Gym Class Memories
In the quest for healthier kids, the other half of the school lunch debate is whether or not kids have access to physical education in school. Gym, like Art and Music, gets cut when budgets are short or scores on standardized testing drop.
I started to think about my own experiences with gym class. With eight schools in four states, I like to think I have a decent sample.
Fifth grade was the best year. My gym coaches, Coach Raughton and Couch Pitts (this teaming is even better when you learn that “Raughton” is pronounced “Rotten”), were encouraging and inclusive. Beyond standard games, we learned to walk on stilts and juggle. We played epic games of Capture the Flag and Crab Soccer. Coach Pitts even got a huge tire we could crawl inside and he’d roll us around the yard (Until a certain girl fell out and got a concussion. Not me, I swear).
My Junior High gym coach was just as encouraging as Coach Pitts and Coach Raughton, but I’d changed. We’d recently moved to the area and the sheer awkwardness of being the new girl, being thirteen, and being unsure of my own athleticism combined to make me less excited about the sports we were learning.
I have absolutely no memories of being teased for being gangly and uncoordinated. On the contrary, my memories of Junior High Gym are a rosy blur of us all cheering for one another and being supportive of the slowest and least-athletic among us. Is this what actually happened? I have no idea. That age is known for its navel-gazing and I only really remember how I was treated.
Technically, high school students in Illinois are required to take gym class. Practically, this requirement is easily avoided (or, at least, it was in my school).
Marching band? Counts as a sport and gets you out of gym for the Fall semester. Participation in Varsity sports would excuse you for the semester in which the sport was played.
Health class? Buys you a pass out of gym.
Seniors planning to swap the gym period with an academic class were also allowed to forego gym.
As a result, I took gym only once in high school – second semester of freshman year. I got to spend a semester swimming. As I’d been a competitive swimmer for years, my role was to help the instructor teach my peers to dive. I was far too shy and self-conscious to actually correct anyone, so everyone left the class feeling like mini-Louganises.
Gym was easy to scam. If you actually had to take it, you could still avoid serious activity fairly easily. Tuesday and Thursday were devoted to Cardio activities. The most-popular for my friends and I was walking around the track in a group, gossiping about those who weren’t present. We had gym 1st period, so there was no incentive to get all yucky for the sake of participation.
What were your experiences in gym class? Did you love it? Dread it? Easily avoid it?