Thursday April 17, 2014



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Exercising common sense

As I See It
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Who here was the kid that was picked last in gym class? Raise your hand.  Come on now, don’t be shy, we’re all friends here.

My hand is up, by the way. I wasn’t always picked last, but I definitely was never picked first.

Oh, and because of this, I’m allegedly emotionally stunted or something.

A new book came out recently, written by Emily Bazelon called Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, that basically says being picked last in gym classes messes you up for life.

I don’t know that I agree with this.

Sure, it kind of sucks being the last one standing in front of the teams – hell, it happened to me last week at roller derby practice. We made a joke of it. No big deal.

Maybe it’s because I’m an adult now and not a 10 year old that’s developing all these hormonal feelings where a minor thing can be construed as so-embarrassing-that-I-want-to-crawl-in-a-hole-and-die.

It was more like, ‘oh good, no one expects me to contribute! I can just walk off the dodge ball court while all the chaos is going on and no one will notice!’

Bad attitude, 12-year-old Aleisha.

I’m sorry, but when kids are yelling at you for actually trying to get the volleyball over the net and you accidently step out of bounds or whatever, you really stop caring. They yell at you when you don’t try, they yell at you when you do try. Why bother? Can I go back to the library now? Or if you’re going to make me stay here, can we at least break out the parachute?

Obviously, I didn’t care much for P.E. class. By the time we got to our last mandatory year of gym class – Grade 10 – our teacher at that time just let my friends and I play cards or darts up in the mezzanine or, if we were doing some outdoors activity, gave is a stopwatch and let us just walk the track. Gym was not our strong suit, the rest of the class knew it too. So rather than let us get screamed at by our classmates for sucking so bad, he gave us an out.

And trust me, it was very much appreciated.

The athletic kids at my school were jerks to those who weren’t – I don’t feel at all bad about saying that. A few of those friends just outright skipped the class to avoid all the B.S. heaped upon us by the other more athletic students.

It’s funny, because I was on a softball team outside of school. The athletic girls knew this – some of them were on my team and almost all of them were in the league. I think it drove them crazy that I wouldn’t participate in gym class. What’s even funnier is that my softball coach would never put up with the more athletic girls ripping on the not-as-good girls. We were a team for the season, we were going to act like a team. My gym teacher didn’t really want to deal with it, which is why he handed us the stopwatch.

On a few occasions, he did make us participate. He had to give us some sort of mark in each specific unit, so we had to take part at least a few times. I think we more or less passed just for putting up with the whole thing.

This is why gym class should just go back to the way it was 30-40 years ago. Calisthenics and endless running. Kids get tired out, get some actual exercise, no team picking, and therefore no childhood trauma to explain to a therapist when they’re 45. Not all of us are athletes, and that’s okay.

Rather than dwelling on something that happens in elementary school and letting it dictate your life, how about focusing on the things you are good at and embracing those.


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