My sporting story - by Janet Mason

When I was at grammar school in the 1960s, I loved all sport. I was strong, with lots of energy, and as they say, it was a 'no-brainer' that I would be involved in every sport going. In an all girls school, it was so easy to take every opportunity offered. We hardly had any male teachers and certainly not for PE. It's funny but I don't remember any of the PE teachers but I do remember loving being part of a team. I was goal attack in the netball team and played in all the matches. I was in the hockey team too...I liked that less because I'm not fond of being hit on the shins with a hockey stick. Whoever invented that game was a sadist.

I loved long jump, high jump, javelin and shot put. I competed in County games and loved going to different venues. I was a working class kid who never went anywhere so it was very exciting to me. I suppose it all ended when I had to get a Saturday job but I don't remember consciously making that choice. It's a good job that my best mate then, is my best mate still, and 50 years later I can still tap into our shared memories of school. Both of us loved sport and the opportunities it opened up for us.

For a long time after school I never thought of sport...too busy as a far-too-young participate in such trivia. That's the way I would have described it...if anyone had asked...but of course they didn't.

I went to University as a mature student was 27...and I started to play squash. That was as scary as hockey. I didn't like the aggression it brought out in my partners.

There were definitely sports clubs advertising on fresher's week but i was a single mother of two and they were clearly not for me. As a so called mature student, we weren't exactly welcome in 1977. There was a big Student Union building and a little hut for mature students. Yeah, we knew our place.

Work, work and more work kept sport at bay. I always liked to be fit and healthy; and swimming was my chosen activity...alone a antidote to stress. It would never have occurred to me to get involved in sport. As a woman, I thought sport equalled all things masculine and competition equalled aggression. 

When at last, I had time to spare, at 57; having accepted voluntary redundancy; I saw an article in the Evening Sentinel about an Outrigger group on Trentham Lake; I contacted them without hesitation and became a member. Seven years later I became the Secretary of the newly formed Outrigger Club and here I am two years later; out on the lake five times a week and enjoying every moment. 

I don't think of it as a sport because it's a sociable, cooperative activity which attracts as many women as men...maybe more; and it constantly surprises us, as women, that it's seen by others as a bit 'brave'. It's so easy and not at all scary. It's good for the bingo wings and it's a great opportunity to get away from the stresses of everyday life and to be more mindful of nature.

It's not an enormous lake but it has everything we need and we are out in all weathers, determined to cast off the mantel of 'wimp'! What fun! It's filled a huge gap in my life and many of our 60 members would say the same thing. I think that,  for me as a woman;  it's the opportunity to stop multi tasking and to focus on what's important...friendship, teamwork, fitness, and nature.

I'd like to think that all children, and especially, young people, could be encouraged to get involved, and stay involved, in a variety of activities which could be re-named anything but 'SPORT'!

Sporting Stories writes: if you'd like to know more about the Outrigger Club - or perhaps even attend one of their 'taster' sessions, then visit their website here.