Physical Education

Fucking gym class.  Seriously.  Stupid, fucking gym class.

I could sprint faster than any other girl–and most boys–in my elementary school, but anything requiring me to connect any type of ball with any type of implement?  Not so much.  Embarrassingly not so much.  Only as an adult did I learn that my visual-motor integration was so weak it was laughable, but that came decades too late to save me from the horror that is middle school PE.  Fucking gym class.  Unless you’re the grand-slam hitting slugger or a budding Aaron Rodgers, you probably didn’t love gym class all the time.  Even if it wasn’t wholesale awful, few adults reflect on that time with fondness.  Ask your friends, I’ll wait.

Bombardment, anyone?  Right?   As if it were yesterday, I can picture my pudgy adolescent self stuffed into my late-seventies-too-short kelly green gym suit dashing up to that line, hoping against hope I’d snatch the ball from the line.dodgeball
Nope.  Never happened. I was hammered every time.  Bombardment is Dodgeball, and Dodgeball is a tormentor’s dream come true. No one has friends on the Dodgeball court; not even your friends are your friends.

I’m relieved that my children’s physical education classes are less bully pulpit and more about team-building and lifetime activity, but still, gym class isn’t exactly a child with a neuromuscular disease’s fave, you can imagine.  A few weeks back, the “lifetime activity” was climbing a cargo net.  Quietly that evening during our commute to his volunteering gig, my big kid proclaimed his victory over the cargo net.  His hands were blistered and even a little bit bloody, but he reached the summit.  He’s not one for overstatement–OK, he’s not much for statement–but I could tell it mattered to him.

Last week’s class had the kids breaking into self-selected groups for some type of activity.  I didn’t get a real good sense about what the activity was, because gym class that day for him was about being excluded.  Kids are nice enough to my boy, but they’re not blind: he’s not the kid you would choose for your PE team.  And he wasn’t.  Chosen, that is.  The cool kids immediately found each other, and the outliers shuffled around (this is how it looked in my head anyway) looking for the “best” of the leftovers.  Yeah, “best” in BS fakey quotes.  My kid was never in the running for his friends’ group, and then two other groups bounced him before he kinda gave up.  I kinda stopped listening here because I was all about the tears near to overflowing.  I faked my own urgent business to attend to in the kitchen, regrouped, then presented myself back at the dining room table.  *sigh*

I met with his school’s Section 504 coordinator two weeks ago, saying I was worried about PE, among other things, as we look toward high school.  I wondered about accommodations which might become necessary for him, but believed that those weren’t necessary quite yet.  I wanted my kid to have the choice to participate or not–not to be fully excused from physical education necessarily, but to allow him the opportunity to choose to opt in or out.  That evening’s dinner revelation felt like a prime moment to share that conversation with my son, and without a moment’s hesitation, he wanted out.  Now.  Now!

See, the outliers know already.  You don’t have to torture them picking teams playground rules-style.  They know.



7 thoughts on “Physical Education

  1. I hated gym class. I had no eye to hand coordination and was always very clumsy, these things are still true today. Just yesterday I tripped over my shadow taking the dogs for a walk, smh. I glad your son will be able to opt out, it’s a good idea for kids with disabilities to have that option. I’m not sure why gym class is even a mandatory course.


    • I am so sorry that has been your experience. I promise there are some of us out there who, as PE teachers and coaches, worry about this stuff every day. I hope I can get some ideas out that create a better view of teaching sports, fitness, and character in schools. Have a great day! -Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really am happy to read your perspective here, and that you’re creating a forum to get your voice heard about fitness and character. So few people go on to achieve even college-level athletic participation, but we all benefit from fitness education all our lives. Thanks for that!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Gym class was particularly, shall we say, gladiatorial back in the seventies and eighties, wasn’t it? I don’t know how it compares now, not having kids, but I’m glad those days of getting-picked-last-only-to-be-pummeled-with-a-dodgeball (seriously, how was that allowed?) are long since over…


    • Hey Sean,
      Sorry about your experience. I just started writing about these topics and how I am trying to make an improvement in physical education. Take a look sometime, I promise there are people trying to make it better. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Wendy,
    I am a high school physical educator and coach and my mission is to fix so many of these issues regarding “gym class”. It bothers me that a class that has potential for so many positive experiences and character building can lead to so many negative feelings. I just started writing my experiences and my ideas, but I hope they can catch on and help make the situation better. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for checking in, and thanks especially for that perspective! I would say that his experience has been, thus far, more positive than negative. Or at least not at all terrible. Their school’s PE has been more of the “teamwork and lifelong activity” focused than playground rules for dodgeball terrorism. Thank you for all the hard work I know you do as an educator! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to you!


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