fitness · fun · soccer

A “chill” league of their own: Part 3

This past summer over 100 women joined a social media group to be part of a new, non-aggressive rec soccer league (Part 1). Rough play might have minimized by strengthening rules or removing aspects of the game that foster competition, but those changes didn’t happen (Part 2).

Given that the league, the rules, and the teams were going to stay the same, I was a bit doubtful that a truly “chill” rec soccer game would happen. However, it’s been a few months into the season, and I have noticed three differences from seasons past.

Shared effort to support friendly play

The FB “+40 Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Soccer,” posts are public to members. This means transparency: players have seen most of what had gone on in terms of planning the league. Group members were encouraged to self-organize: find others with a similar “chill” mindset, assign themselves to teams, volunteer as captains, and make other decisions. Consequently, there has been a shared investment in the building of the league.

As I described in Part 1 and Part 2, the entire FB group was polled a few times during set up time, giving everyone say about what was important to them. For instance, folks were given a choice about whether they wanted control over their team rosters OR game times to play.

Thanks everyone! Max league to 7 teams and add more players as needed (having an odd # of teams will create a bye.)

Continue to balance teams to 14/15 players each, no matter how many teams this creats (Game times will expand beyond initial 8-8pm).

The majority of the group selected roster control over time and team number limits. This democratic and transparent approach allowed players to feel that their choices mattered.

Now during the season, teams have also gone back to saying good game after the match is over, a tradition of goodwill that has finally resumed after COVID.

Leadership and communication

The building/league manager has vocalized his support of this group. Just before the season began, a league meeting was held for all players—not just captains—to remind everyone about the rules that penalize rough play. The FB group was used to communicate these messages and invites.

League Meeting! Tuesday, October 11 at 7pm Please attend!

Cindy and the team captains have had their own private FB communication channel. Competitors off the field, yet social on social media while off the field. I am told this additional communication among the team leaders has helped to reinforce the goodwill expected from players and teams.

Lobby for female refs too

As well, the FB group members had advocated for more women officiants for the games, and now we have a female referee who I have been told makes many calls during the game. So, the league has listened and responded to some communicated requests.

Accountability and commitment to “chill”

When the league was eventually finalized at the end of the summer, with 7 full teams, it truly felt like a group effort. And it was cause for celebration.

We did it! Way to go ladies! Thank you to all who contributed.

At the same time, Cindy, the group and chill league’s originator, encouraged everyone to continue to be be vigilant and accountable in regards to aggressive behaviour on the pitch. For example, she has encouraged us to take immediate action if play seems too rough:

I know we can't make this league perfect (100%) non-aggresive, but we can surely try. I say we all look out for each other and admit when we've gone too far or defend another player from an aggressive attack. And if all that fails, the whole team boycots the rest of the game and walks off the field.

So far, I have seen some apologizing for rough play when it occasionally happens. Refusing to play is probably a tough decision for a team to make in the middle of the game, and something I haven’t seen so far.

What’s next for the chill league

I admit I was in the minority on the polls, as I assumed that the game itself needed to change to reduce aggression. But maybe a soccer community borne of a shared “will to chill” is enough for us. I hope that fun and friendliness is what continues throughout our season.

I want to leave the last words of this post series to Cindy, who started it all:

“The only thing I wanted to gain from this was to bring women together again, in a sport that so many of us love, but have felt threatened by those that think there is something to gain from being overly aggressive at the age of 40+.
I have been injured, and I know others who have been injured too. I was going to stop playing, but really didn't want to.
I love the community that is being created in the group, even just by the teams all having a chance to speak with one another, off the pitch.”
fitness · fun · soccer

A “chill” league of their own: Part 2

This past summer Cindy created a new FB group for a “chill” women’s rec soccer league (Part 1) that would disallow aggressive play. Many women eagerly joined, and I did too.

What does it mean to play aggressively? It might be described as specific behaviours, such as offensive charging and defensive tackling. Or, aggressive play might also be described more broadly to include any violent, reckless, or dangerous actions that increase—or are perceived to increase—the chances of injury.

