I’ve Lost My Identity as “The Sportsman”

I played golf last Saturday, for the first time in a few months.

It was a mostly ugly affair, with some random moments of brilliance wedged in amid the grimness. A cracking drive here, immediately followed by a filthy hook there. A delicately balanced chip shot here; a grotesque three putt there.

This, now, seems to be where I am as an athlete now.

I played tennis on the weekend, too. In fact, I also kicked a football. It was a wonderful weekend reminiscent of the hundreds of weekends I spent, as a kid, where it was all about sport.

However, I performed none of these activities with aplomb. Of course, I’m quick to blame my back injury – itself the product of a sporting misadventure, this time on a basketball court three years ago, which has rendered my once-athletic body prone to all sorts of minor niggles – but it’s more than that, I think.

It’s a terrible feeling when you realise you’re not as good as you once were. I’ve known this for a while now, but it really hit home on the weekend. I was unable to execute my golf swing, second serve and drop punt to the level of which I normally demand of myself, and of others.

I am yet to embrace the reality that I am average. I’m not 18 any more. My body can’t do the things it once did.

Having always seen myself as “the natural sportsman” – someone who strived for the perfect formula of nochalance + natural ability = brilliance – I am now realising that I must forgo this arrogance in favour of a more age-appropriate style of play. Instead of hitting the ball down the line, I must get it back into play. Instead of snapping one from 45 out on the boundary, I must “lower the eyes” and centre the ball for a leading full forward. Instead of driving to the green, I must take an iron off the tee, lay up and back myself to get up and down.

Don’t get me wrong: I envy those with the ability to just “get around the course.” To reliably drive down the fairway and hit a clean approach shot with a minimum of fuss, with a two putt to close out the hole. My style of golf is essentially a random sequence of events; a series of non-sequiturs. 

It sucks for me, mostly because I retain the mentality of an exuberant 16-year-old sporting prodigy. In my mind, I’m still a force to be reckoned with. To a much lesser extent, I now understand how those unfortunate people with “locked in syndrome” feel. To have a willing mind but an unwilling body.

This is not how I wish to play sport.

By Dave Edwards

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