Evening all. I’m a little bit pushed for time today, and to be honest there’s not much going on, so just a quick Friday Top 5 for you all to get your teeth into.
As a sports writer, you will know that I spend a fair chunk of my time watching, reading about and discussing sport. It occurred to me, however, that you might be interested in my particular routine when it comes to practicing what I preach. So with that in mind, this week’s Friday Top 5 will get a bit personal as I delve into my favourite sports to play. I am not able to practice all of them as much as I like, but if I could carve out a life for myself that revolves around these activities, I would be a very happy boy, as I shall explain.
Right, lets get into it.
Top of the list with good reason, tennis has become a huge part of my life. But it was not love at first sight. As a kid, I used to wander down to the local courts with my dad, whose vicious kick-serve I could never handle, practically every weekend during the summer. That evolved into weekly lessons, which I maintained until I became a teenager and was more focused on getting rejected by the girls at school. However, I rediscovered tennis at university and have grown increasingly obsessed by it since. The smell of the balls; the sound as they collide with the racquet; the thrill of threading an inch-perfect passing shot: my weekly trips to the courts have become somewhat therapeutic for me, particularly during this crazy corona year. I just basically fucking love it.
At primary school I spent a few months of the year playing football and then a few months playing rugby. At secondary school, however, I had to choose between them. I chose rugby, basically because I had evolved to become quite stocky during puberty (and because I was fairly shite at football). A classical “crash-ball” inside centre in the Mike Tindall mould, I was by no means the flashiest or most-skillful member of the backline. I loved it though and played throughout school, retiring with immediate effect on arrival at the university trials after seeing that everyone was about five times bigger than me. I have not found anything since to match the adrenaline rush of making a crunching tackle or scoring a match-winning try.
Thanks to sheer hours of practice rather than any natural talent, ping-pong is probably the sport at which I have come closest to excelling. As a kid, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ place in France where, in between endless croissants and plates of “saucisse-frites”, I would play for hours on end with my siblings, cousins, uncles etc. This routine would be repeated for a fortnight over Christmas until my dad, seeing our obsession, eventually acquired one for the house. My brother and I would have epic best-of-seven contests after school until it was too dark to continue. There is nothing quite like a sibling rivalry to hone one’s skills, and I am proud to say that he is still the only person to have beaten me in adulthood. Whenever I have enough space for a table at home, its the first thing I’m buying.
A joy only recently discovered, running is quickly becoming a vital part of my weekly routine. During lockdown, the tennis courts closed and the gym shut down so I was left with running as pretty much my only option for exercise. Thankfully, after years of tiptoeing around the treadmill, I finally started to enjoy it. There is something so wonderfully simple and natural about running. No matter where I am in the world, all I need is a pair of shorts and my trusty Asics and I’m away. I am yet to do it competitively and so it probably shouldn’t count as a sport per se, but I would like to start entering races once all this covid shit is behind us, so I figure it can quality for this list on a technicality.
Speaking of technicalities, snowboarding is definitely on the borderline between “sport” and “hobby” as well. But fuck it, its late so its going in. When I was young I was fortunate enough to go to Switzerland every year to visit my grandparents (yes, the same ones, its a long story) to ski. Then, at university I spent two winters in the Alps as part of my French language course, during which I gradually evolved into primarily being a snowboarder. Whether you’re on a board or skis, however, its pretty hard not to enjoy winter sports; you basically spend all day going really fast down a slope, surrounded by incredible mountain scenery and stopping for beers and cheese whenever you want. Its a shame its so expensive, but this is a luxury I always allow myself.
Righto, that’s all from me today. Stay safe everyone and I’ll be back here with more on Monday. Till then.