The subtle art of not fixing your problems

By Melissa Talbert May 22, 2020

“Avoidance has never been a great tactic in solving any problem. It only makes matters worse.”— Says who?

Though a happy school life depended on it, I avoided netball. Playing netball was a requirement for PE at my single-sex high school. If I wanted to progress with good grades, I needed to excel at it. But, I would purposely leave my gears at home— the oldest trick in the book. I’d tell my coach that, “it was better than being absent.” She was nice about it and didn’t mind me watching from the sidelines.

While I watched, I didn't want to look too comfortable. I’d mimic the girls on the court. Pivoting was the worst. It was a burden to remember what foot did what. On a normal day, the only responsibility my feet had was to walk- lifting and setting down each foot in turn. I found it difficult to remember that I couldn't move the landing foot; other than to pivot on the spot. Once I lifted the landing foot, it couldn't touch the ground again until I released the ball. It was all too much! The mistakes stopped me from participating. Still, I managed to get full marks in netball.

As the end of the semester approached, I noticed something. My coach for netball started avoiding us.

When it was time for PE, there wasn’t anyone to hurry us up. Usually, we’d waste time in the locker room, doing absolutely nothing. Girls would spitefully change into their gears slowly and even pretended to look for missing gears. We would tell our coach that someone was missing their shirt (or any other item) and that we were helping her to find it. She thought the idea was rubbish and requested the owner to look for it. However, we wasted more time debating about why all of us needed to look for it together; obviously to find it quicker.

We no longer heard her chafing. For most classes, our coach wore a top paired with polyester sweatpants. The pants were the loudest thing ever. Especially because our coach had thick thighs that would rub against each other, the fabric eliciting a distinct sound. We could always hear her walking towards the locker room to hurry us up.

Now, P.E was basically conducted by us. Instead of being responsible and making our coach proud, we slowly neglected the session. We went about our business, roaming the campus; idling. It was risky though. If we got caught, the head of school would suspect something was wrong. She would figure that we weren’t in a class because our teacher was absent. Then, she'd appoint someone to oversee us. We didn’t want that. So we stayed on the court as much as possible having discussions about boys.

When she did show up, she'd come late.

One evening, while the girls and I were having a heated discussion about which teachers were pushovers, we heard that distinct chafing sound made when polyester pants rubbed. “Do you guys hear that?” One girl asked. “It can’t be!” said another. “There’s only like five minutes remaining for the class.” Another girl opined.

Lo and behold, it was our coach. “Hello girls, how are you?” “I have a lot of explaining to do.” She explained why we hadn’t seen her in some time. Outside of coaching us, she had other obligations for netball. According to her, the tasks were time consuming.

Almost interrupting her, one girl brought up more important matters. Since it was nearing the end of the semester, we wondered about our grades. We haven’t been learning anything and our confidence level to do a test for netball was low. About two months later, my report card showed that I passed netball.

I’m not sure what happened but I try not to question it. Netball was good to me even though I avoided it. Avoidance works – doesn’t it?

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