What aspects of the game contributes to making soccer aggressive? It may be scores and league-tabling, but it’s also the division or level of play. Those who have been trained for competitive divisions may play more aggressively, especially if it is encouraged. According to the Barcelona Premiere Soccer Club,

“Aggressive Soccer is important for competitive players. It helps them play the game with more accountability and responsibility. Playing soccer requires a lot of hard work and determination.”

Some may play aggressively due to their prior competitive training. Conversely, players without prior training may also appear aggressive if they lack the skills to avoid collisions or strikes.

Then there are “old feuds” between players on opposing teams, which can easily spark tensions and aggressive play. Some folks may seem to be playing aggressively based on their reputations alone.

How to manage aggression in soccer that is part game structure, part skill level, and part perception? League organizers provide divisions to create play at different levels of competition levels. Rec divisions—the least competitive—would also presume to have the least aggressive play. Leagues also enact safety policies, rules, penalties, and paid referees in order to keep gameplay in all divisions fair and safe for everyone.

But judging by the number of women who joined Cindy’s FB soccer group, it seemed that typical measures were not enough. By attempting to self-organize, the group could perhaps find new ways to minimize competitive and aggressive play.

So, it was interesting to me that when Cindy asked what folks wanted, the vast majority of FB members voted in favour of keeping “typical league” with scores, statistics, and teams.

I want to play in a non-aggressive league without scores, stats, etc. 13%

I want to play in a typical league, just not with anyone aggressive 87%
Screenshot of results from vote.

Judging by the result, the group seemed to think that the source of aggressive play was the players, not teams or scores. They still wanted competition, just not the aggression competition can bring. Rather than change the game, perhaps the league could enact measures to prevent aggressive players from playing or playing the way they tend to do.

But when approached with requests to prevent players or teams with a reputation for aggression, the league manager explained that the group could not form a private “chill” league so long as actual scored games were being played (which the women voted they wanted). The provincial association overseeing all rec leagues (Ontario Soccer) puts no restrictions on barring skilled players from joining non-competitive divisions. Anyone could join this new “chill” division, even if they weren’t part of Cindy’s FB group.

As well, the league wouldn’t implement stricter penalties in just one division. As I understand it, the league manager was supportive of the idea of a non-aggressive league but wasn’t prepared (or perhaps resourced) to enforce unique rules that could lead to multiple complaints or challenges to rulings.

So, neither the players, the league manager, nor the governing professional association were willing to make systemic changes to the division or the game to avoid or minimize aggression. The “problem” of managing aggressive play still seemed to reside at the level of individual players.

Meanwhile, by the time all the information started to surface, it was late in the summer and the FB group had over 100 people in it—everyone still wanted to play in a non-aggressive league.

Could a group of women wanting “chill” soccer address aggressive play if everything about the division and the game stayed the same? Find out in Part 3!

fitness · fun · soccer

A “chill” league of their own: Part 1

There are a few typical ways to deal with an aggressive player in women’s recreational league soccer games: 1. confront the player (not very common), 2. avoid the player (somewhat common), or 3. complain about the player after the game (very common).

This summer, Cindy found a new way to address rough soccer play. She started an open Facebook (FB) group called “Womens’ 40+ Just Wanna Have Fun, BMO Soccer.” The call for the fall season made this group’s raison d’être clear:

“We need at least 60 women so we can create a CHILL soccer league. One where we are not out to kill each other. We will have very little person-to-person contact. If you are an aggressive player WE DO NOT WANT YOU.”

I was intrigued by this group because in the past I found it hard to distinguish normal from aggressive play. When I first started playing a few years ago, I mistakenly equated aggressiveness with skillfulness. But Cindy emphasized in the group that seasoned players can also be “chill”:

“Most of us have been playing for a number of years, but are tired of the players that seem to be out to kill. We want to just have a chance to get away from our daily routine, get some exercise, and socialize with others.”

If the regular rec divisional structure and rules weren’t sufficiently discouraging aggressive play, and the typical ways of players dealing with each other weren’t working to minimize it, then why not self-organize a new division to eliminate rough play altogether?

The initial proposed plan involved not only having a shared understanding that the entire division would be “chill” but also enforcing a zero tolerance for aggression policy and thus stricter rules of play:

“You will be benched if you are deemed playing aggressively. You will be warned once, and then kicked out of the league without any fees being refunded. We do know the difference between skilled and aggression.”

