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Athletically Challenged

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You have some characters who are athletically gifted. People who have what it takes to become professional sports players or top amateurs, or those who are good and just like to show off for their pals. The ones who their friends envy for their fancy moves. Or you might just have one who isn't as talented as the former two groups, but has enough skill to keep the game competitive. And then you have these characters who can't play a sport or coordinate their body to save their life.

These are the ones who go up to bat in a game of baseball and get struck out quicker than their eyes can blink. The ones who miss the hoops in basketball so badly, the ball falls right into the crowd hitting someone in the face or even in their food. Or if they're playing gridiron football, they can be expected to fumble the ball for the other team or get tackled by a bunch of players just as quickly.

The reasons why they're not so good at sports can vary. They might lack the awareness or coordination needed to play effectively, or they just might not have the focus or grit that it takes to play sports well. These lack of attributes will lead to a lot of embarrassment should they take part in even simply a friendly game. If by any chance they are on a sports team, they will most certainly be The Benchwarmer. Or if playing a game with friends and everyone has to pick their teammates, they can expect to be Picked Last, because the character is so bad, the team leaders dread having that person on the team and choose their people who are more skilled until they inevitably get the short end of the stick. Sometimes if they are involved in the team in any shape or fashion, they will likely end up as the Loser Team Mascot.

Sometimes, those who are bad at sports simply accept their limitations and just find something else they are good at. Other times, those who lack athletic prowess will find a way to suddenly get good. Or at least find a trick that might make them good in one thing to help them win the game. It might be with the help of a mentor (especially a former professional athlete) or they might stumble upon some mystical powers to make them good all of a sudden. Either way, the character will suddenly find success, which may lead their team to the Big Game. There might be some struggles along the way with the player losing their abilities or even the Opposing Sports Team catching on the player and focusing on them as part of the team's strategy. And more often than not, the player will ending up making a move on the last play to help their team win it all. They just might have to ask to Put Me In, Coach!

Compare Pathetically Weak, when a character has trouble doing even basic physical activities. See also High Hopes, Zero Talent. May happen alongside Jock Dad, Nerd Son and Outclassed at the Gym. May overlap with Geek Physiques.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh:
    • Of all the girls in the main cast, Osaka is the worst when it comes to sports. Among other things, she can't pass a volleyball and spikes it sideways when attempting to serve, she claims to struggle with floating in water, and she consistently loses every foot race she partakes in, even when competing against Chiyo, a 10-year-old. Much of this is rooted in her overall poor motor control and lack of flexibility.
    • While implied to be partly due to her age and small size, Chiyo isn't the best athlete. She comes dead last in footraces, and she can only swim ten meters on her own. The only person who does worse than her is Osaka.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch's smarts are offset by his complete lack of physical ability. He's utterly winded after trying and failing to dig a two-foot hole and gets outrun by his classmate Kallen while she's in a Goofy Suit.
  • Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro: Naoto is very good at art, but as his social awkwardness suggests, he isn't good at sports. Nagatoro makes a point to help him get in shape because it's "embarrassing" that his underclassmen are fitter than him.
  • GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class: Kisaragi is clumsy and slow and is always Picked Last when the girls play team sports. When the group are practicing for a sports festival, she's always shown to be lagging behind the others. This is mostly due to her glasses hindering her movements though, and she's a relatively decent swimmer.
  • Nichijou: One sketch centers around Mio's inability to clear even a very low jump bar, and shows in flashback that she fails at every gym activity. She's consistently shown to be a dynamo at barehanded martial arts, and even reflects on the fact that she's as fit as anyone, but apparently becomes a wreck when rules enter the picture.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: When Homura first came to Madoka's school, she was very clumsy and bad at sports, due to having a heart condition. After going through a time loop of repeating the previous month numerous times and having to fight many witches, she became the best athlete in the class.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Male lead Fuutarou Uesugi is the top student in his school, but when he does any task that requires physical effort, he quickly tires himself out. Miku Nakano, the middle quintuplet, is even weaker than him, getting easily winded just from running away from him.
  • Urusei Yatsura: Shutaro Mendo and his rival Tobimaro Mizunokoji are both established to be absolutely terrible baseball players. Shutaro accepts this and largely ignores it, considering it to be irrelevant given that he's handsome, stunningly wealthy, charming, intelligent, a top student, and adored by his female peers. Tobimaro, on the other hand, obsesses over it, and spends his time in the remote wilderness, training vainly to try and improve his baseball skills, emerging only once a year to challenge Shutaro to a duel. But he's so bad at training (and hunting, and managing supplies) that the only way he's improved is by learning how to eat baseballs.
  • Urara Shiraishi from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is an extremely bright and gifted student when it comes to academics, but freely admits that she sucks at sports. While being Obsessed with Perfect Attendance in any other subject, she doesn't mind skipping gym class and has even swapped bodies with Yamada to get out of it. She also cherishes the thought of joining a drinking club once she starts university just that she has an excuse to not join a sports club.

