Monday, August 23, 2004

A Post About Sports With No Mention of Gymnastics

Remember P.E.?  I sure do.  Bane of my existence in Junior High.

P.E. was all about playing all sorts of sports for two weeks each.  With a grade at the end, based on ability.  How many pull-ups can you do?  How fast can you run?  Can you score a basket?  Cam you catch a football? 

Nobody ever taught me how to get better.  It always seemed like a test of my then-current abilities.  Sorta like how your mom would mark your height on the wall every year.  You couldn't make yourself get taller.  You just were whatever you were.  Tests in P.E. were the same way -- just a test of whatever level of ability you happened to have in seventh grade.

As an adult -- only as an adult -- I learned that you could genuinely get better.  (It's no wonder I never picked this up in junior high; it takes an awful lot longer than two weeks of practice.)  But I finally got there -- when figure skating -- when I actually experienced the feeling of teaching my body, through repetition and miniscule adjustments, how to do something it had been unable to do.  Wild.

But there's something else they never taught me in P.E. -- and I'm absolutely livid about it.  They never taught me how much thought goes into success in sports.  Sure, I knew about "teamwork" (well, I knew about it in theory -- you can't really put it into practice during ten days of flag football when everyone wants to play quarterback) -- but nobody ever took the time to teach us how much more goes into victory than sheer physical ability.

I'm sure getting a crash course in it from watching the Olympics:  watching a swimmer get close to the lane line to take advantage of another swimmer's draft; watching a high jumper choose when to pass; watching a long jumper make a "safety jump"; watching a middle-distance runner decide when is best to make a move on the field; watching volleyball players decide when to set and when to kill; watching basketball players draw a foul to make a three-point play; watching fencers predict their opponents; watching judo athletes use their opponents' moves against them; watching a sprinter (a sprinter!) make a decision that is ultimately crucial in a ten-second race.

I wish someone had tried to teach me some of this in school.  I would have had a greater appreciation for sports -- and maybe I could've found some common ground with the "jocks."


grodygeek said...

It depends upon the coaches. I had early basketball coaches that helped here. I had a HS basketball coach, that didn't. Guess which one we succeeded under? Even on team sports you can use techniques like visualization, expoiting the tendency of the other team, creating situations where players can't help but act as you desire and so on.

I also learned a lot from good trainers in college. I took a PE class almost ever quarter in college. I wanted to learn sports (I'm a geek-athlete, go figure). First one was swimming since I didn't know how. Now I swim laps for endurance training. I tried handball, squash, racquetball, weight training, and so many others. They were all fun, but they all taught me more than just how to play, they taught how to get better from more than just practice.

the cycling comic

sonensmilinmon said...

Sounds much like my own PE classes in high school ... they tested our current ability but, never taught us how to improve, how to get the most out of the game.  Even my swm coach in high school did very little to motivate us or to help us in the thinking process.  


jevanslink said...

Amazing how the mere presence of a great player on a team ups everyone's skill level. Michael Jordan improved everybody's skill level on the Bulls BEFORE they stepped on the court. Mrs. L