Another idea surfaced in the FB group to reduce aggression: eliminate scoring and statistics. Without wins and losses, there would be no league-tabling and therefore less competitiveness. A third suggestion was made for the division to do away with season-long teams altogether. No “us vs them” mentality, no fuel for aggressive play.

Cindy gave the choice to the then 60+ group members through a poll vote:

“Option 1. I want to play in a non-aggressive league without scores, stats, etc.

Option 2. I want to play in a typical league, just not with anyone aggressive.”

Which option would the rec women’s soccer FB group choose for a “chill” soccer league? Stay tuned for Part 2!

fitness · soccer · team sports

Redefining a “strong” team

In the second half of my rec women’s soccer game, I rolled my ankle. As I tried to stand, it hurt. The game kept going on around me, and I heard someone yell at me, Go down on your knee. Go down! So I did.

a person holding his ankle
Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

That was the first of a series of supports and advice my teammates gave to help me to manage my ankle. Two teammates immediately put my arms around their necks and cinched my sides closely to hoist me up and walk me back to the bench. (I was surprised how easily the arrangement of our bodies helped me to get off the field quickly and with minimal weight on my foot.) A third teammate got me a bag of ice. Everyone checked in with me while the game continued and the lines were readjusted in my absence. After the game, from my teammates I got more compress and elevation ideas, Tylenol, and a drink.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am a relative newbie to soccer, and that apparently includes soccer injuries. So, in the midst of my own self-inflicted discomfort, I noticed the swift dispensing of just the right amount of knowledge, care, and support from my team.

No one on the team made me feel as if I were putting them out. No one judged, minimized, or questioned my “injury” (which quickly became clear was not serious). I also wasn’t coddled or patronized, which can feel awkward. Instead, I got everything I needed–physical support but also a silent assurance–that the team had my back when I was down. I know that I am not one of the stronger team players, but when I was hurt my teammates treated me like I was an MVP.

faceless multiracial sport team stacking hands on court
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

It’s easy to look at a team that is winning all the games, or playing with the best formations, and think, Wow, that’s a strong team. But that night my soccer friends showed me that perhaps an even better measure of a strong team is how it responds to moments of challenge and weakness. A team that is strong together doesn’t just bring out the best in its players: it willingly brings back and brings up its players, especially when they are feeling at their worst.

And then it keeps playing.

Thank you, team!

fitness · holiday fitness

Stilts costume: We did it!

Six friends and I participated in a neighbourhood Halloween parade this past weekend: we dressed up as characters from Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal (1982).

As I noted in my previous post on stiltswalking and fitness, wearing stilts as a quadraped animal in the parade was indeed a good workout for my arms, legs, and core. It also took a lot of mental effort to stay balanced and aware of surroundings and obstacles. I felt shaky and vulnerable like a newborn deer for the first hour.

But I got my “stilts legs” and eventually could even walk mostly upright in them. Friends were a BIG help in supporting us as stiltswalkers. It was fun!

We also won best group costume!A video by journalize Rebecca Zandenbergen and photos are below.

Happy Halloween, if you celebrate, FIFI readers!

fitness · fun

Walking on Stilts

If you celebrate Hallowe’en, your holiday-related exercise may involve organizing a costume then walking around the neighborhood or elsewhere in that costume.

This year there’s a slight twist on my Hallowe’en exercise: I’ll be walking on stilts.

I have never had a desire to wear stilts before. But last year when friends had the idea for the next local Hallowe’en parade of dressing up as “Landstriders” (tall quadaped animals from an 80s children’s puppet movie), I thought, Why not?

Fast forward months later—we have homemade peg stilts (thanks Lisa’s husband) that put us about one or two feet higher off the ground. It feels like 10. Though we are on stilts for the first time, our front legs will give us four points of contact and extra (much-needed) balance.

Uses and types of stilts

Stilts may be used for work (e.g., drywalling), as props for entertainment (in circuses, parades, and other performances), and for recreation or exercise. No matter how you are using stilts, they require balance, coordination, core and leg strength, and other skills for walking, running, or jumping off the ground.

