Football. Table tennis. Cross country running. Squash. Whatever really.
It doesn't matter.
If you're playing against Matthew Allen, I'm putting my money on him.
Matty has been a dear friend of mine since we were 11 when he had to show me around my new secondary school on my first day.
After 17 years of knowing him, I can safely say he is one of the most athletic people I have ever came across.
He's not the biggest.
Or the strongest.
Or most competitive.
But he will beat you.
He has certainly played lots of different sports down the years which helps.
But I'm convinced it's not just his varied sporting background that helps him.
We bowled and played ping-pong last week.
I know he had bowled more recently than I but that wasn't why he schooled me (he also thrashed me at ping-pong).
Matthew uses himself athletically.
He is seemingly always in balance, which actually equates to being able to regain his balance quickly...
as we are almost always rebalancing...
just stand with your eyes closed for a second and you will feel that you're never really standing still.
He relies on all of his attributes rather than one overly developed one.
Let's face it, most of us focus on one or two of our strengths and hope that these will cover our weaknesses.
I can't remember many times when he has really injured himself.
This comes from a great bodily awareness.
And then there's his attitude or general demeanour.
As I said before, Matthew wouldn't be somebody you would describe as a competitive character.
If anything, he is the opposite.
He never looks to be in competition with his team-mates, having something to prove over them.
I'd also struggle to find a single instance in my memory of him being 'chewy' and trying to demonstrably assert himself over his competition.
He just plays.
With a big smile on his face.
If you're on his side, you can smile with him.
If you're on the other, you may not be smiling too much - but you can't help but admire his skill.
He will leave you chasing shadows.
And as well as this being a tribute to a great friend of mine who has made huge portions of my sporting life all the more enjoyable...
I think there is much to learn from 'The Curious Case of Matthew Allen'.
I think it is no coincidence that Matty is a supreme athlete and one of the most content people I have ever came across.
He loves his job.
He loves his lovely fiancée.
His family are lovely.
He is comfortable in his own skin.
He plays his part in making his life harmonious.
Is it any wonder that sport is the same for him?
If you're leading a fragmented life, whatever that means for you,
how can you bring everything you have into your sport?
I read a quotation a few weeks ago by Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger on a great new player he signed recently.
He said something like, "He gives the game what it demands."
He meant that when it was time to pass, he would pass. When it was time to dribble, he would dribble. When it was time to shoot, he would shoot.
He was free to do what the game demanded because he was not constrained by his ego in wanting to do anything in particular.
He was free.
I think Matthew is free.
And I'll bet you've came across your version of a Matthew too.
I'm not suggesting you become a carbon copy of Matthew Allen.
I'm merely asking you if some more harmony in your life and in yourself may free you up to be more athletic in what you do?
I think that's a curious thing to think about indeed.
Arton "The Proud Team-mate" Baleci