By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell
(Spoiler Alert: In case the title doesn’t tip you off, this article was written in satiric style. But make no mistake about it. It is based on reality and personal experience.)
This is not the first time I have written about the suffering I endured in high school gym class back in the 70s. But I now have proof that there were gym teachers back then who actually did an injustice to their students.
I know, I know. “Tobi, you’re a big girl now, and gym class was a long time ago, so get over it!”
Well, now I can because I’ve come across a study that connects poor experience in high school gym class with exercise avoidance in later life. I am vindicated! (Though making us wear those ugly gym suits was unforgivable and there is nothing that would vindicate that.)
The study was done by award-winning author and speaker, Dr. Billy Strean of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, a former NCAA athlete and coach. His 2009 findings were published in the journal Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise. The title of his article says it all, “Remembering instructors: Play, pain, and pedagogy.”
These quotes from study participants validate why I have hesitated for so long to get into an exercise routine! These are my people! They get me!:
To this day I feel totally inadequate in team-related activities and have a natural reflex to AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS … largely because of humiliating experiences in childhood.
So, my major beef with the so-called physical education that I received as a kid is that it robbed me of the joy of physical activity for many years…It did not promote habits of physical and mental health that can be derived from participation in physical play. Instead,….it destroyed my physical confidence.
The exception to otherwise pleasant childhood play: those f*cking gym classes. Drill, verbal abuse, elitism, a sense of futility, and occasionally fear. Yuck.
I am a 51-year-old woman whose childhood experiences with sports, particularly as handled in school, were so negative that even as I write this, my hands are sweating and I feel on the verge of tears. I have never experienced the humiliation nor felt the antipathy toward any other aspect of life as I do toward sports.
Okay. enough of my being a cry baby. Not all gym teachers were awful (just because all of mine were). But I do feel a lot better now that my theory has been substantiated, and now that I understand why I have always avoided exercise. The good news is that I can now begin my healing process and start working out at a gym!
And the one I’ve chosen is the Cherry Hill Health & Racquet Club. Because I have some physical issues that would benefit from exercise, but if done incorrectly, could do more harm than good, they will be starting me on the Pilates Reformer.
I have no idea what that is, but this week I will find out! And I will share my experiences with you throughout my journey.
Do you have a “Mean Gym Teacher” story to share? Please comment below. I’d like to know that I am not alone.
Want to know more about Dr. Billy Streen? Click here…