Childhood can be hard on even the strongest of humans. With dysfunctional families, bullies, or childhood ailments, making it to adulthood can be pretty rough. Throw in physical education (PE) and even the strongest athlete in the school can be reduced to cowering in a corner in the fetal position in a hot minute.
After seriously working on my health for several years and now working in a fitness facility, I got to thinking about the mentality that makes the best of us cringe at the thought of physical exercise. So, today's list is thirteen lies I learned in PE.
Before I begin, I must issue a caveat (or two). This list came from my experiences with PE teachers, coaches, and self-appointed fitness gurus. I have had some good PE teachers, and one of the best science teachers at my high school was also the girl's softball coach (and a Lionel Richie look alike BTW), so I'm by no means putting everyone in the same box. But let's be real, PE can be one of the most traumatizing classes a child must endure. By the way, this is NOT an endorsement for First Lady Obama's "I hate fat kids" campaign. Her approach only makes a child's hatred of PE WORSE. Yes, I said it, and I'm not taking it back either.
OK, see if any of this is familiar:
- All competition is a matter of life or death. Look, I'm a sports fan (Roll Tide) and enjoy friendly competition. However, because many PE teachers are also coaches for school sports, they forget about friendly competition. The class isn't going for a metal or state championship. PE is supposed to teach kids the joy of playing various sports, but it wasn't. This attitude is why I can't shoot a basketball and dribble better with my left hand than my dominant hand.
- Colored socks are bad for your skin. We were told that the dye in colored athletic socks would absorb into our skin and give us gangrene or something. I was so scared that I didn't buy colored sports socks until THIS year. (I graduated high school in 1990 if you would like to do the math). We were also told that our forever white socks HAD to be cotton for the exact same reason. Just for the record, my white cotton socks are what caused me to have blistered sweaty feet. Haven't had a blister or sweat sopped socks and shoes since I got rid of them.
- The myth of the African foot. No joke, we were taught in PE that a
- No pain, no gain, but injuries are sign of weakness. This was decades before CrossFit. The two worst injuries I suffered during PE were being hit in the face with a ball and either breaking or dislocating my right index finger. Both occasions were punctuated by the shrill of a whistle and the teacher yelling at me to suck it up and get on with it (two different teachers at two different times, mind you). Yes, while blood was pouring from my nose and my finger was swollen to twice it's size, I'm being yelled at for holding up the game. This is where I learned the lovely art of self doctoring...which is why my index finger is still slightly crooked.
- You can either be intelligent or athletic, but not both. Apparently, in the eyes of some coaches, there is really no such thing as a "student athlete." You're either a student or an athlete. I have a vivid memory of one coach who also taught World History (name withheld to protect the guilty--but if you went to my high school, you'll know who I'm talking about) actually sat by and allowed a couple of his players in my class to blatantly cheat on a test. Hey, if I can see you cheat, anyone can see you cheat. Yes, he knew. When we got out tests back, they high fived each other and Coach told them what a good job they'd done. (?!) These guys were very smart and didn't need to cheat, but apparently ball practice was more important than studying. If I could do band practice until after dark and still get my studying done, why couldn't these clowns be expected to do the same with sports?
- Poor man vs. rich man sports. Kids in my neighborhood were sold the myth that the boys could only play basketball, football, and maybe baseball. The girls? Softball, volleyball, or track. Nope, no tennis, swimming, golf, etc. Those are for the rich kids on the other side of town.
- If you can't play well, don't play at all. Hard to play well when I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Teach me; don't yell at me, teach me. Again, what happened to fun?
- Sit-ups will make you skinny. We all know by now that 1) Crunches work your abs better than sit-ups and 2) Spot reducing does not work. You lose weight all over and the largest tire deflates last.
- She'll play with you; I told her to. Have any teachers ever paid attention to what really happens when they force kids to play with someone they don't want to play with? The "undesirable" is hated and bullied even more. Look, I WAS the kid no one wanted to play with, so I know what I'm talking about. When I taught, I didn't do that. Don't get me wrong, I didn't allow the children to be mean to each other, but I didn't pick their playmates. You know what happened? The children found common ground and played together, even the supposed least desirable one.
- Just do it...because this chart says you can. If standardized tests are
- Barf your way to health. Way before The Biggest Loser some teachers and coaches had already developed the philosophy that if one wasn't crying, puking, and sweating buckets, he wasn't working hard enough. Sad, and scary.
- Your sister was an athlete, why aren't you? My sister, Ida, who is
- You can't. Yes I can. Maybe not then, but I can now. Just watch me.
OK, so I've griped, now what am I going to DO about it? I'm not sure, but I'd like to help both kids and adults enjoy movement. I've been reading up on the subject. I'm hoping for opportunities to learn more and implement what I'm learning. I don't want any child to associate physical activity with torture, nor do I want them to value themselves so little that they do not see the need to care for their health.