First impressions are wrong half the time - Body-shaming athletes a poor start

By Melissa Talbert May 25, 2020

When I told my friend I was dedicating this blog to footballers like him, right off the bat he knew what I meant. Fat footballers.

Generally, fat means sluggish, lazy, slow and unskilled. Well, he’s no stranger to hearing these stereotypes. And he’s no stranger to overcoming them either.

For about 11 years his weight overshadowed small wins like going to four finals, receiving two medals and playing for Ardenne Prep, Jamaica College, Greater Portmore, Naggo Head and Duhaney Park.

“There was this one time when I went to a match and the opposing coach explained to his players that the right side of the field is the weaker side because there is a big fat boy on there— and there’s no way that this big fat boy can contain any of the players.”

Sportsmen and women are seen as the best physical specimens because they perform feats many of us can only dream of. Being overweight pokes holes into that ideal with the reaction from fans and even those inside sports like coaches and managers being to misjudge a player’s value and ability.

“I played numerous positions— forward, midfielder, defender. I enjoyed the defending position most. I engaged in tackles and used my brain to contain quick and skilful players. We had to set up different walls to contain corner and free kicks. It was like guiding a ship!”

Despite possessing obvious ability, my friend’s body-shaming continued unabated. Body shaming is criticizing or drawing attention to someone’s shape, size or appearance.

Teammates, players’ parents— it came from all directions. The taunting was overbearing. “Some of the people who body-shamed me were parents, coaches, players, teammates and friends. When I was in prep school, a player’s parent expressed that she doesn’t understand why her son is sitting on the bench when there is a fat boy on the field. She wondered what I had over her son.”

“Another example is in high school, a coach was giving out letters for summer training. He said to me that he doesn’t allow fat players on his team and the only way I’d get a letter was if I did something about my weight.

“I asked him if he did anything about it (his weight). He explained that he has always been on the chubbier side. He’s naturally big and so is his family. He then started to tell me how diets and portion control never work for him.

“To put him out of his misery, I asked if there was an upside to the misconceptions others had of him. I’ve definitely changed some minds. It was the beginning of the football season when all my teammates were talking about who was going to be captain. My coach didn’t announce the captain until minutes before the match. While spectators waited outside the dressing room for us, my coach turned to me and gave me the captain’s armband and told me that I’ll be leading the team for the rest of the season.

“I didn’t put on my armband before walking out of the dressing room but I led my team out. Usually, the captain leads the team to the game. I could hear spectators asking if I was the captain or not. As I approached the field I asked my fellow teammate to put the armband around my left arm to show the spectators, the rest of the team and the opposing team who was the actual captain.

“The coach saw me play the year before and knew I was capable.”

I wanted our discussion to end on a happy note. Still, I asked him if body shaming affected him in any way. He said ‘no.’

I wasn’t convinced because he remembered the remarks to a ‘t’; as if they were freshly said. I figured they lingered.

I didn’t bother to tell him that part because I’d rather tell you guys this:

Please be kinder to players who look like my friend. In no way is body shaming okay.

Rahkeem Cornwall debuted for the West Indies on August 30, 2019, against India.

Cornwall does not look like the average cricketer, lean and powerful, light on his or her feet, yet, in just his second match, against Afghanistan in Lucknow, he was the region’s best bowler, grabbing 7-75 and 3-46.

He also showed in the CPL that he is a dangerous batsman when he gets going and can take a game away from a team with his batting and bowling. At the first-class level, Cornwall has already taken over 300 wickets in just 62 games.

From Jimbo’s example, maybe there’s something to be said about staying your judgements.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

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