I'm sure there was someone similar at your school. I remember a boy in the same year as me. He tried really hard to make friends. But despite his best efforts to gain some popularity he always found himself on the wrong side of the classroom joke. He went on, though, to get his revenge on the type of sporty kids who had mercilessly derided him: he became a fitness coach.
I can think of few professions that generate as much unpopularity as that of fitness trainer to a cricket team. Sure, traffic wardens may have their detractors, and I doubt that tax inspectors are invited to many social functions, but the person who has to coax some physical effort out of group of people whose talents lie in bats and balls and not dumbbells and bleep tests, is not doing the job because they think it would be a good way to meet new people and make some friends. Indeed, the exorcising of some terrible childhood demons, too terrible to ever think about again, is perhaps the only motivation strong enough to take on such a job.
"His attempts to minimise his working hours, his atrocious sporting skills, and his inexplicable love of spreadsheets are positive additions to the good humour within the squad."
Enter Kevin Paxton. Strength and Conditioning coach to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. You may have seen him. He's the guy who can convert the green baize of Trent Bridge into a mock up of Heathrow's third runway with cones of every hue demarcating running lanes, or (perhaps appropriately) into a children's playground with ladders, inflatable goals and brightly coloured flags.
If you have seen Kev, I can be fairly sure he wasn't smiling. Kevin doesn't do smiling. There was also a chance that he was walking very quickly. If he was playing in the prematch football game, he would be losing. You might think that his kit, covered in splashes of paint with bits of bramble and hedgerow stuck on, is a Vivienne Westwood design inspired by Alan Titchmarsh. It is, of course, evidence of the many hours he puts into the renovation of his house and garden.
However, there is a something even stranger about Kevin. We do actually like him. The dressing room would be a poorer place for his absence. His attempts to minimise his working hours, his atrocious sporting skills (despite his fervent belief that he in only dragged down by the standard of those around him), and his inexplicable love of spreadsheets are positive additions to the good humour within the squad. We might even grudgingly admit that he is good at his job. He is a walking conundrum for us cricketers: he's the fitness coach but he is also one of the most decent people you will ever meet. His company is always enjoyed and we realise that we are very fortunate to have such a skilled, experienced fitness coach.
Kevin shows that popularity and acceptance within a team don't come about from doing things that are popular or acceptable. He shows that even fitness trainers can be liked.
Nottinghamshire batsman Mark Wagh writes exclusive columns for Extra Cover, the club's official matchday magazine.