suck, you are still cursed with a competitive streak. And for your troubles you’ll be consistently gifted with a title you’ll come to hate. Most Improved Player.

They’ll call your name, and you’ll smile as you collect the lamest accolade in sports existence. Never most valuable, but most improved. Which doesn’t even mean you’ve gotten any good. It just means you’re not as bad as you once were. From all that trying, you suppose.

This piece first appeared in the January-February 2019 issue of Metro.

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