I was officially crap at Games at school. It was always the low point in my school report. Small in stature, a year younger than everyone else in my class and no depth perception all added up to a poor team player: it was assumed. And it was true. Odd numbered gangs would offer their opponents the chance to pick first: the disadvantage of having one less player was seen to be less than that of having me on the pitch. Reason being, I was crap at games, but I was keen.

My report for Games at a youngish age was usually something akin to a 3A, where the number was for attainment, the letter was for effort. This would be coupled with words which usually explained my rubbishness couched in euphemistic terms of my physical fallibility. I wonder if they are still allowed to do that? The euphemisms drifted away when I hit puberty, and had a Games teacher who liked to speak his mind. It was part of his Professional Northernisms. So from him I got things like the following:

5A: You can’t expect someone his size to be any good at basketball.
5A: Peter’s intense effort at Rugby seems to belie his obvious intelligence as no-one should put that much trouble into something they are clearly not suited for.
And finally
3C: Attendance at Games classes seems to have slipped, though when he is here, he does a very good job at running around the field.

I was fifteen at this point, got the message and either bunked off to go record shopping in Soho, or did cross country to the chip shop.

Nevertheless I always resented being crap at Games, for a number of reasons. First it was patently untrue. Yes, I was crap at games which involved pitting my physicality against others, but I was a dab hand a scrabble, monopoly and chess. Secondly it always annoyed me that kids who were good at Games would get time off of their academic studies to represent the school, whilst I – who was good at school – got no such time off. And it just seemed a strange lesson. What was it teaching us? We already did Physical Education (which I was good at). The extra stuff you got out of Games, namely teamwork and competitive spirit, could have easily been conjured up in other ways.

Still I look back on those 5A’s with pride. To get an A for effort in anything these days…