The Lasting Horror of High School Gym

Almost everyone has a high school gym horror story.  Some, like me, have many.
There’s the time during the gymnastic cycle that I had to clear the vault with my knees tucked up to my chest.  I told the gym teacher I couldn’t, but he told me I’d fail if I didn’t try.  So off I went, running towards the springboard, jumping and then catching my feet on the edge of the vault and falling face first, on top of the classmate who was there to catch us.  And of course he was cute!
Or the time we had to play sideline basketball.  For those of you who might not be familiar with the game, the class is broken up into two teams, each person is given a number and when you’re number is called, you rush from the sidelines to the court to play 2 on 2 or 4 on 4 b-ball.  But if you had my luck, you faced off against the members of the boys varsity basketball team.  And oh, you stood a tall 5’3!

A high school gym class...not mine!

But these reminisces have a point.  According to a Canadian researcher, humiliation in gym class can turn people off fitness…for good.  And he heaps the majority of the blame on negative instructors.
“Billy Strean, a professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, says a negative lifelong attitude towards physical activity can be determined by either a good or a bad experience, based on the personal characteristics of the coach or instructor. For example, negative experiences may come from a teacher who has low energy, is unfair and/or someone who embarrasses students.”
Strean recommends minimally organized games with more attention paid to having fun, rather than outcome.  Makes sense to me, especially in high school where students’ individual physical abilities are developing at all different rates. 
Now I’m not saying gym class should be easy.  One of my fondest memories was learning karate (not easy) when you had to focus so much on yourself there was no time to worry if people were looking at you. 
So to all you gym teachers out there…make it fun, make it challenging and just maybe, in the future, that student who failed gymnastics and couldn’t play basketball might turn out a triathlete.

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