When I was in school, gym class was never my strong suit. Gym at that time was filled with competitive activities such as dodgeball, archery, bowling, baseball, and gymnastics. I was certainly the skinny, nerdy kid with no coordination, and thus, always the last to be picked for any activity. Making it through just one class was always a struggle, one I would have gladly given up for an extra literature class.
In the small towns where I attended school, intellectual achievement was not valued. Prowess on the football field or basketball court was something to be lauded; parents, teachers, and students openly bragged about high scores in these areas. Too, teachers gladly gave athletes who were failing a “What color is an orange?” test, allowing them to easily gain a D and therefore be eligible to play in the upcoming game. For a kid like me who lacked any abilities in sports, I didn’t have a chance in such an environment. Too, I resented the emphasis on sports and the lack of recognition of my own academic achievements.
I groaned in frustration each time we entered the dressing room for gym. Donning our standard t-shirts and shorts in school colors, we walked into the gym, some reluctantly, some enthusiastically. I, for one, was the former.
To be perfectly fair, I didn’t mind games such as archery or bowling. These were calmer games that didn’t require an excess of exertion, competition, or athletic ability. It was activities such as soccer or dodgeball that led to my lifelong distaste for gym class. Inevitably, I would wind up on the sidelines with the one obese girl in class, both of us chatting amiably until the game was over. While I enjoyed the chats, I felt awful, unable to compete effectively and certainly not one of the “popular” girls who were picked first.
I suppose this sounds a bit like a nerd’s lament. Partly that’s true. However, I would have to say that that early frustration led to a strengthening of my own personality and a realization that there will always be areas where we do not excel. And what of those kids today who are given a trophy for simply showing up? I don’t know the long-term effects of such rewards, but somehow I think they would be much better off learning lessons similar to mine.