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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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Sport in schools
delirium happy
rho
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.)

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Oh yes, those balls can hurt. Especially when they drive your glasses into your face. And not wearing glasses isn't an option.

We actually had some good gym moments. We did some sections that were individually focused. Things like taking out a bunch of items and you had to work with one of them but had some say - I usually chose a single person jumprope. Before I became ill, I was actually decent with a single person jumprope. I could jump forwards, backwards, cross the rope to jump through it in this cute pattern, and sometimes do some other cute things. But it was just you and a rope, so it wasn't a bad way to get actual exercise. We had a unit in the exercise room - room full of exercise equipment. I liked that part. I'd vary what I used, often doing the treadmill or exercise bike, but also often pushing the weight thingy with my legs. I liked building up muscle when I wasn't forced to be in a win-lose situation.

We even once played a team sport I enjoyed - four-square. In fairness, part of this was because I was only playing with friends. But it was somewhat exertive, and kind of fun.

It was the large team sports that sucked. The ones where people get annoyed with you for doing badly and you have to play with people who don't want you there and you know it. Badminton was okay, because it was 1 on 1, so nobody minds if you do badly. Whereas volleyball was less okay, because your team gets to dislike you.

For tennis, we broke into groups of 3. One person would fetch the ball while 2 people played, then you rotated who was in what position. I had fun for a while until my teacher caught on to the idea that I wasn't rotating, but just bouncing a spare ball and fetching a ball when needed. Less risk of being hit (and while it wasn't in gym class, it was a game of tennis that broke my nose - getting hit can hurt), and I could recite poetry or song lyrics in my head.

I wish gym had been a class rather than a stupid thing. Although, at least my class started every gym class with a series of warm-ups - stretching and mild aerobix exercise. These warm-ups were probably useful for me and other non-gymy people.

I actually found volleyball to be reasonable and one of my better PE experiences. Due to the way it worked, I had to participate. If the ball came down where I was standing, I had to at least try to hit it, and a volleyball court is not so large that I could be shunted off to somewhere that would never see the ball. And lo and behold, because I did actually get some practice, I did get better at it. I still sucked, but I sucked less than I did to start with.

I guess I was fortunate in that my peers were generally supportive of me through this. Whether this was because they actually liked me enough to accept that I was trying and improving, or because there was a teacher present making them less willing to be abusive, or simply because they thought that volleyball was a dumb game and not worth bothering about, I don't know.

Whereas, as far as I could tell, I never got better at any of the games through practice. I had better ability at some than others to start, and that never changed. The only improvements that ever happened were when someone actually bothered to teach me something.

The only thing I managed to learn on my own that made me, in a way, better. Was that I could speedwalk around the track rather then running. By doing so, I could keep walking all period, and actually do an impressive number of laps. Whereas, running would make my lungs and mouth burn, and then I'd have to stop. And this wasn't so much learning as someone mentioning that if we didn't feel up to running, we could walk.

Also, this was after my biology teacher had taught us how we could swing our legs more at the hip, rather than the knee, and thus walk more efficiently. So, it may not even be a counter-example.

I'm dense about a lot of things. I've rarely done well with learning on my own. But I'm good at absorbing what I'm taught. So, I really wish they'd bother to teach me. Because I did improve now and then when they actually taught us something.

Again, my school wa actually fairly decent and they did actually try to teach us stuff, rather than just throw us onto a pitch and tell us to play. The problem was that anything like that is only useful if you get to actually practice them. Which is why I was actually able to get somewhat better at volleyball, whereas my skills in something like basketball stayed constant.

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