I was one of those girls who got picked last.
In our gym classes, the boys were usually chosen as captains. Political correctness wasn’t a thing then; nobody cared about squashing girls’ spirits in favor of choosing a boy to be the leader every time. Boys were bosses, presidents, and kickball captains. Girls weren’t.
And the boys usually picked the girls last.
It didn’t bother me, really – I didn’t want to be a boy, anyway. Any angst I might have felt at being overlooked as captain soon dissipated as I realized that the captain actually had to play a game I didn’t want to play. It made sense that if I was picked last, there was a chance I might not have to kick the ball. There was a chance I might be put in the outfield with a friend. There was a chance I could be sitting on the bench the whole game with other girls while we conducted important business concerning Madonna, jelly shoes, and sleepovers.
If I was picked last, chances were pretty good that I could get out of doing something potentially dangerous, which was kick a plastic ball and run around a dusty schoolyard, dodging the ball as a stronger and more competitive classmate whipped it at my body in an attempt to tag me out. Playground balls stung on contact, and they always left a mark.
Sometimes a kid would see me in the line, all arms and legs and tall and strong, and pick me first. I looked the part, after all. His hopes for victory would be dashed if I then got to pick the next teammate, and she would pick the next, and so on. We’d have a team comprised of one bloodthirsty competitor and seven giggly girlfriends who screamed when the ball came near us.
Being picked last meant you got to hang with your friends instead of play a game that you didn’t care about. Being picked last meant that nobody really cared if you played or not. Being picked last meant that you could make your own rules.
Sometimes a teacher or coach would regard me as a gym class troublemaker and I would be picked to lead a team. Once, my best friend and I were chosen to be captains of opposing teams, just to keep us separated.
I always picked the people I liked and who were friends; their gym skills were secondary, if considered at all.
Occasionally the team I led would win; people who like each other and have fun playing together often do better than a team built of cutthroat competitors who are out for their own glory instead of working with others to achieve the top prize.
Those teams hated losing to us.
In life, as in gym class, good relationships count for a lot. Rarely do we operate solo; our friends and family members and co-workers are our teammates. Friends become enemies when they compete with each other, marriages fail when one partner insists on keeping score, and employees fail at their tasks when co-workers don’t work together. First-picked holds no importance in the long run if team morale is weak. A person may be picked first because she’s tall and strong, but if the rest of the team has no interest in building a relationship together, success will be elusive, and the whole team will suffer.
This knowledge isn’t why I suffered no permanent damage as a kid picked last – I wasn’t that astute as a kid. But I also didn’t dwell in feeling left out or not as good as everyone else. It just wasn’t part of my nature to worry long about things like that. I liked feeling part of a team, but when there wasn’t a team spirit to be felt, I found another team to enjoy.
And I learned that sometimes winning looks like not trying to win, or doing something other than the prescribed game, or making your own rules up with the people you enjoy.
Sometimes, winning looks like sitting on the bench.
This post is inspired by:
Prompt 4: Write a blog post inspired by the word: last.