By Rdikeman at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here are some of the major types of stilts:

  • Handheld stilts are poles that people stand on and hold onto the polls. There are also buckets or cups that are held onto the feet by users. You may remember them as “romperstompers.”
  • Peg stilts are brace stilts whose base is more narrower than the user’s foot, which requires them to keep moving to stay upright and balanced.
  • Articulated stilts, usually made out of alumnimum, have a larger foot than a peg and allow for some toe movement when lifting the stilt.
  • Jumping or spring stilts have a fibreglass coil leaf spring design that allows users to run, jump high, and perform acrobatic tricks.

In addition to the need for strength and skill to use them, stilts comes with the extra risk of falling from a high height. The simplest advice I found for neophyte stilts walkers includes these points:

  • Keep an open (but not too wide) box stance to so legs are no more than shoulder-width apart
  • Don’t cross your legs while you walk
  • Don’t lean back

Stilts, fitness, and feminism

How is stiltswalking a fit and feminist issue? As stated, this exercise requires strength and other body abilities. It also not only allows for fun, creativity, and expression in daily use or performance; there is a connection between stilts and prosthetics. Stilts (and other adjacent technologies) can get you taller than your body’s height and aid with locomotion and/or balance.

Lisa Bufano performing on Queen Anne table legs. sfslim, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was particularly moved learning a little bit about American artist Lisa Bufano, who used prosthetic stilts in incredible choreographed performances, some of which had toured worldwide. A gymnast and athlete, Bufano aimed to draw attention to her body’s abilities and differences in ability since becoming an amputee at the age of 21.

Although Bufano is no longer with us, you can see a tribute to and selection of her powerful artistic work, including videos, at the website http://www.lisabufano.com.

Below are a few videos of women from around the world on stilts. See if you can identify the stilt types they wear. I am inspired by their confidence!

Caroline Bernier-Dionne (QC, Canada)
Posted by Janna Travels. Performer unknown (but presumably from Russia?)
Demi Skinner (Australia)
fitness

Five Fun Fails

Today is International Fail Day, and according to the National Today website:

“The idea around the day is to spread the argument that making mistakes and failing is normal and is even an invaluable part of a person’s growth and eventual success.”

The day aims to put a positive spin on failure, but in so doing it may still positions failure as a means to an end rather than the end in itself. Does failure always lead to eventual success? Is failure only valuable if it grows you? How might we be limited by the idea that a fitness fail is only ever a meaningful step towards a fitness win?

Questioning the failure/success binary is a recurrent thread in many FIFI posts. Sam, in particular, has written about failing better, failing small, and the okayness of failing. And, as Mina has written in a recent personal communication, “I love the idea that sometimes failure can be more about just discerning that something isn’t for you. The message of ‘you will always conquer eventually’ can get discouraging.”

To celebrate international fail day this year, five FIFI bloggers each share a fitness failure story not tied to eventual “success” or “growth.” Rather, they reflect on the ways that failures reveals our quirky patterns of behaviour, real-body expectations, non-preferences, and amusing life moments (even if they are funny only in retrospect).

Mina S.

My first marathon, I went out too fast, as they say. That means, I got overexcited and overconfident at the beginning and ran at a speed I could not sustain for the first 6 miles, after which my body started to meltdown, slowly at first and then wildly by the end. I finished more than 30 minutes off the time I’d hoped for. I was so mad at myself that I refused the medal and the red rose that the volunteers were giving out just past the finish line, because I determined that I didn’t “deserve” it.

I then proceeded to do the same thing in my second marathon. I recall being in the change room at a swim workout a few days after my second “failure” and someone asked me how it had gone. When I said that I’d “gone out too fast”, another woman commented, “Well, you’ll never do that again.” To which I had to say, “Uh, well, actually, that was my second time!” Sigh. I have a steep learning curve.

Diane H.

I make a conscious effort to do things I enjoy even if I am terrible at them. By any objective standard, I should just quit, but as long as I don’t injure myself or hate it, I count it as a success (especially if I learn something).

The closest to failure by that standard would be the time parents were invited to play ultimate frisbee with our kids. I was in my 50s, have no hand-eye coordination, definitely not a sprinter, barely understood the rules, and had troubles telling who was on my team. It was amusing but not fun by my usual standards.

Sam B.

