A Ha! One Bad Gym Teacher CAN Ruin You (Or Your Kid) For Life

Filed under: Opinions


There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who remember gym class fondly -- and those of us who remember it right up there with fetal pig dissection.

In fact, we probably feel about gym the way the pig felt about bio.

Sometimes we remember a particular humiliation that turned us off. Being picked last for a team is, of course, a classic. (I should know!) So is being the slowest. (Me again!) Bombardment, a.k.a. dodge ball? (Oy!) And being tubby -- that was a hell all its own. One mom I know was Example A when her teacher was trying to illustrate the concept of "fat" (real hard to understand). The teacher used actual pincers to grab my friend's excess flesh.

I have to eat a square of chocolate just to calm down when I write that. But I have another source of comfort now, too: A new study that found, "Bad Gym Teachers Headed Straight to Hell!"

Oh wait. That was me reciting the headline from memory. Anyway, the actual title is almost as damning:" A Negative Phys Ed Teacher Can Cause a Lifetime of Inactivity."

That's the conclusion of a University of Alberta Professor of Physical Education and Recreation, Billy Strean, who set out to study the long-term effects a gym teacher can have. Since he teaches future gym teachers for a living, he was eager to find examples of happy former students embracing lifelong fitness -- which he did, thank goodness! But he was shocked to hear from one woman who told him that just THINKING about her gym teacher made her hands sweat and her eyes well up. As she told Strean, "I have never experienced the humiliation nor felt the antipathy toward any other aspect of life as I do toward sports."

And she was just the first! After hearing horror story upon horror story, Strean realized the biggest lesson he had to pass on to his students: YOU ARE NOT TRAINING FUTURE PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES!

"When I asked people, 'What's your favorite memory of sports and phys ed?'" says Strean, "they said something that was low-organized, like, 'Going out in the yard with my brother and throwing a football around.'" THAT is what gym class should be like, he concluded: More like playing, less like preparing for the London Olympics. When frolic is the goal, even kids who are slow or, God forbid, fat, can still have fun. And maybe even keep having fun when they're grown up.

There's a middle school gym teacher in New York City, John DeMatteo, who has his students doing wacky stuff. They play
Capture the Rubber Chicken(s). They rock out to Rhianna. One day he had them playing volleyball with a giant beach ball and a parent who wandered in demanded, frowning, "Why?"

Responded DeMatteo, "Isn't it more fun?"

That's the kind of gym teacher who's not going to make anyone weep into her La-Z-Boy 20 years from now. Let's bombard our kids with more of them.

Related:
How Active Are Your Kids?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.