(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 24, The Sports Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )

When the Shameless editorial staff first proposed a sports issue I started having flashbacks to gym class: the thanks-for-trying Canada Fitness certificates, never being able to catch anything ever, the pain in my chest every time I tried to run. Coming in last, getting picked last, hiding my body in the change room. Letting everybody down. I dealt with the trauma back then by learning to fake cramps through pretty much any physical activity. Eventually I decided that I’m just not a “sporty person.”

The best part about being an adult is that you can drop extra curricular activities that you really, really don’t want to do. And I was quick to drop sports. For well over a decade, I didn’t set foot inside a gym, I didn’t run (unless it was away from something, or toward an ice-cream truck) and I insisted on only riding my bike in the most leisurely way possible just to make it clear that I wasn’t treating it as a “sport.”

So, when confronted with sports (the concept) again in a Shameless editorial meeting, my first instinct was to see if I could fake a cramp out of this whole thing.

While I’ve grown accustomed to letting my team down in gym glass, the stakes felt different now that there was a team that I love and care so much about. If there were ever a reason to unpack and confront my discomfort, this was it.

Engaging with sports though a Shameless lens was a game-changer. I started to see that my apparent lack of skill with sports had less to do less with living in a body that doesn’t always work the way I wish it would, and more with engaging with sports in a way that didn’t always work for me. I started to understand that a part of being on a supportive and amazing team is that you have collective strength behind you as you try new and scary things. As I read articles about all the great things that sports can offer, when they’re done right, I felt inspired and decided to up the ante: I started boxing.

I’ll spare you the details of my uphill battle with the early days learning a new sport (short version: it wasn’t pretty, but was pretty hilarious), and just say this: it’s been amazing. I feel as though I found something that works for me in a space where I feel safe and supported. It feels great to replace the lack-of-control that comes from chronic pain with the feeling of empowerment that comes from my mind and body working together as a team. (And, I’m not going to lie: punching is super (super) fun.)

Working on this issue gave me the strength and perspective I needed to confront my bad feelings about sports, to step out of my comfort zone and into a boxing gym. And working with an amazing team here at Shameless gave me the strength and perspective I needed to approach this issue with an open mind. I learned from team Shameless, that sports are just like anything else: when they’re done right, you can become a part of something larger and more meaningful. And when you have folks who meet you where you’re at, challenge you and support you, you are simultaneously uplifted and humbled by a sense of freedom, accomplishment and community. I’m still a long way from doing more than three push-ups at a time, and a long way from wanting to become our regular sports columnist, but I’ve passed the initial hurdle of giving-it-a-go and I have everybody on our team to thank for that.

So, thanks to every member of team Shameless, here’s our sports issue. In it, we confront racist mascots (p. 14), get up a vogue (p. 17), build our own teams (p. 18), draw connections between skateboarding and social justice (p. 24) and find ways of finding the best sport for you (p. 33). We breakdown how the media marginalizes female athletes of size (p. 15), the economy of sports (p. 28) and the ins and outs of fantasy sports leagues (p. 41).

I am proud of what this issue represents: the product of our team working together to make something, and I am grateful for the impact this process has had on my own life. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Yours shamelessly, 

AuthorSheila Sampath