    Comic Book 
  • As a general rule, many superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, among others, have the ability to excel in any sport, but pretend that they can't play as a way to maintain their secret identities. In Spider-Man's case in particular, he was terrible at sports before the bite, so suddenly becoming good would be suspicious.
  • Captain America: Steve Rogers was this prior to getting the Super Soldier serum. Interestingly, in the Golden Age comics published during World War Two, even after the treatment, Steve Rogers pretended to be a soldier so incompetent and inept at everything that his Sergeant simply kept him assigned to garbage details, which gave him plenty of time to sneak off and fight the Axis as Captain America. However, a 1970's What If storyline revealed that of course his chain-of-command knew Steve Rogers was Captain America, which is why he got off with no punishment every time he was called out for being AWOL.

    Comic Strip 
  • Peanuts:
    • Charlie Brown's baseball team is pretty terrible, either for lack of skill or lack of dedication. Charlie Brown himself is a terrible pitcher who often gets knocked off the mound, while right-fielder Lucy misses every ball that comes her way, shortstop Snoopy tends to fall asleep (a shame because when awake he's also described as "their only good player"), Lucy the outfielder either runs from the ball so it doesn't hit her or just stands their looking at it as it lands next to her, and catcher Schroeder cannot throw, which he hides by finding excuses to walk the ball back. However, Charlie Brown seems to be the number one reason for his team's lack of victory, as when he gets sick and misses the game it results in his team winning.
    • Charlie Brown's unseen idol Joe Shlabotnik is said to be a terrible baseball player. He has a .004 batting average, which means he gets on base once every 250 tries. This results in him being demoted to the minor leagues.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rogers was this prior to getting the Super Soldier serum and treatment. Barely able to do a single push-up, struggling to carry gear the other soldiers could easily handle, and always being dead last on runs.
  • Grandmother's Farm 2: At the start of the movie, we see Ramsi playing soccer with a bunch of people. He's given a free penalty kick (because he brought the ball they're using)... and misses the goal by a mile.
  • The Sandlot: Zig-Zagged.
    • Scotty Smalls is this at the beginning of the film since he had no father to teach him to play baseball and is more academically inclined. The other sandlot kids laugh and gape at his inability to either throw or catch a baseball, and his stepfather's attempt to teach him ends with him getting a black eye. However, once Benny takes the time to show him a proper throw and gives him the confidence to catch by aiming his hit directly at Scotty's glove, he seems to keep up fine with the others. However, it still takes until partway through the summer for him to get his first home run (which happens to be with his stepfather's Babe Ruth-signed ball), though he previously got a successful hit against the little league team.
    • When Yeah-Yeah is teasing Smalls for his terrible athletic ability, Benny points out that Yeah-Yeah himself isn't one to talk, since he runs like a duck but is still part of the team.
  • Zapped (2014): Zoey has to get the junior varsity dance team to improve, or the Alpha Bitch Taylor will continue to exclude them from routines and boss them around. Let's just say.. getting them to learn a routine won't be easy. They don't even know how to stretch.

