September 26, 2023

Raise Your Hand if You Dreaded Gym Class

(And How Do We Change This for Tomorrow’s Kids?)

It’s the year 2022. Can we revolutionize gym class?

I’m about to share something shocking about me and a lot of other people in the world.

Competitive sports are not our thing. Because of this, we loathed, feared and/or dreaded gym class through our entire school career.

Some of us girls didn’t have menstrual cramps. We only lied about it to get out of playing a sport.

Physical fitness is important. It’s important to move every day, especially now that everyone stays stuck in one position staring at screens for the bulk of their waking and even part of their sleeping hours.

But what can we do when so many of the gym class options hold no appeal for non-competitive people?

Where do the physical fitness standards come from?

Who chooses the activities school-age children participate in with the goal of developing physical coordination, speed, strength and endurance?

Again, I’d like to stress the necessity of physical movement. I‘m an active person. I jog and exercise daily. I feel strongly that everyone should move their bodies every day.

But I never wanted to be involved in competitive sports. Not once. And many other people feel the same. They’re just not saying anything about it out loud.

True story: I did not want ever to be holding a ball to have someone coming at me to try and take the ball away.

I did not ever want to run into someone’s personal space and try to pin a flag on them. Did you?

I didn’t feel comfortable running around in a circle waiting for someone to slap me with a ball that I just hit with a bat.

(I’m not saying I don’t love baseball. I do.)

I know there were other kids in school who didn’t enjoy the competitive sports offered in gym class.

I know there are kids today who secretly wish they didn’t have to participate in phys ed.

This is not meant to crush the spirit of any inspired physical fitness educator. It’s meant to fuel your purpose in a different way.

I would like to ask you as an industry professional:

Is it time to make some changes and accommodate those of us who prefer to avoid physical contact with other people during gym class?

In the year 2022 we have global access to just about anything we want.

So imagine this. Imagine if your child who doesn’t want to play hockey in gym this month had the option to do something different that will also help him or her develop important physical skills.

How many kids would feel more excited and look forward to gym class if told that instead of playing a competitive sport they could do something like run on a treadmill, ride a stationary bike, safely lift weights or do some calisthenics?

Lots of people would really warm to the idea of a yoga class being offered in a private area of the gym. Perhaps an all-female yoga class could be something we strive for in the future as part of the optional curriculum.

Oh, but the budget, you say. We don’t have the budget for exercise equipment, you say.

As mentioned, it’s the internet age and anything you want can be accessed and negotiated for with a few clicks and the sending of a message.

Imagine instead of families just dismantling and tossing their old home gym equipment, they got a tax credit for donating it to the local school.

What if there was a fund that parents could donate to for the school gym to acquire things like stationary bikes and yoga mats?

What if it were really easy to donate, like you just could write a check instead of dragging your kid around the neighborhood or emailing everybody to try and get them to buy $15 boxes of chocolate?

What if gym class were separated into two categories:

  • Kids interested in traditional competitive sports like baseball, football, hockey, soccer and tennis
  • Kids who prefer non-competitive activities including running, calisthenics, aerobics, dance, yoga, and the use of cardio machines and free weights to work on improving their physical condition?

There are so many things we could do differently, and it would be such a huge relief and step forward for the gym-class fearing people like myself.

Not to mention, what about the overweight and out of shape kids who stay that way because they just squeak by in gym class, minimally participating in sports that they don’t feel inclined toward?

Instead of having these kids just move through the system without actually getting any benefit from gym class, we could provide activities that suit them better.

I know you sporty folks don’t understand us non sporty folks. But we’re here. We have a different way of wanting to do things.

Who will be a brave soul and speak out in their physical fitness career to change the lives of introverted, non-competitive, and/or non-athletic people, and give us a chance to develop in a way that suits our nature?

There are many possibilities for changing the curriculum of physical education as we know it.

If you’re a gym teacher with big ideas, why not submit them to your boss?

If you’re a parent and you know this is how your children feel, why not write a letter? The first step to positive change is saying something.

Physical fitness is so important. People should be active every day. I’m asking the world’s phys ed teachers to see things from my point of view, and meet us non-sports people halfway.

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