Since reading Anna Kessel’s ‘Eat Sweat Play‘ I’ve been thinking about my relationship to sport and exercise throughout my life. It seems a fairly common experience to have detested PE lessons at school. During my secondary school years, I was definitely more arty and musical than sporty. Whilst I never actually bunked lessons, I would put in as little effort as possible and avoid getting sweaty or muddy.
I had no sporting ability or skill and found the teachers to be discouraging, so I never really engaged with lessons throughout school.
Outside of school, I briefly dabbled in dancing, karate, running and took swimming lessons up until the age of 12. In fact, I found this photo of me and my Dad taking part a local fun run in 1993. I believe it was 4 miles, but it felt like a marathon at the time!
Inspired by Tamsyn’s post, here are some of my memories of PE at school…
I was very intimidated by any sports involving throwing and catching, convinced that I would be hit and knocked unconscious by a rogue ball. The fear started when we were made to watch a health and safety video on track and field sports. Some harrowing footage of the dangers of the javelin and shot-put really freaked me out. In rounders, I’d position myself as far in the deep field as possible to avoid having the catch the ball.
PE Kit consisted of a white cotton T-shirt tucked in to bottle-green polyester knickers. Sometimes we would be allowed to wear a pleated netball skirt over the knickers, but generally our thighs would be exposed to the elements. I felt so self-conscious and aware of legs wobbling as I ran, even at a young age when I wasn’t particularly fat. I’m not sure what school PE kit is like these days, but I seriously hope it is more flattering than in the 90s!
The school swimming pool must have been on the verge of being condemned, the water was green and it was housed in a mouldy greenhouse-like structure. The pool seemed to be lined with sandpaper, you would scrape the skin off your toes every time they came into contact with the bottom. Kids would throw (unused) tampons into the pool and laugh as teachers fished them out.
My school backed onto a nature reserve which we would use as a cross-country running course. Running through thick mud and jumping over the rat-infested brook were the absolute worst thing I could imagine. I’d run for about half a mile, then walk the rest as soon I was out of sight of the teachers, usually coming in as one of the last. Out of breath and freezing cold, it really was my idea of hell.
Trampolining was the one activity which I actually enjoyed at school as it involved the least amount of effort. We were given a choice of sports in the final two years, so I was quick to ditch hockey, netball and running in favour staying inside on the trampoline. A seat-drop was about the most complex trick I’d attempt, otherwise I would mostly just mess around, the rusty springs squeaking with each bounce.
Before I became jaded by PE lessons, I did used to enjoy the fun and games of sports day at primary school. Competing in teams in the sack race, obstacle course and egg-and-spoon race was the highlight of the school year.
Did you enjoy PE at school? What are some of your memories?