If you know me or have been reading things here long enough, you know that I've never been good at sports. Any sport. Ever. I'm uncoordinated, slow, lazy, have poor reflexes and lack depth perception. I was a chubby kid. I'm afraid of the ball.
So it would not surprise you to learn that I hated PE as a kid. I hated it so much. I think it must be the same way my students feel about reading: a thing teachers make them do in front of everyone to demonstrate how much they suck at it. And it seems like it's pretty easy for basically everyone else.
It would also then not surprise you to know that I did not have much love in my heart for my PE teachers. I kind of figured they chose physical education out of a desire to torture children. Maybe they also wanted to play sports all day, but probably it was mostly the torture thing.
If you know me or have been reading things here long enough, you also know that my BFF Amy and I have known each other since God was a boy.
Or at least since children could be imprisoned inside fiberglass hamburgers.
She was basically our much taller triplet from another mother. To say she was the athlete of the three of us would not be much distiction since my sister possesses roughly the same athletic prowess as I do. Amy, on the other hand, was a three season athlete in high school and played college basketball. So yeah, she's real sporty.
I kind of envied Amy coming out of college because it felt like she found her calling right away. She became a PE teacher and coach. Of course she did because it was perfect for her. She's athletic and great with kids. I wrote a post long ago in which I talked about there maybe being one word to describe a place or person and the word I immediately think of for Amy is play. Yes, we played a lot of Barbies togehter as kids and she played sports, but she's also just playful in general. And while I'd rather sit and watch, Amy wants to get out there and play. Put her in, Coach, she's ready.
Over the years, Amy has completely ruined my judgments regarding PE teachers. I mean, sure, there are PE teachers who choose the job because it seems easy and they can wear basketball shorts to work and yell a lot. And sure, I think Amy does like that she can play sports at her job. But she also really, really cares about what she does. She cares that kids learn the value of teamwork and physical activity. She cares that they challenge themselves. She cares, like I do with reading, that kids try their best at these things that she loves and knows are good for them.
And she cares about the kids like me who would rather be anywhere else in the world than in the gym or on the field feeling perpetually humiliated. I always figured my PE teachers hated having me in their classes, being bad at everything they wanted me to be good at. And maybe some of them did, the way some teachers only want the kids who are good at math or writing or music. But most of them were probably more like Amy, who loves the kids like me and really wants to help them find a way to succeed.
I didn't learn until I was in my 30s the benefits of physical activity, which go beyond improved health, to improved self-confidence and finding positive feelings toward my body based not on how it looks, but on what it can do. Once I understood that, I could better understand what drives Amy. Like a lot of people, she thinks sports are fun and wants to share that joy with kids. But she also sees beyond that to the even more important parts of what she does. I get that now. It gives me a whole new respect for PE teaching as a noble profession and it makes me love Amy even more than I already did. Which was a lot.
Thank you, Amy, for putting your heart, sweat, and time into helping kids become stronger, healthier, and more brave. Thank you for being the athlete in my life who never treated me as less than for being terrible at sports. Thank you for 30 years of playing together. Here's to 60 more.