My school is located in a sports-crazy town. It's not just that we are located very close to our major professional sports teams or that many of the players and owners live in our town. It's also that it's a very outdoors-oriented, sports-minded place. Monday-morning conversations about what students and their families did over the weekend always revolve around a list of soccer matches, lacrosse games, swim meets, softball and/or tennis and/or golf games, basketball or touch football games, long recreational or competitive runs, and even some hilarious made-up sports.
Although I am the child of a terrific amateur athlete and major sports fan, I did not inherit the sports gene. In fact, if anything, I inherited the opposite of the sports gene. I love walking my dog and hiking, and I'll do yoga or other health-oriented activities, but I don't care about organized competitive sports. This is probably because I was such an unsuccessful and discouraged participant in sports as a child — always the last kid picked, usually humiliated, never celebrated on the blacktop or the athletic field.
The places where I could compete were always in the classroom or on the musical stage. At our schools, I was always considered a "brain" or a "music kid," which had its own kind of competitive aspects, but not the kind that sports-minded people think of.
So when Sports came up as a Spirit Day theme, I mentally waved it away as something irrelevant to me, something I feel too defended against to participate in. But I knew that the kids would hound me about why I wasn't wearing some sports team's paraphernalia, which meant I had to think about what to wear instead.
On the day of the Spirit Day/Class Competition, I wore my NASA sweatshirt.
When students asked me why I wasn't wearing a sports team shirt, I spoke to them honestly. I told them I'd been a terrible athlete in school and that I had always been made to feel ashamed on the blacktop and on the playing fields. But, I said, there are other kinds of teams and many other kinds of "winning" in this world. And one of the teams I admire most in our country is NASA because, if what they do every day and every year — with little money and constant attacks — isn't winning, then I can't imagine what is.
It seemed to gladden the hearts of my fellow nerds and non-athletes tremendously to have a faculty advocate and fellow traveler in this regard.