Our community comments on turning kids off physical education

Recently Aimee Morrison posted about growing up as an unathletic kid, scarred by the Canada Fitness Test. That prompted me to share my memories of failing it every year. And I loved tests. Just not that one.

Later I discovered to my great surprise that I loved physical activity, just not the team sports on offer at my high school. (Later I even came to change my mind about team sports.)

I do wish though that I could have had a chance to play rugby. That wasn’t even a thing for girls when I was growing up.

There was also a culture of dividing us up, the jocks versus the book worms, and I was clearly in the latter so I couldn’t also be the former.

Apparently many of you have had childhoods like Aimee and me. We hit a nerve.

Lots of readers commented on our Facebook page about their experiences growing up, hating gym, and thinking they weren’t made for physical activity.

I love the community that’s gathered around our Facebook page, even though I can’t always live up to their high standards, and I asked permission to share their comments with you on the blog.

Karen Keely

Thanks for this. I always refuse to push myself athletically (I’ll exercise, but always keeping a significant reserve of energy unused) and had never quite articulated why, and you’ve given me food for thought.

Jodi Quinn

I was an unathletic weedy kid too who became an artist freak. As were all my friends. As we got into our late 30s & 40s we got active and have universally discovered that although we are not natural athletes, none of us are as hopeless or clumsy as we were told as children.

Conclusion: our society has a *massive* problem with how activity is taught to children, and the experts wonder why the western world is dying of inactivity.

When you’re a kid & suck at sports or dance or running, adults & kids alike abuse you. When you’re a middle aged sucky runner, everyone’s like “go you!” What is wrong with this picture?

Alyssa Edwards

I love this and I found it so inspiring and reassuring. I’m 28 and JUST starting to come into my own in terms of exploring my own athleticism and fitness goals. Hated gym class, had/have social anxiety, could never do team sports or anything with balls. But I’ve been seeing a personal trainer, doing yoga, and just bought a pair of snowshoes. Discovering “sports” or “fitness” or whatever you want to call it as a new way of finding adventures in the world has been key for me.
I LOVE this blog and it has been huge in helping me on this journey. Thanks so much for this piece and for all your writing!

Sarah VS

Love this! So much of it rang true for me. Those fitness challenges in school were the worst! It has only been in the last few years that I’ve started to enjoy movement and not see it as humiliating or punishing or just to lose weight.

I always tell the story about my Grade 6 fitness test-I was a strong student who always got her work done, but I was in the minority in my class that year. My teacher was frustrated by the general lack of productivity, and threatened that if we did not complete a writing assignment by the following day, we would be kept from the doing the fitness test. I pitched my long ago completed assignment and started over, just to avoid my most hated day of school!

Angela Wilson

I HATED the Participaction humiliation. Never once received more than a participation badge. Now skiing, climbing, running and yoga’ing at 42. Never too late to figure out what your body is capable of.

4 thoughts on “Our community comments on turning kids off physical education

  1. I hate it when I was forced to participate in sports by my parents when I was in college. They stated that as long as they were paying the tuition, I had to take a sport whether I like it or not.

  2. Where I went to high school, in order to participate in sports it seemed to me like you had to surrender your life and identity in order to participate. No thank you.
    Today I am masters competitive powerlifter who enjoys trying all kinds of new activities.
    One thing I’m VERY curious about is what is going to be the long term outcome for kids today who are more or less forced to participate in sports because the parents are chasing the ALMIGHTY SCHOLARSHIP . I’m guessing after college, or when the magical scholarship fails to appear, they will never play again.

    1. If we had free/affordable education, kids would not have to chase any kind of scholarship.

  3. Thanks for this article and including my experience! I’m kinda comforted to know I’m not alone! A couple of additional thoughts…

    I was recently talking to a friend who teaches elementary school. He was saying that there is a movement afoot to change how phys ed is taught, so that it can be more inclusive and focused on encouraging movement, rather than just be a place for the already good athletes to shine. I was heartened by this and will see if it’s true as my kids proceed through school.

    Secondly, I was grateful for other options for gym in high school. After Grade 9, if you didn’t want to take “sportsy” gym, you could take Live Fit, which was aerobics/fitness (for girls) or weightlifting (for boys-problematic in other ways, but that’s another story). If it weren’t for this, I would never have taken gym after it was no longer required.

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