  • Angela Nicely: “Girls United!” reveals that Angela’s classmate Dora “burst[s] into tears if you ask her to catch a beanbag.”
  • Artemis Fowl: Artemis may be a genius, but he is completely lacking when it comes to athletic ability. He gets winded easily and is skinny, weak of muscle, and lacking in full-body coordination. In later books, he will sometimes lament his lack of fitness while being forced to partake in an action scene.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Shokuhou is terribly out of shape due to skipping P.E. constantly with her powers as the most powerful telepath in Academy City. She struggles to keep pace with a lightly jogging Misaka, wheezing and panting from even light physical exertion.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg is very bad at sports — he spent most of his swimming lessons hiding in the bathroom because the water was too cold, he gets distracted playing soccer, and he once mentioned doing badly at baseball.
  • Misaki, of Girls Kingdom, knows she's a terrible athlete, as is her friend Kirara. So, when Kirara challenges Minako, who is stated to be a world class volleyball player, to a game against her and Misaki in order to get her to agree to a sponsorship deal with Kagura, her reaction is pretty predictable. The game itself is pretty predictable as well, with the horribly unathletic (and too short) duo only scoring a point because Minako's first serve landed out of bounds. The rest of the time, they're seriously considering whether they should try to return Minako's extremely powerful hits, with the usual answer being no. Eventually, Kirara tries to use one arm extended to her side to return a serve, and ends up on the ground clutching said arm, lucky she didn't break it. Minako calls the game off after that, concerned about their safety since Kirara pulled such a stupid, dangerous move.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The main cast of The Big Bang Theory are all very poor athletically. One episode that highlights this is "The Rothman Disintegration", where Sheldon and his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Barry Kripke compete over a newly vacated office with a one-on-one game of basketball, on the reasoning that both being equally bad at sports gave them an even playing field. 45 minutes in, neither of them has sunk a single basket. They move on to a free throw contest, but that too is a bust. Sheldon finally wins when they resort to seeing who can bounce the ball highest. ("Who's 'unsatisfactory in PE' now?")
  • Family Matters: Zig-zagged with Steve Urkel, based on Rule of Funny. Steve's normally extremely bad at anything that involves physical activity, but he sometimes is capable of displaying impressive skill, like when he won a basketball competition against the taller and much more skilled Eddie to get tickets to see the Bulls.
  • Frasier:
    • The titular character has always been terrible at sports, another source of distance between him and his father. One episode has Frasier trying to correct this, but even with the batting machine set at the lowest setting, he can't hit worth a damn.
    • Niles, too. One episode has him become a local celebrity when he manages to make a successful shot from center at a basketball game, which leads to friction between him and Frasier. They decide to solve it by having Niles do another shot in a bar's mini-court. The results are so bad the bartender, a friend of their dad's, revokes his free drinks (which Martin sees coming the minute the brothers start arguing).
  • Full House: The episode "Air Jesse" has Jesse taking part in a charity basketball game. But he gets in over his head as he has neither the ability nor knowledge on how to play basketball. It's only when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who's serving as a celebrity referee in the game, shows Jesse to pick a sweet spot (i.e. a spot on the court where he can constantly make baskets) that he finally finds success.
  • House of Anubis: Fabian's the stereotypically unathletic nerd, known for being unable to even play hopscotch correctly. This results in him being stuck as the Loser Team Mascot during the interhouse dodgeball tournament and being mocked in general for his lack of muscle. He does have bursts of strength, which also means he's the one who wins the dodgeball tournament and can occasionally hold his own in a fight... but this doesn't mean he's given any credit for that, nor that it ever actually sticks the next time he needs to rely on physical strength and athleticism.
  • Odd Squad: In stark contrast to his partner Olive, Otto's skillset does not lie in sports. This is something he willingly points out to Oren in "Switch Your Partner Round and Round" when the agent is looking to insult him, and something that comes up as a plot point in "The O Games" during the eponymous event. About the only athletic thing Otto does well is dribbling a basketball.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody:
    • Cody struggles with most sports, only getting good at football when the ships security guard Kirby uses science to teach him.
    • Maddie is not good at Physical Education, is physically weaker than London, and needs London's help in order to not fail gym.
  • Will & Grace: Will is repeatedly shown to be terrible at sports. He can't swim, can't play soccer and has to bribe a small child to let him win a basketball game.

