Monday, February 7, 2011

At Least I Wasn't Always Picked Last.

One of the most humiliating moments of my life occurred at a high school football game when I was fairly young. Having grown up watching basketball, the rules of football were somewhat foreign. I remember being in the stands, wrapped up in the excitement of the game, and when play stopped on the field and I saw the clock continuing to run, I stood up and screamed “Stop the clock!” My basketball-mind knew that the clock was supposed to stop with the players. Imagine the looks I must have received from the people around me – people who knew the game – people who knew football. I cringe every time I think about it.

And I think that was my problem with sports in school – I just didn’t know the games that everyone was already supposed to know. I didn’t grow up throwing a ball around in the yard. I didn’t play touch football or baseball. Well, I did play baseball occasionally with my cousin who grudgingly placed me in the tallest weeds in the outfield when he played with his friends. That memory isn’t great either – I remember someone hitting it way out to me, and I caught it with my bare hands (I never had a glove) and was so excited I did something right I remember holding the ball in the air triumphantly because my cousin would finally think I was cool. Instead, the guys all yelled at me to throw the ball for the double play, which I missed while I paused for glory. I never could win.

I also remember playing basketball in gym class in junior high, particularly one afternoon when I was placed on a three-man team with Laura Gilmore, the most athletic girl in school. Of course I didn’t want to let her down. But every time they passed me the ball, I would foul, because I didn’t know what a double dribble was. I thought it only meant putting both hands on the ball. Over and over I tried valiantly not to use both hands, and over and over they kept blowing the whistle and calling double dribble. Now, why on earth didn’t anyone realize I didn’t know what it meant?

And that was my problem: the gym teachers just assumed there were certain games everyone knew, and if you didn’t do them well it was just because you weren’t athletic. That is bull.

I know this for a fact because I was decent at the sports that were taught brand new to all of us. We played hockey (on the gym floor with no ice) and were all taught the rules. I actually looked forward to gym on those days. And we all learned bowling for six weeks and went to the local bowling alley every day. I was great at that – after all, I was a dancer – I can be taught physical movement. My bowling form was perfect.

Then when I went to college and took my one required P.E. class, I was surprisingly the most athletic person in class. When we ran laps I was the only one who ran the whole time, ahead of everyone else. Either I was free from the stigma of “gym nerd,” or college had weeded out the most athletic, leaving me the cream of the crop.

So I beg of you, gym teachers out there, don’t assume anything! Teach your students the rules of the game. Help them all understand. No one is a lost cause! And for God’s sake, please teach them about the clock in football. It can save them a lot of humiliation.

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