Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Stink at Kickball!

I have to apologize to my daughters. "Sorry, girls. The fact that you can't catch a ball without covering your heads in fright, that you can't out run any of your classmates and that you can't hit a ball further than the pitchers' mound? Well all that is my fault." It's really not fair to them. After all, my husband is somewhat athletic, I had hoped that they would inherit some of his genes. Looks like they got my athleticism and his inability to spell.

I wasn't the slowest kid in my class. I very clearly remember during the shuttle run that I wasn't ever in last place. Second to last. But not last. Last place was always a girl who was born with one leg shorter than the other. She had an excuse. What was my excuse? I wasn't overweight. I wasn't overly incoordinated or clumsy. I just had no ability.

My abilities were in my school work. I could finish a test or read a book faster than anyone in the class, but these are not the things the "cool kids" are measured by, unfortunately.

Has there ever been a kid who was considered "cool" who did not possess some sort of athletic ability? I sure can't think of many. Why are we so defined by our prowess in gym class? I was the last to be picked for teams, the one who heard groans from teammates when I would come up to the plate and the one the teacher would constantly tell to try harder. You'd think by now there would be some sort of built in sensitivity training for gym teachers in how they handle kids with no ability. But no, they still have the classes pick teams, pick partners. . .they still have the slower kids on the spotlight for the other kids to berate openly without correction. The gym teachers after all never had to go through this kind of humiliation. Obviously they liked and did well in gym class or it would not have become the profession of choice for them. They don't understand inability. To them inability to perform means laziness or not trying hard enough.

And now 25 years later, my 10 year old is going through the same things and feelings I had as a kid. Yesterday in gym class they played kickball. The class quickly learned that when she was up she would not be kicking the ball very far. The field of players all moved in and every time she came up she got out. One boy turned to her and said, "No offense but you really stink at this game."

Another boy, who generally could whack the heck out of the ball came to the plate and kicked it softly, sending the class scrambling to get to it in time. The teacher said, "You need to kick it harder than that." His response was, "Why? That's how Emma kicks it."

She experienced the same groans, the same catcalls, the same irritation from her classmates that I went through 25 years ago. And the worst part of it all? There was no girl with one leg shorter than the other that she could reassure herself with. She is in fact the slowest, most incoordinated girl in her class. And not by just a little. She only has 7 other girls in her class and they are ALL on the above average side of the bell curve when it comes to sports. Soccer, basketball, cheerleading, dance. . .you name it. . .all 7 of the other girls are involved and they are GREAT.

The good thing is, I tried to tell her, is that elementary gym class is only temporary. Kids will ultimately forget that you can't run very fast or kick a ball very hard when they realize your other talents. Athletic ability will become less important as you get older and more involved in music, drama and other activities. You are a naturally happy, bright, engaging child with lots of friends. "You will survive this." I told her.

"How can I ever survive this?" She asked mournfully.

Ok, so it seems like the end of the world now, but summer is coming and eventually the pain of being the worst will wear off.

Well, maybe in 30 years or so. . .

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