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August 16, 2004

P.E. stands for 'painful experience'

By Katie Jordan and Kate Haire

The perils of gym class have haunted students for generations.  And Generation Y is no exception.

In fact, with all the horrors you will soon experience in gym class, you incoming freshmen may be tempted to call yourselves Generation “Y me?”

Listen up, freshmen-to-be!  Gone are the days of jump ropes and Nerf balls.  Wake up and smell the sweat!  Prepare to be incarcerated, annihilated, and humiliated in the no-pain-no-gain world of high school gym class.

Some people claim that “Gym isn’t so bad.”  Others even go so far as to call it “fun.” But you know the truth. Physical education is literally a school of hard knocks, a crash course in injury.

A little known fact is that PE was originally created just to give school nurses something more exciting to do than telling sick kids to go back to class.  (The emotional scarring and self loathing students end up with was an unforeseen bonus.)

Yes, there are plenty of ways to hurt yourself in good old gym class.

When the teacher says, “Keep your eye on the ball,” he means it -- even after the ball’s lodged in the tangled mess of metal beams that make up the ceiling.  You never know when one of those puppies is going to come crashing down on your vulnerable cranium.

And the ball is no less dangerous in its natural habitat, flying back and forth over some kind of court or field, as in soccer.  In this game, the opposing team will try to make a goal.  Their goal, as you know, is to humiliate and hurt you as much as possible.

Basketballs ricochet like bullets, so the skill you’ll need, contrary to popular belief, is not “dunking.”  It’s ducking.

Spherical projectiles aren’t the only thing you have to worry about.  No, there are also a wide variety of large sticks which students are encouraged to swing around violently.

If the stick doesn’t get you, remember, the objective of the game is to smack a one of those dangerous balls across the gym, often into the face of a classmate -- namely, you. 

Back in the good old days, when archery was still a part of the curriculum, students in gym had the privilege to shoot sharp, pointy arrows across the field outside. They aimed at colorful, ringed targets -- theoretically.

Sadly for you future generations, school officials finally figured out that maybe, just maybe, adolescent boys and sharp objects weren’t a good mix (although, ironically, pencils have never caused this much trouble.  Wonder why…)

But even if you manage to avoid breaking, bruising, scraping, or spraining some part of your body, beware.  Gym can do a number on your mental well being as well.

The problem won’t always be the impossible physical demands.  More often than not, it will be your fellow students.  Don’t worry, you’ll recognize them.  They’ll be the ones pointing at you and laughing.

Most often, the ones laughing will be Jocks.  The Jocks are the ones who always seem to have the song “We are the Champions” playing in their heads.  They yearn for the glory of the title “Top Gym Student.” And in the fight for the prize, things may get ugly. 

Jocks compete so hard in gym to make up for inadequacies they feel in other areas.  Which, incidentally, is the same reason they treat you like crap.

They can be merciless ball-hogs and really bad sports.  You’ve probably had a volleyball spiked straight into your face by one, or at the very least you’ve had a Jock sigh in a pained way when he heard you were on his team.

Just as annoying as the Jock is the opposite extreme; These are the people who refuse to participate in the physical part of physical education, not because they can’t, but because they might break a nail.  Or mess up their perfect hair.  Or get dirt on their new Adidas sneakers and matching outfit.  Or sweat.

They stand in glittery, giggly, perfumed clusters, which can never be broken.  They must have difficulty getting out the locker room door.  Maybe that’s why they’ll always come out ten minutes after you’ve left -- or perhaps they’ve just been in a frenzied search for the all important Locker Room Mirror (which doesn’t exist).  They have to have some way to find out who’s the fairest of them all.

When they do arrive, they are inevitably put on your team, to stand entranced by some shiny object while you make your best effort to handle their responsibilities as well as your own.  Like you don’t have enough trouble just trying not to trip.

After all, you have the misfortune not to fall into either of these categories. You are the never-athletic, often-pathetic, average gym student.

From push ups to The Mile Run, you muddle through as best you can:

While running, you step on your too-baggy sweatpants, take a header on the freshly waxed floor, and skid a few feet on your stomach.

You wait until last to do the running long jump, only to realize that everyone is gathered at the end, watching -- as you fall on your face and send up a cloud of sand.

You somehow send your tennis racket flying over the net, even though you can’t seem to get the ball to go that way.

But no matter how tough and degrading high school gym classes may appear at first, remember: It’s really ten times worse!

But worrying about it won’t help, so the best thing to do is just grin and bear it.

Or, if cowering is more your style, the gym lockers are quite spacious. And they have air holes.

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