    Video Games 
  • A3 has Itaru Chigasaki, an avid gamer who often tries to avoid any form of physical activities. He struggles with action scenes and gets quickly winded in physical exercises. For instance, he comes out as a loser in Walk with Me, Talk with Me.
    • Tsumugi Tsukioka is notorious for being stiff and clumsy, which hits him hard when he has to perform in sports-adjacent plays such as Dance with Butterfly. The N backstage series of said play is mainly him struggling at the gym, including falling flat on his face right after getting on the trampoline. He later fails to stop bouncing and get off it too.
    • Homare Arisugawa's job as a poet adds to the notion that he is this, but he ultimately subverts the trope. In Tasuku's [Spirited Flat Serve] backstage, Homare has attempted to lie his way out of a tennis game by claiming to be this, but Izumi does not believe him. And it turns out that he does so because he has set up a potential chaos with his idea of combining tennis with acting. In fact, Homare is an experienced ballroom dancer with a solid core to boot. While not to Tasuku's extent, Homare actually knows about muscle training well enough to guide Winter Troupe through the gym for Dance with Butterfly and give Yuki and Muku muscle training sessions to prepare them for a St Flora choir competition in Spotlight: Tsukushi High and St Flora.
  • Black Mesa: Late into the "Office Complex" level, should you choose to have a group of security guards and scientists accompany Gordon Freeman throughout the level, one of the scientists will tell a fellow guard and the player that he can't make the jump towards the nearest ladder of an elevator shaft, having failed physical education when he was younger. It's also for this reason that the aforementioned guard also chooses to stay behind, in order to watch over him.
  • Galaxy Angel II: Kahlua Marjoram is of the Squishy Wizard variety, as while she's a powerful magic user, she's also the least athletic among the Rune Angels, frequently seen gasping for air if the team has to run somewhere. She's seen multiple times being trained in the Luxiole's gym, either assisted by Mimolette or another Angel Wing member, trying to get fit again on the treadmill or doing crunches.
  • Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage!: Kanade Yoisaki is a hikkikomori with the most extreme of Geek Physiques. Even just holding a kettle is taxing on her, so this trope is inevitable whenever she tries to do anything even remotely athletic. Let's Enjoy Together! SpoJoy Park is centered around her trying and failing to build up her athleticism, and she mostly gets through it on warm memories and friendly encouragement. When she and the rest of Nightcord at 25:00 try playing Ring Fit Adventure, she struggles to make her character run or even squeeze the Ring-Con hard enough to blow a gust.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: The first opponent faced in the Taris Dueling Ring is Deadeye Duncan. The cutscene seen as the Player Character shows up to the duel section of the bar is Duncan dropping his blaster and getting knocked out without so much as a scratch on his opponent. He's viewed as a joke so much that beating him hardly gives the player any respect from fans. In fact, unless the player makes an intentionally awful character and does nothing, it's impossible to lose to him.
  • Punch-Out!!: In each game, Glass Joe will be your first opponent. A French boxer who has the worst offense and defense of any boxer and has a total record of 1-99 (it's stated that his sole win was from an "accident"). It's said that he has a medical condition that makes him easily knocked out. And as such, for the most part, he's a pushover in the games he appears in.
  • The Sims 4: Sims who have the Clumsy trait have a chance to fail in athletic activities including ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, even using a treadmill. There's even the possibility they can stumble as they walk.

    Web Original 
  • Asexuality Archive: In one article, the writer mentions that he's never felt emasculated before, and while he was more interested in crafts than sports in high school, he attributed that to being an "uncoordinated nerd who sunburns easily".

    Web Video 
  • Drew Gooden: A small running gag in videos is for Drew to be as clumsy and athletically incompetent as possible. One video has him and Danny Gonzalez playing basketball against each other, and both of them repeatedly fail to make any shots, get hurt for ridiculous reasons, and call it a tie at 0-0 after trying for hours. In another, he shows off his lack of basketball skill again and fails to make any shots... until he covers his eyes with "Hand In Yo' Face" and becomes an NBA superstar.
  • Sanders Sides: One running gag shows Thomas and his sides having a hard time catching things.

