Friday, April 07, 2000

Bad sports

A recent survey by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education shows that kids just aren't getting enough of the latter. Only 44% of youngsters ages 12 to 17 reported going to PE every day. Schools are dropping the ball, so to speak, spending all their time on exercising children's minds and neglecting their responsibility to exercise their bodies.

And what I want to know is, how come they couldn't have done this when I was in school?

Athletics was my Achilles' heel all through my academic career, the blemish on my otherwise spotless record, the one thing I couldn't master or bluff my way through. How I hated phys. ed. Hated it in elementary school, when I'd hide on the opposite end of the soccer court from all those hard little patent-leather shoes furiously kicking at the ball and my shins. Hated it in junior high, when everybody seemed to get those President's Physical Fitness stripes on their shorts but poor pathetic slow-as-molasses me. Hated it in high school, where I once had to fashion an entire gymnastics routine out of the one measly thing I could do--a somersault. The teacher bumped me up a grade for that one just because my fellow students made so much fun of me. I thought if I did it fast enough, it would look like a flip. It didn't.

That was a low point, but the lowest was undoubtedly the time when my junior high school gym teacher called my mother in and told her I would get a D in PE if I wouldn't go across the bars--you know, the ones that look like a ladder placed sideways, the one that the tiniest child on the playground can swing across effortlessly. Not me, and the teacher was ready to torpedo my GPA out of spite. I have gone across those bars exactly once in my life--the once I had to do for that teacher to get my grade up. Never been able to do it since. I think it was the same sort of situation as a mother lifting a car off her child.

The only gym class I ever excelled in was folk-dancing, which was the mercy elective for the terminally unathletic at my high school. Almost made me look forward to gym. Except for the fact that there were never any boys within 1,000 feet of that class, and so the girls had to take turns partnering each other, it was a little slice of phys. ed. heaven. Unfortunately, you could only take it once a year, but what a fine part of the year that was. A chance to feel coordinated for ten weeks! If they'd have had a competitive intermural folk-dancing team, I'd have lettered.

So though I'm certainly concerned with the state of children's fitness and the need for kids to exercise and the importance of sports yada yada yada, I can't say I'm too upset when my two don't get their share of school-induced athletic activity. The survey found that 81% of parents wanted their children to have phys. ed. in school every day, but I wonder if they don't just secretly want their offspring to suffer like they did. My kids get it twice a week, which is plenty in my book. For the past three or four weeks, the gym teacher has been sick, and no sub has been in attendance, so--darn the luck, no PE. I should be calling the school to complain about this. I shant.

Now if they wanted to offer folk dancing on a daily basis--that would be another story entirely.

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