Sports: Playing them as an autistic person

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With gross motor deficits, playing sports, especially team ones, have never been easy tasks for me.

More often than not, people bullying me in the past have had something to do with playing sports.

Here I outline my past experiences with team sports:

Baseball

Baseball was the first sport my parents introduced me to when I was around three or four years old.

A minor nostalgia blast for me is a tiny blue, plastic baseball bat I would use a lot in my backyard. I think it might still be in my garage somewhere. When I was that age, that bat seemed huge. Now it’s like picking up a stick.

Other than practicing with swinging, I’ve never really actually played it too much. I don’t think it was until I was about six that I understood how the game works with running the bases and all that.

I don’t ever recall playing baseball in elementary school gym. However, I did play soccer baseball a lot. Soccer baseball has the same concept as baseball, except you kick a ball instead.

I played baseball once with my father’s work at a family work event in September 2006 as well as at camp in the summers of 2010 and 2011. Looking back, my primary difficulty seems to be being 100 per cent coordinated when swinging the bat. My posture always appears to be off.

Basketball: One of my favourite sports

Basketball is probably my favourite team sport of them all.

In my early school years, I attended a Saturday program known as Sportsball at my neighbourhood rec. centre. My instructor actually thought I was one of the best dribblers in a group of at least 10 peers. Dribbling just came naturally to me. Whenever it was basketball week at this club, I would always look forward to it.

Me dribbling a ball at Sportsball. Getting the hang of the world of sports. I was probably about five in this picture in either 1998 or 1999.

In my late elementary and early high school years, I used to shoot hoops a lot in my driveway. I would also sometimes play with my neighbours and my brother. I still wasn’t great, but this gave me a lot of confidence.

Basketball net we used to use. I took this picture back in August 2012 when I was 19.

In grade 7, around the beginning of 2006, I even tried out for the school basketball team. I did, however, make a couple of embarrassing mistakes that lead to a few peers getting annoyed with me. To top that, my father came to watch me make sure I was doing okay as I did struggle a tad bit. I didn’t make the first cut, but my coach, who was also my science teacher at the time and would eventually be my grade 8 homeroom teacher, was understanding about it, though.

I enjoy basketball when playing on-one-on or shooting hoops, but not as much in a team.

Football

Football is one of my least favourite sports not necessarily because of the roughness, but because it would take a long time for me to understand the rules. I don’t think I understood them completely until I was in the eighth grade.

Back in my late elementary school years, I had a support system of teachers, educational assistants, and a SERT who would strongly encourage me to try extracurricular activities.

I remember just after the beginning of grade 8; my teacher wanted me to try out for flag football. I was too self-conscious because I knew some people in my grade would be like “Why is this special needs kid trying out for a sports team?” “Or, CORY made the football team?”.

When I made the school band in grade 8, I actually witnessed a few people talking behind my back, appalled that somebody like me with the kind of struggles I had could make the band. Ableism with my school peers, unfortunately, wasn’t my imagination.

Back to football, I didn’t show up for flag football tryouts. When I showed up for school that day, my teacher said, “It’s okay, I’ll let you try out tomorrow!” I still didn’t show up. I was self-conscious to the point that even if other peers weren’t watching my skills at my second chance tryout, I didn’t want to try out to go through the horror of having peers yell at me if I did make the team, then mess up.

On the other hand, a year later, one of my few good moments in grade 9 gym was when I actually ran a touchdown. My team members were like, “I didn’t think he could do it.” My gym teacher was amazed.

Hockey

Despite my brother being amazing at ice hockey in the past, I was never into it. I enjoyed playing NHL video games, though.

I’ve never been a fan of moving sticks around on the ground, and the possible injuries that can come with being too rough. It’s just hard for me to move around in general.

Speaking of the roughness of hockey, perhaps my most amusing situation with hockey was when I was younger, I used to play Spyro 2 a lot on my Playstation. There’s this one level earlier in the game where Spyro gets to play hockey as an orb challenge. The instructor says after welcoming him, “We have found hockey to be a peaceful and calming sport.” This quote gave me little thought back when I was seven, but once I went through nostalgia video phases on YouTube and revisited Spyro about a decade later, I was like “What, why?”

Even when playing floor hockey with my brother or friends in the basement, gym class, or at Sportsball, I would still struggle a bit.

In September 2007, when my family had one of our “annual Survivor parties”, I was the host (Which I did fine at), who wanted to be a goalie for a hockey challenge I created. I had I think four or five shots on net and, unfortunately, let all but one in. The only reason why I didn’t let the last one in was that my father missed the net, which we all got a kick out of.

Soccer

I have always had mixed feelings about soccer.

When I was about six years old (So 2000-ish), my brother, who was around four at the time was playing in a soccer team for the first time. This inspired me to do the same since I actually, at times, enjoyed coming to watch him.

Unfortunately, when I attended my first soccer practice, I struggled to understand the rules and knowing where to go. I remember the boys subtly making fun of me and the referee taking the ball from my hand when I grabbed it. Needless to say, that was my only practice.

Even throughout elementary school, getting and keeping the ball was especially a struggle.

However, in the summer of 2011, when I attended camp, I actually found myself being a good defenseman when it came to soccer. I can easily block things with my feet for some reason, much easier than my head or torso. With this in mind, basketball seems to be my sport when it comes to offense, yet soccer appears to be my sport with defense.

Volleyball

Volleyball is actually one of my better sports. It’s simpler, and there isn’t as much coordination involved.

Serving with my fists and using my open fingers tends to be easier than using my entire hands.

Looking back to grade 4 gym in fall 2002, I recall struggling to serve properly, but I got over this obstacle quickly.

Even in other school years, volleyball was not as distressing for me in team situations. I probably wasn’t much worse than my peers when it came to catching the ball, which might have decreased the risks of peers berating me.

Sports bullying situation I had

Unfortunately, in grade 9, the tallest guy in my gym class would bully me frequently. This isn’t the same guy I mentioned in my other blog, but I still had issues with him. He would berate me every time I missed the ball or didn’t move fast enough.

The breaking point was one day, in late November 2007, we were playing European handball. I was the goalie for a few minutes and let a few in. The tall guy overreacted, called me “terrible” and took over my position.

I sat on the bench for the rest of the class (We only had a few minutes left anyway). I came home in tears, and it took me at least an hour for me to stop crying.

My mother contacted the headteacher of the special program I was in (Transition) who then got one of the vice principals to handle the situation. They moved the guy to the other grade 9 Transition boys gym class.

If that wasn’t bad enough, on the same day, just as I was getting ready for gym, a couple of guys in my class tried to flick their lighters at me. Even though it was a joke, I knew they were up to no good. I ran across campus for the sake of safety. My mother reported this, as well.

I was so disturbed by the incidents. I didn’t go to school the next day despite not feeling sick.

Sports: Conclusion

I am not exactly coordinated when it comes to sports, especially team ones. People DO get upset with you if you mess up with them. Yeah, as if we’re even on a professional sports team/league to really give a crap. Once a game in gym class or a casual gathering is done, it’s done. Tomorrow’s an entirely new day. There’s no award or anything. That’s why I don’t like it when people make a huge deal out of losing in simple games.

I have not really played sports at all in my adult years. I am just not that type of person, but of course, I enjoy some more than others. I am more of a writer.

What team sport do you think you are good at the most, and why?

You may also enjoy: My pathway journey

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