    Western Animation 
  • Angelo Rules: Butter Fingers is very clumsy and not very good at sports. He has trouble coordinating his movements, which means he is always Picked Last at volleyball. He never managed to score at basketball except once due to pure luck.
  • The Critic: Jay's son, Marty, has put on an embarrassing performance at his school's field day. He fails in the group effort to squeeze a giant ball into a goal net, instead having the ball roll him over. He only manages to throw a ball only inches away from him in the long throw (being greatly outclassed by the Bulgarian girl he was competing with). And in the long jump, he somehow manages to go back a few feet. His lack of skills could be attributed to being fat and out-of-shape. Another episode has Marty participating in the President's Fitness Test and he couldn't even manage to do one sit-up.
  • The opening sequence of Daria shows Daria making a half-hearted effort at hitting a volleyball in gym class angering the two girls playing on her team. Of course that may be Daria's objective.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:
    • Bucky McBadbat, Chester's father, is said to have been the worst baseball player of all time. Tellingly, his own baseball card shows him holding his baseball bat upside down. Because of his infamy, Bucky wears a Brown Bag Mask over his head.
    • Chester himself has shown that he inherited his father's less-than-stellar baseball skills in the episode "Foul Balled". He scores 27 outs in one swing at a little league game, earning ire from the crowd. Timmy makes a wish for him to become the greatest baseball player there is. After which Chester excels, to the point where he plays every position, winning all the games and earning the ire of his team as he ends up being a glory hound. But he goes back to his inept ways after he and Timmy temporarily end their friendship after the latter confronts the former. Because Timmy phrased it as he wishes "his friend was the greatest baseball player there is" and since the friendship ended, it cancels out the wish.
  • Futurama: The episode "A Leela of Her Own" has Leela becoming the first female blernsball pitcher. But her poor depth perception means she can't aim properly and leads her to become the worst blernsball player of all time. She even manages to beat out Hank Aaron XXIV for that title (even though he still holds the title of worst football player of all time).
  • King of the Hill: Bobby, who can't play sports to save his life, in stark contrast to his father Hank, who was a star football running back in high school. The pilot episode has Bobby on the softball team and gets a black eye because he wasn't watching where the ball was going. Another episode has Bobby on the football team and Hank tries to talk the coach into NOT playing Bobby. Another one has Bobby on the track team and the coach using Bobby's lack of athletic abilities to motivate the rest of the team, much to Hank's chagrin.
  • The Loud House: "Net Gains" features three such characters — Maya who keeps falling asleep, Diane whose palms keep sweating, making her clumsy, and Amy, who is always on her phone. As such, they are terrible at playing basketball.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Common Ground", Rainbow Dash tries to help Quibble Pants connect with the daughter of his girlfriend by training him to be more sporty. The attempt is a disaster; Quibble runs slower than a snail, can't kick a ball rolling slowly towards, or lift more than two books at a time.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz is too uncoordinated to be good at nearly any sports, with his main "athletic" talent being in cup-stacking. He has an entire song where he laments that his "mother's love was always inexplicably linked to kickball", and that while his brother was always a natural, he was too uncoordinated to be good at kickball, rugby, soccer, football, kick-the-can, or martial arts, all of which he tried in an effort to win her love.
  • The Simpsons: The episode "Bart Star" has Bart and the other kids joining a pee-wee football team, with Homer being the coach of it after a series of events. Homer is very harsh with Bart at first until Homer decides to treat him nicer. Homer promotes Bart to the quarterback position over Nelson (who had been carrying the team to success). But Bart plays awful at his new position, leading them to losses and bringing tension between him and the team, as well as Homer.
  • Tyler in Total Drama dresses up in a tracksuit and is very enthusiastic about sports, but is abysmal at them. His audition tape involved him attempting to impress with his athletic prowess but just managed to get himself hurt on every try.


Video Example(s):


Drew and Danny Play Basketball

Drew challenges Danny to a basketball match... But they're both awful.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / AthleticallyChallenged

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