Thursday, July 23, 2015

Okay At Last

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:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt 4: Write a blog post inspired by the word: last.


  1. In elementary school, I loved playing kick ball with the boys. By high school gym class I was all too conscious of my lack of skill and preferred to be picked last so nobody would look at me possibly fail at kicking a ball, or dribbling a ball, or bump, set, spiking a ball. Being picked last meant maybe I didn't have to play...and I could just socialize :)

    1. Exactly! I figured this out early, because I never liked playing games. The only times I really liked playing was when my friends and I could goof around - and nobody cared if we won or lost.

  2. I love your take on this! I'm competitive, but a total klutz. Give me an academic contest or a silly party game and I'll blow everyone away. If it involves running and throwing, catching, or hitting a ball I will be in last place. I didn't care if it was just me, but if we were on teams and I let my team down the guilt was overwhelming. As an adult this lead to me either taking leadership positions or doing twice as much work as anyone else just so I wouldn't be considered a burden. Weird how much our childhoods shape us, isn't it?!

    1. So true! What we experience as kids really sets the stage for how adulthood will look. For better or worse, that is.

      My husband maintains that I am good at athletics, but I never cared enough to find out. My take on playing games is always: You want the ball? Okay - here it is. Let's get this over with so we can really have fun!

  3. Kickball memories right here. We played SO MUCH kickball in elementary school! I was chubby so I usually got picked last. Little did they know I played soccer for most of those years, despited the extra chub. I usually got a home run if I did get to kick... ;)

    1. See? You enjoyed it. And you were the crown jewel of the team when they realized your skills, I bet. ;)

  4. Love how you contributed it to teamwork and making things work. Being last is definitely a good thing. After all, the "last" flower to be picked completes the bouquet and makes it "perfect." - Coming to you from Mama Kat's!

  5. Glad you weren't effected. I would've loved being given a chance to be a team captain. I wish I didn't notice I was least wanted on any team thing back then. But good news, I didn't have to take P.E. any more after 9th grade and that was the greatest day of my life! Then I could concentrate on academics which I excelled at and no more P.E. grade to keep me off the honor-roll! :)

  6. Great attitude. I was usually picked late...not the dead last, but not during the phase of picking that there were still athletes to choose from! Bench warming or making my own rules would both have appealed to me more than playing the game.

  7. It's interesting, as May wrote, how much it does resonate - at her age (and when I was that age) she noticed -and still remembers -her "ranking" in how she was picked. I think much can be said of the benefits of going it alone -that is, knowing you can go it alone, feeling comfortable on your own so that you can then make choices in friends (and spouses/partners) from more of a position of strength. The ranking resonates too much and finding other people to hang with is a great alternative/making your own rules in that group but so is knowing that solo is often a great alternative too.

  8. I liked reading this and your perspective.
    I was competitive and very sporty and was -- after the boys of course -- was one of the first girls picked. I used to feel bad for the kids who were left last because you could just see it in their face. Not to mention some of the jerk kids who sighed when they were left with the ones who weren't chosen.
    I never understood why the teacher just didn't go 1-2-3-4 you're on this team 1-2-3-4 you're on that one....and so on.
    Oh childhood.

  9. Picking teams is so mean, but I love that you didn't take it so seriously!

  10. Your perspective is wonderful and refreshing. Getting picked last or not at all, never bothered me either. Still doesn't!