I’ve had lots of failures in my fitness life. I started as an adult onset athlete and lots of physical activities don’t come that naturally to me. Some of the failures that make me laugh in retrospect happened at CrossFit in the year leading up to our fittest by 50 challenge where I was continually pushing boundaries and discovering limits.

I was so happy when I could finally do the RX rather than the modified box jump. I was jumping, not stepping up and jumping down, and I was doing the regulation height. But what I wasn’t prepared for was doing many, many of them in a row. After about 20 box jumps I should have switched to the modified version but I did not. Instead I jumped hard and missed gouging my shin in the process. I had a bruise that went down to my foot. Thereafter I switched to the modified version early on.

Same problem with wall ball throws. Again, I was happy to be doing the regulation weight. But we were doing a workout that had more than a hundred wall ball throws. Somewhere in the final 20, I missed and the ball crashed down and broke my glasses. My optometrist wondered what I’d done.

Same lesson learned–only this time I generalized. Just because you can do something once it doesn’t mean you can do it a zillion times. Keen personal trainers might say “you’ve done it once, you can do it again” but I am pretty sure that’s false. I’m out of the CrossFit world these days–obviously since knee rehab but also it’s not such a good fit for me–but I think this is a lesson anyone trying CrossFit should take to heart.

Elan P.

One year in junior high, I was the last person to make the girls’ basketball team. I wasn’t tall, but as a guard I showed promise with dribbling, passing, and assisting. However, any natural talent I may have shown in tryouts completely failed to manifest on the court. After I sunk a basket on our own net (my only points scored all season), I was benched for nearly all remaining games.

Is this a story about how I overcame my early failure to succeed as an amazing basketball player later in high school? Nope. I never played again. But I did volunteer as the manager of the girls’ high school team, keeping score and doing off-court admin things. In my non-athletic role I still contributed, traveled with the team (got our ears pierced together, etc.), and probably had more fun than if I had played.

Nicole P.

About 10 years ago (40ish), my friend, Karen, mentioned that she had signed up for a “Learn-to-ice-skate” class, which was geared towards adults. As a child, I stumbled on skates, held onto the boards, and then went for hot chocolate, so I figured maybe, now that I was an athletic adult, I would give skating a try again.

We arrived at the skating rink, early we thought, thinking we would have time to acclimatize. But soon we realized we had gotten the time wrong and the lesson was starting in about 5 min. So now, we were rushing. I quickly slapped on the skates in the change room and headed out with no time to think (or worry).

To get to the lesson, we had to make our way across the outdoor arena, over pavement, and a bridge, to the other side of the arena—in our skates. Well, I got as far as the bridge. A bridge without railings. Then my “fight or flight” response kicked. I froze.

So, I stood there on the railing-less bridge and tried to figure out if I could “get myself together” and keep moving. I couldn’t see how to get across the bridge in my state. I also didn’t want to hold Karen up, so I told her to go ahead.

I sat down on the bridge. Took off my skates. Went back to the change room and then headed over to the skating lesson to watch Karen and the rest of the class. I watched some class members being very hesitant to stand on the ice but trying it. I was a bit envious that they were able to try. I also felt relief that I was not on the ice.

At the end of the class, the instructor realized I was supposed to be in the class and nicely offered for me to come back to the next class. For a second, I thought I might, but knew I wasn’t coming back. I think the best thing to come out of it is to understand that maybe skating is just not for me and that is OK.

fitness

GIFs that get me going

Summer is ending here in the Northern hemisphere. As the days start to get colder, I find it’s usually harder for me to get outside for regular exercise. Fall is also a busy time for folks like me who work in education, so compared to the summer months my free time for recreational activities seems to shrink to near nothing.

On a hitherto unrelated note, I recently learned that Gen Z thinks that GIFs are out of fashion, or “cringe” as the kids say. However, I’m late Gen X, which means I like to hold onto things.

So, today I am here to give both outdoor fun and GIFs another short moment in the sun.

FIFI readers, I share with you 14 GIFs that get me motivated to get outside! I hope they get you going too…or at least give you a smile.

