When the other kids don't want you on their team in gym class

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

I was always picked last in gym class. Well, not always. Almost always.

Whenever my elementary school gym teacher said we'd be choosing teams for some awful sport I didn't want to play, such as dodgeball or crab soccer, I felt my stomach sink into my shoes. As someone who suffered from the perfect storm of childhood anxiety and constant bullying, hoping to be picked anything but last was nothing more than a dream most of the time.

There were two popular boys in my class who made sure I wasn't picked last when one or both of them were team captains. I don't know why James and David tried to help me. We never spoke. We weren't friends. But they went out of their way to be kind during gym class. The world needs more people like them.

Unfortunately, they weren't always team captains.

Every now and then, the gym teacher picked me as a team captain. That was a mistake. I'd just freeze and watch the kids sort themselves onto the other team. I got the overflow.

As you can guess, David and James always agreed to be on my team even though it meant being separated from the other popular and athletic kids.

I never stopped feeling anxious when the teacher picked team captains. However, I eventually grew to accept it and even enjoy being picked last.

Being picked last meant knowing no one expected me to be a good teammate. No one expected me to hit the wiffleball, get the basketball into the hoop, get the puck in the goal, or be any help during a relay race.

The pressure was off. I wish I had enjoyed it sooner.

I was free from the responsibility of trying to be good enough. I just had to be there.

Being picked last meant no one expected anything from me, so I could relax and enjoy myself for once in gym class. If only I had realized it. I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.

When it came time to play team sports, being picked last also meant that I wasn't responsible for anyone else's success or failure. No one was relying on me and I didn't have to worry about letting anyone down. It felt liberating not to have any expectations placed on me by my peers or teacher; I was left alone to do whatever little tasks were necessary without much interference.

In those moments when I got picked last, something strange happened: a feeling of freedom came over me. This newfound freedom was a massive boon, and it helped me realize that expectations weren't necessary for me to have fun.

In the end, being picked last in gym class became one of the best parts of my childhood. It was a moment when I could take off the weight of other people's expectations and just enjoy myself without worrying about anything else.

And who knows? Maybe if I had embraced this feeling earlier in life, things would have turned out differently. All I know is that being picked last taught me an important lesson about freeing myself from society's expectations and just enjoying life on my own terms.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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