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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

If You Can't Be An Athlete, Be An Athletic Supporter

Before I get on with the post, let me point you in the direction of a great educational website called Education Wonks. This site is great because it takes worthwhile stories about teaching and brings them to educators, as well as those interested in education for whatever reasons they might have to be interested. What's extra special about Ed Wonks is that it has an Education Carnival weekly where any blogger can set up their own "booth" about an educational story they wrote about on their blog. Education Wonks has been good to me so in turn, it's only fair to be good to them. So when you get the chance, go check them out. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Looking back, I can now objectively say I was somewhat of a weird kid. Most kids enjoyed running around outside, breathing in the fresh air, having to have their moms scream at the top of their lungs repeatedly to let them know dinner was ready, but not this girl. Sure, I enjoyed the occassional game of tag and loved swimming in a pool (the one I didn't have), but overall, I prefered the indoors.

Let's face it. I didn't like heat. I didn't like bees. I didn't like most sports. So as a result, I didn't like things like camp. My philsophy was this: why run around and get all sweaty when you can stay inside in the cool air conditioning and read a good book or watch some tv?

See, I told you I was weird.

As I stated in the past, I had my years of what most people would politely refer to as being a "chubby" child. I'm not gonna mince words though, I was FAT. For those of you think I might be exaggerating, I've got the pictures to prove otherwise.

When I was about 12 or so, I would get into long, drawn out arguments with my pediatrician about the benefits of outdoor exercise or merely exercise, period. Don't get me wrong, I loved the man (still miss him to this day), but I wanted no part of the outdoor antics so many people were so fond of. So it only makes sense that my feelings for outdoor recreation spilled over into my feelings towards indoor recreation, namely gym class.

For most children, specials are the time of day to look forward to and are only second best to the undefeated champion known as, lunch time. And while I enjoyed specials just fine I despised gym.

Truth be told, it's a classic, "chicken vs. egg" scenario. I say this because I can't really be sure what I hated first, outdoor activities or gym class. I mean I know I liked playing outside when I was little, but then it became about picking teams and being "good" and obviously, I wasn't, so for me, it wasn't fun anymore.

But the real reason I hated gym was because unlike any other special, it was simply not ok to suck at it. You didn't particularly enjoy reading? The librarian didn't care. You couldn't draw to save your life? You got a A for effort. In fact unless you were the type of kid to be downright disruptive, specials were all about fun and the easy A.

But gym teachers...gym teachers are a breed all their own.

In gym class it was simply NOT OK to not be good. It wasn't ok in the kids minds but more importantly, it wasn't ok in the gym teachers minds. If you simply couldn't run as fast as Jimmy then you were not going to get a good grade, it's as simple as that. "Trying" doesn't cut it in the land of kickballs and perfect passes.

In fact, I think nearly all of my "most embarrasing" moments involve gym class. There was this one time, I had to be in like 1st or 2nd grade, when we were doing rope climbing. But damnit if I couldn't get up that rope. I tried, believe me I tried, but I just couldn't do it. So I did the next best thing. I simply started to swing from side to side. The kids had a chuckle, but the gym teacher wasn't amused. In gym class up is down and down is up. It's a place for the "bad kids" to shine and kids like me to have a turn at being "the problem".

Then another time in like 5th grade, we were playing basketball. For the most part, I liked basketball. I don't know why, considering I wasn't particularly tall or even that great at it, but compared to everything else I suppose I was. So one day I managed to get the ball and make a basket. I was SO ecstatic. Until I realized I had scored a point alright, but for the wrong team.

From there things just went from bad to worse. I constantly was failing those state mandated fitness tests. I couldn't do a chin-up to save my life. I almost broke my back trying out for cheerleading (I thought it was a soft mat, honest I did) and without fail, to this day, volleyballs always find my head.

If you weren't good at sports you wore the scarlett letter and were branded for life, not only by the students, but by the teachers. Cause while the kids were laughing at you for not being able to do a decent push up, the gym teachers were right. there. with. them.

I thought perhaps the times they were a changin'. But when I pick the kids up from gym at school it breaks my heart because I see it's the same as it ever was. There are still the kids that won't be as good in sports, no matter how hard they try and there are still the hard nosed, punk ass gym teachers who not so secretly like to make fun of them for it. This could very well be because the kids who are gym teachers today learned from "the best" all those years ago.

Before you ask, yes my lack of athletic prowess has spilled over into my adult years. But like my dad once said, when you get to be a certain age, nobody cares how well you throw a ball. Of course, had I been born a boy, I don't think I would have gotten that same speech exactly.

I must say, some things have changed. Over the years, I grew to like some aspects of gym class. When I got to high school, for instance, we had a class called legs and abs which was so fun for me because I was on an aerobic kick, no pun intended. To this day I still feel the need and the importance to incorporate exercise into some part of my daily routine. My pediatrcian would be proud. My gym teachers, however, would not.

However, ther is a down side. I still can't play or follow most sports and really have no interest in doing so. That ship, as they say, has sailed. I freaked out that I was going to fall when I tried to learn how to rollerblade. Volleyballs are still my enemy and I probably still couldn't do a chin up no matter how much weight training I go through.

So the message, my friends is simple. If you happen to have a kid, boy or girl, who goes through gym class with ease, count your lucky stars. But if you have a kid who is always picked last for the team, my heart goes out to you. It's not going to be easy, but, unfortunately, it's still all part of the game.



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