Once I leave the earth I know I’ve done something that will continue to help others – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Young girl flipping a tire
Woman swinging on rings with a hula hoop
Girl flipping then throwing a baseball
Young in a fairy dress skateboarding
Woman doing a chin-up outside
Woman hitting a pickle with a racket
Woman flexing and posing
Woman doing soccer ball kick tricks in high heels
Young girl dancing with other kids watching
Woman jumping on top of a mountain
Girl dribbling two basketballs at the same time
Love it!
School sports are for everyone
beauty · clothing · fashion · racism · sexism · stereotypes

Jewelry and Exercise

Do you wear jewelry when you exercise? If do, how much, and why?

This McGill wikipedia entry describes that jewelry has been used for

  • Currency, a display of wealth, and a way to store things,
  • Making clothing functional (such as jeweled clasps, pins, and buckles)
  • Symbolism (to show membership, status, political affiliation, or relationships)
  • Protection (in the form of amulets and magical wards), and
  • Artistic display (personal style, fashion, etc.)

I normally wear at least some jewelry for most of these reasons. When I exercise, I wear my fitness tracker ring (to “store” data?) and my wedding ring when I want to reduce the likelihood of being approached (a magical “protection” amulet?).

An anklet while running? Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio Copy

I’ve noticed that my (semi-) regular exercise has had an impact on the jewelry I wear these days: thin, flat, light rings and an equally thin, light, and short necklace that I don’t have to remove. However, I do replace big earrings with small sleeper hoops when I bike or curl or whatever. I don’t normally wear bracelets or anklets, and I have no other piercings (other than a tongue ring, which stays in).

You may have a different approach–you don’t wear jewelry of any kind, or you take take off some or all jewelry then put it back on after exercising. And, of course, it depends on the sport! But there aren’t any sporty people I know who leave on all their regular day-to-day jewelry on while exercising.

I wear some jewelry when I exercise because I like the jewelry I have and I lose what take it off. Also, the jewelry I wear allows me to exercise unimpeded. If I’m honest, I might also keep jewelry because I think it communicates that I am a recreational athlete.

My assumptions about exercise and jewelry

“A quick shot after getting wrapped for the boxing gloves, before the ring comes off and the gloves go on.” Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that exercise and jewelry do not go together, that the more competitive the athlete the less jewelry they wear. Where did this idea come from? Practically speaking, jewelry can hinder performance and even increase injury risk. But I have also assumed that “serious” athletes care more about performance than appearance.

I admit to holding the converse assumption as well: the more jewelry, the more the exerciser cares about appearances. For sale these days is a bevy of “exercise jewelry” that is advertised as waterproof, sweatproof, and non-tarnishing. But do serious exercisers really go for these? The workout jewelry and charms on Etsy are cute but not all practical for the exercise they represent.

While I do not want to police what people wear, my immediate thought about the “strong AND pretty” message of workout jewelry is that it reflects what Andi Zeisler (2016) describes as “marketplace feminism”–reducing social movements and personal empowerment to beauty and fashion items for purchase.

Challenging my assumptions

Then, recently I saw a web news article whose accompanying image made me question these above preconceptions.

I was struck by the size and amount of jewelry worn by track and field athlete Sha’Carri Richardson in recent photos on the Yahoo news site. Richardson is photographed while competing at the 2022 USATF outdoor Championships at Hayward Field wearing multiple hoop earrings, nose rings, a necklace, a bracelet, and a belly piercing with a full chain (not to mention flowing hair, false eyelashes, and long fake nails). She did not qualify at that event, but later at a different international event, wearing similar jewelry she did qualify.

Photos are of Sha’Carri Richardson racing in June 2021 by jenaragon94, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Cropped photo of Richardson.

Recently, jewelry wearing, jewelry design, and jewelry store ownership have all gained attention for their historical and cultural meaning and significance for African North Americans. I do not claim to know why Richardson wears what she wears, but I imagine her exercise “look” might go beyond personal beauty and fashion choices to deeper personal and cultural symbolism. A recent article on Serena Williams mentions her wearing Love earrings in her very last tennis match as a tribute to the game, and braids with beads she wore early in her career to honour African cultural traditions.

