I’m not a sports lover, but I love my sport

By Iman Ilias

I am not a sports buff, to say the very least. My peers always chose me last for scrimmages in gym class. I didn’t grow up watching sports, and even today I don’t tune into football or baseball games like so many of my classmates. Throughout my childhood, every sport my parents introduced me to ended in disaster — while playing fourth grade soccer, I nearly scored a goal for the other team. 

 Lots of people aren’t athletically inclined, but my dislike of sports spanned beyond just being unathletic — I didn’t understand sports’ purpose. I’d much rather snuggle up on the couch with a bag of cheese curls and a good book. 

But when I started middle school, my parents encouraged me to try one last sport, albeit not a conventional one: they wanted me to try squash. After some initial hesitation and reluctance, I agreed. 

Squash initially didn’t change my negative perception of sports; it reinforced it. Match after match, I would lose, with my ever-growing negative record only furthering my assumption that sports were not for me.

Yet time has a funny way of changing your outlook on experiences. As I played — and lost — more games, I also became better acquainted with my teammates and began to learn more about the structure of the sport itself. 

 Squash requires technique, patience, strategy and quick-thinking. The game is a battle of both stamina and wits; your mind is just as involved as your body — if not more. I learned that winning is about so much more than outperforming your opponent’s footwork. Whoever has the clearest mind and greatest will to win emerges victorious. 

One of the most crucial life lessons that squash has taught me is the importance of perseverance. It’s easy to shrug off the classic “never give up” maxim as cheesy or cliche, but it took immersing myself in squash culture for me to understand the gravity of the mantra’s meaning. It is undoubtedly easy to continue doing something you’re good at, but the real test of your grit is continuing to participate in an activity that does not come easy to you. Real perseverance is the will to be resilient to failure and continue actively participating in an activity without the expectation that things will improve drastically for you. It’s playing on just for the sake of playing. 

As the weeks, months, and then years of my squash career passed, I realized that I loved my sport. Though I learned about a variety of academic disciplines at school, squash taught me about real life. It taught me how to accomplish goals, how to cope with failure and how to push onwards, even when you have no desire to continue. I learned not only how essential exercise is to life, but how exhilarating it can be. It feels good to exert myself physically and take care of my health. Nothing can take the place of squash in my life, and the game finally allowed me to understand why so many others revere sports: they leave us with lessons and habits that we would have never otherwise developed. 

Still, I’m not a sports buff. I don’t like going outdoors, I only watch the Super Bowl during the halftime show and I’m still not entirely sure how to make a March Madness bracket. I’m not a sports lover, but I love my sport, and it’s something I hope to continue playing for the rest of my life.