The New York Times seems to be bent on bringing back the terms “clumsy” “klutzy” and “uncoordinated”. In this article, called “Uncoordinated? You can still be an athlete”, experts and the author offer tips on how to combat clumsiness or “coordination problems” for those folks they label as klutzes. Spoiler: they hold out a glimmer of hope for meaningful movement life for the sports have-nots of the world:
Transforming clumsiness into smoothness isn’t easy, and there are limits. But while the klutzes of the world might not become Olympic athletes, they can get all the fun and benefits of a good workout.
Thank you so much, New York Times!
As you can see by now, I have issues with the notions “clumsy” or “klutzy” or “uncoordinated” applied to a whole person. Why? Glad you asked. Here’s a short list:
- There’s no one notion of coordination– it applies in different ways in different sports and activities under different conditions, even within the same person.
- The myriad forms and levels of coordination that each of us manifests change over time: with maturation, aging, instruction, new technology and gear, after injuries and life events, etc. It’s not static for anyone.
By the way, here’s their list for the sportswise less-talented of us:
- think positive– say to yourself, I can be athletic (yeah, that will totally fix it)
- get enough sleep (duh)
- explore mindfulness (which seems to be the prescription du jour for everything)
- get some instruction at a micro-step level (e.g. for swimming: stroke-stroke-breathe. Oh, I got it now..,)
- choose a sport with less going on (e.g. more running and less basketball)
Why am I so irritated by this article? for two reasons: a) it’s playing into people’s insecurities about movement by labeling them in a way that doesn’t seem to invite them into movement or activity with others; b) I’ve been a clumsy athlete my whole life and there’s basically nothing wrong with that.
How am I a clumsy athlete? oh, let me count the ways:
- I’ve broken both wrists roller and ice skating on separate occasions (4th grade and grad school)
- I’ve fallen down stairs at least three times, resulting in ankle sprains or ligament tears;
- I’ve endo’ed while mountain biking countless times, once during a race, resulting in a rotator cuff tear;
- The biggest compliment I ever got in ballet class was “You’re looking less awkward!”
- I’ve hit my head on a diving board trying to do a back dive;
- I almost never manage to get out of a kayak without getting myself very wet;
- I’ve fallen while skiing, tap dancing, doing yoga, playing squash, braking on my bike at a red light, walking anywhere near ice or snow, etc.
- I can’t reliably hit a volleyball and make it go roughly in the direction of another person;
- I could go on.
And still I rise, getting myself up, dusting (or mopping) myself off, and getting back in/out/over there. Why? Because, before I was so rudely interrupted by falling over or doing something clumsy, I was having a marvelously good time. And I still do.
Seriously, it’s helpful to know what our strengths and weakness are when trying out or continuing to do some physical activity. I choose not to play pick-up volleyball because it’s not fun. I enjoy kayaking and try to have a sense of humor about my shallow wet exit from the boat when we land. I don’t do steep climb-y hiking. But I do swim just about anywhere. That’s me. What about you, dear readers? Do you avoid sports where you feel clumsy? Do you ever find the fun in being a less graceful athlete? I’d love to hear from you.