Gym without class

Interesting article from the Toronto Star about bullying coaches.

I never played team sports as a kid. In fact, I did everything I could to avoid sports. I pretty much still do. A big part of that is that I just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t my “thing.” But I suspect a lot of it also had to do with the fact that, since I showed no natural ability or inclination, I was never treated in a way that encouraged me to want to stretch myself and learn about options other than football, basketball, etc.

Face it. Gym class is traumatizing for pretty much everyone in junior high. But for a queer kid who wasn’t very good at sports and who was already socially challenged and mercilessly teased on a regular basis, it was a fucking nightmare. And a bunch of redneck, meathead coaches who just didn’t “get it” made things much worse. While physical education classes are supposed to help you develop healthy lifelong habits, they had the exact opposite effect on me, teaching me that sports and physical fitness were something to be feared.

There were actually some things I was relatively good at–gymnastics and track come to mind–but as a boy, I was pushed into competitive team sports I had no talent for and no interest in. Not surprisingly, I faced a lot of ridicule. The asshole coaches and the forced curriculum were no help whatsoever.

My point here, however, is not to show what jerks my junior high PE coaches were (OK, maybe it is part of my point) but to show what a missed opportunity junior high gym classes can be for some students. I could’ve been inspired to do healthy things that I enjoyed, but instead, I developed a fear of all things athletic. The minute I was no longer required to take physical education classes, I stopped. I’ve never set foot in a gym since, and there’s a pretty good chance I never will.

The whole process didn’t do my general social development a lot of good either, but that’s a story for another day.

3 thoughts on “Gym without class

  1. Your experience was similar to mine – because of my school’s emphasis on team/competitive sports, I had zero interest and never bothered to pretend to fit in with my classmates (being an artistic, shy sissy-boy didn’t help at all). Because of that, I was always picked LAST for the inevitable softball and touch football teams. P.E. was required every semester in elementary and junior high, but in high school you only needed to have it for one year, so as soon as Freshman year finished I happily got rid of it. Not until I was nearly 30 did I go to the gym and start appreciating the health benefits of physical fitness. Sometimes I ponder how different it would have been if those awful P.E. classes weren’t so sports-centric, but maybe it’s improved since the ’70s and ’80s? I hope so.

  2. I wrote a similar piece some time back. Gym somehow required a pre-requisite of sports ability and/or knowledge…something that was never actually taught in gym.

  3. Same here. “Physical education” classes was nothing but a showcase for the jocks, who were already well-versed at team sports. If you didn’t know anything about how to play baseball, football, basketball, soccer, volleyball or wrestling, you didn’t learn it from our alleged “gym teachers”, in grammar school or high school. And wrestling? Shinnying 20 feet up a rope to the gym ceiling? Please. Long story short, the guys who weren’t good at team sports in September weren’t any better in June. Or the next September. Or the September after that.

    There’s a bill working its way through the Illinois General Assembly to allow Illinois schools to drop their gym classes if they want, and I hope it passes.

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