"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. 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."
I understand that well. I may have ended up as a children's physical activity specialist -- and, for a period of about 12 years, as an instructor of PE majors at the University of NH (one of life's great ironies) -- but I hated "gym." I didn't want to -- couldn't -- climb the damn rope, and doing so with the teacher and 30 other students watching made it mortifying. Nor was I capable of jumping "the horse" with any level of ability or grace. I, too, can get teary-eyed if I allow myself to think back to those horrifying experiences.
For me, it was my love of dancing that kept me moving. Otherwise I might be the biggest couch potato of all. And who knows what career path I might have followed had I not felt that need to move my body rhythmically. (Dancing preceded teaching dance, which preceded teaching dance to preschoolers, which preceded becoming involved in movement education...which brought me where I am today.)
If children are to retain their love of movement and keep moving for a lifetime, they need to keep enjoying it. Eva Desca Garnett, author of Movement Is Life, wrote: "Our biological need for movement is ensured by the sensation of pleasure in movement."
The good news is that "gym" isn't as often "gym" anymore. Rather, it's physical education and its approach is more likely to be lifelong fitness than on catering to the kids who excel at team sports -- and at creaming one another with a dodgeball. The bad news is that this isn't always the case. But if we adults who've had negative experiences with gym can look past them and understand the value of a quality PE program, then we'll work to ensure that's what our children get!