One of the only fitness activities that stereotypically show athletes with jewelry-like “accessories” in North America: yoga practice. But appropriating prayer beads is for another post. Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash

Perhaps Richardson, Williams, and other non-white athletes wear their jewelry styles precisely to challenge dominant white-centric stereotypes of competitive athletes as de-jewelled and unadorned. Their accessories lead me, us to realize there is in fact a whole world full of athletes engaging in various types of sports and exercise while wearing jewelry and other body adornments.

Old habits, but some new thinking

I probably won’t change my own minimal jewelry-wearing habits while I exercise. But, this reflection has given more insight into what drives my current jewelry-wearing choices. Some of it is fashion, but mostly it is simplicity and convenience.

It has also invited me to confront the narrow range of imagery that reinforce what is “normal” for athletes to wear (or not wear) when it comes to jewelry. I’ll think twice about my ideas about the relationship between jewelry and exercise. Some competitive athletes wear jewelry for its social and political meaning, not (or not only) to make a fashion statement.

accessibility · equality · fitness · swimming

A Tale of Two Water Parks

For decades, families in southwestern Ontario have cooled off in the summertime heat at the St. Marys Quarry, formerly a limestone quarry that was converted to a public swimming area in the 1940s.

Thank to a recent addition to the quarry—the Super Splash Waterpark—there are two different swimming experiences for quarry goers. I share about my one experience, which was shaped in part by the other that I did not have.

Basic and Super

Before the coming of the Super Splash Waterpark (SSW), with an admission ticket guests could swim around freely to about the middle of the quarry. The basic park now includes play features like a few rafts, a slide, and a trampoline.

The Super Splash Waterpark website explains that for this added option guests pay general admission and then 3x more to access to a giant inflatable on-the-water playground. Only a limited number of tickets are available for 2-hour time slots. Reservations are made through an online portal.

With one of the hundred spots reserved for SSW, at the quarry get a wristband, a fitted yellow life jacket, and a safety primer. SSW guests must access the inflatable playground by swimming through the “basic” swim area, now limited to the front quarter of the quarry.

The SSW park has a large set of access and safety rules. Few if any of the quarry’s water features are fully accessible, but the SSW definitely isn’t. Here’s a view of the quarry from land.

The St Mary’s Quarry, featuring the roped off Super Splash WaterPark behind the general admission section. Pic by me.

A Super Time at the Basic End

You might predict where my story of goes next. Some friends and I decide to go to the quarry, but due to the limited number of SSW tickets only half of us get access to the inflatable park. The rest of us—basic access only.

Let me tell you—there is nothing that makes an inflatable water park look like more fun than when your friends can go but you can’t (even if you are an otherwise mature, mid-life, child-free cis-woman). I sat on the grass in my suit, grumpily contemplating whether I would go in the water at all. Take that, quarry!

I asked a friend (who had walked away from her computer mid-reservation so was similarly relegated to the basic quarry area) how a 10 year-old kid might feel seeing but not being able to access the SSW. She recited some parenting wisdom about how making one’s own fun on the basic quarry side is better because it builds character. But I already had character, my 10 year-old self whined—what I wanted was the fun-looking waterpark!

My gaze could not even escape the inflatable obstacles that filled the quarry horizon, a constant reminder of where I could not go, the fun I could not have. Even my once-greater swimming freedom was reduced to a quarter of the quarry by that blow up monstrosity!

My friends eventually came back from the inflatable side—removing their special wrist bands and yellow life jackets—to spend time with the rest of us. And, as the oldest ladies on the trampoline on the “basic” side of the quarry, we did indeed make our own fun.

Next Time at the Quarry

Aside from my poutiness, it all seemed some sort of microcosm of the inequalities besetting some exercise activities in a capitalist society: only a percentage of people get access to what looks like a bigger and better time if they plan in advance, have the added money to spend, and are physically able to participate. Those with less info/tech savvy, disposable cash, and/or differences in ability are more likely to be excluded but must also watch from the sidelines.

My friends reported that the SSW part of the quarry was harder and more tiring than they had expected, and they probably wouldn’t pay for it again.

If I went back, would I choose to plan further ahead to reserve a limited SSW ticket, even if the park is less accessible, I have to pay 3 times as much, and I may not even have that much more fun?

Sadly, my answer is probably yes—because I know that the real privilege of privilege (in a capitalist society or a two-tiered Waterpark) is having the freedom to choose.