Log in

No account? Create an account
delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Sport in schools
delirium happy
I just saw Tony Blair talking to Sue Barker on the TV about sport in schools, and it set me thinking about my experiences in sports in school.

The thing is, my school was actually decent when it came to sports. They had very good facilities (their own swimming pool, many playing fields, sports hall, etc.). They had plenty of staff who were willing to give up their time. They brought in people from outside to help out; I have received football coaching from a former England international (Mike Duxbury). The school won national competitions in at least football and water polo in the time when I was there. In short, it has precisely the sort of sporting credentials that everyone always seem to want to promote and make more common.

And yet despite all of this, I hated sport at school and gave it up as soon as I possibly could. Looking back now, I really wish that this hadn't been the case. I wish that I could have enjoyed it, and that I could have kept up with some sort of physical activity, and not be such a lazy bum today.

The problem was, that I sucked. And everyone knew this. I was one of the geeks, the freaks and the losers who always got picked last for teams. And then because I sucked, my team-mates attempted to ensure that I didn't actually get to do anything. If we played basketball, then nobody would ever pass the ball to me. If we played cricket, I'd be put in some outfield position where the ball was least likely ever to come. In football, I tended to be put in goal (which was rather baffling; why do kids tend to think that it's appropriate to put the worst player in the position where mistakes are most likely to be costly?)

I don't actually blame any of my contemparies for this. They were mainly little shits, but this isn't their fault. If you're trying to win a sports game, not passing to the inept player is fairly sensible. It all just made the whole exercise horribly and entirely pointless for me. Running up and down a basketbal court following the ball but never getting near it is not fun. Standing around on a field getting hayfever while a cricket match goes on around you is also not fun. In fact, I think it's fair to say that both are a complete waste of time.

If sport is worthy of a place in the curiculum — and I think it is — then it's worth it for everyone. In fact, the people with the most potential to benefit from it are thos who aren't already sporty.

The whole thing smacks of lack of effort, I'm afraid. And I'll admit that I hardly put in any effort myself, but given that I was a teenager and given there was no discernable point, that was hardly surprising. It seems to me that it's just as important to put effort into teaching those with little in the way of aptitude or motivation as it is to teach those who are naturally gifted and interested.

An analogous situation is a subject like, say, mathematics just doesn't make sense. You (ideally) give the best and the brightest extra encouragement to reach their potential, but you also (ideally) give extra encouragement to those who struggle extra encouragement as well, because achieving a basic level of mathematical aptitude is important, even for those who aren't good at it. (And yes, I'm aware that a lot of teaching sucks and doesn't meet that ideal, but there seems to be widespread agreement that that is the ideal.)

So why is it that when it comes to sport, the underachievers get left in the dust, and nobody seems to bat an eyelid?

(And for the record, I don't blame my schooling for my current lack of fitness or physical activity. That's entirely down to me and the fact that I'm a lazy cow. It would have been nice to have had a better head start is all.)

  • 1
My theory on this is that part of the problem is that math or French or history is a class, and they actually teach the subject, or try to. Gym/sport is called a class, but it's not--if it were, the people running it would teach the skills useful for the game to everyone, not tell the ones who are already good at it "okay, you're in charge, now play" and neglect the students who aren't as gifted or who don't have parents who taught them the basics at home.

The only gym classes I learned anything in, from grade school on up, were when we played soccer--because this was the U.S. in the 1970s, and the mostly-valid assumption was that none of us knew even the basics, so they taught it--and the semester of yoga.

My school didn't have the facilities you describe, or particularly involved teachers, which left a situation in which, for the most part, they neither taught those of us who didn't already have the rudiments, nor gave those who already had some skills any additional instruction, beyond the chance to practice for an hour and a half a week (state-mandated minimum).

I've commented that it took me until I was in my late 30s to find the exercise I actually enjoy. I don't know, though, that I would have learned to like weight-lifting had it been offered to me at 15. Certainly not if it had been offered under similar conditions.

This is true, there was no teaching in PE. PE teachers assume boys know the rules to football, genetically encoded in their Y chromosone.

The only time I ever learned anything was when we did field hockey, once, which they assumed no one knew the rules to and so taught us. The same for some of the athletics events where we even got method and tips to improve, and as a result I always enjoyed those sports more.

This is my grudge against gym. They don't teach it. I learned more in ten minutes from my brother than I did from years of gym. He taught me how to punch, since he was studying Judo and I had to regularly go into NYC by myself to work on a project. He figured some basic self-defense (the punching wasn't the focus, but the rest isn't relevant) might come in handy. Along with guidelines about when to use it (which was, mainly don't - give money if they want it, run if you can, but if they try to drag you off somewhere, fight, because you have good odds of not getting out of it alive if you go with someone somewhere). Anyhow, he taught me how to punch. Suddenly, my volleyball serve would usually go over the net. Because we'd played volleyball for years and the only thing they'd taught us was the swing part, not the how to hit things hard.

They also never asked me why I was bad at things. In gym's defense, neither did my other subjects. It took me a long time to realize that the normal experience I had of having difficulty on track because my lungs hurt so much wasn't actually normal. Didn't learn that til one time, very confusingly, my legs hurt. I didn't know what I could possibly have done to make my legs hurt. Then someone told me that usually that's what happens to make you feel you've done enough. It probably didn't help that track was always outside... as were so many of the activities. So, breathing was always an issue since I was emersed in allergens.

My school actually did have remedial gym. They were just loath to put people in it. I don't know why. I'd have been so much happier in remedial gym. But they didn't ask me my preference.

  • 1