To say I was unathletic as a child is an understatement of epic proportions.
It’s difficult to retain one’s self-confidence when it is a constant struggle to remain upright. My challenge was due in large part to my imagination. My head was usually in the clouds, dreaming of fairies, castles and Alvin and the Chipmunks, making it difficult for my brain to control the rest of my body, notably my legs.
When I wasn’t daydreaming, instead of looking where I was going, my gaze was fixed on the sidewalk, hunting for the gold and diamonds that I was certain someone had carelessly dropped.
Although I was fairly popular in elementary school, my social status did not prevent me from being the last one chosen for any team sport. Adding to this indignity, the team that was stuck with me usually groaned as I walked toward them, despite the fact that these were my best friends.
I couldn’t really blame them, as I was a definite liability in any sport that required a modicum of coordination, speed or agility. Even my family nicknamed me “Surefooted Sher” for my propensity to trip over absolutely nothing and land face down.
I lived with the constant sense of impending doom, partly because of my personality and partly because there was a very clear and present danger in elementary school, lurking each day during P.E.
I had a strong survival instinct, and when I saw a ball hurtling toward me like a heat-seeking missile, naturally I ran in the other direction or shielded my head and face to protect myself. I may have been uncoordinated and scrawny, but I was no idiot.
To this day I cannot grasp the logic of allowing frail little children to play Dodge Ball or Red Rover. By its very name Dodge Ball implies danger. You have to dodge the ball. Because someone is violently throwing it at your body, hoping to maim you.
In Red Rover, children form two lines facing each other and hold hands very tightly. When it’s your team’s turn you chant in unison, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Karen on over.” Karen, who is big and husky, comes barreling directly toward you and attempts to break the barrier that you and your teammates have made by holding each others’ hands like a vice grip. Karen charges like a torpedo between you and the person you were hanging onto. Your teammates are disgusted when you let go and allow Karen to pass, but you are secretly celebrating the fact that your tiny wrist is not broken.
The worst day of Physical Education was the President’s Council on Youth Fitness test. In the 60’s, children throughout the U.S. had to prove their physical prowess or lack thereof by being forced to take an annual athletic test, that came close to killing me every year.
Among the many exercises we performed was the 600-yard-dash, my personal nemesis that I was certain would be the cause of my untimely death. Before I was halfway through I began to pray, “Dear God, please let me faint so this can end.”
In the 7th grade I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and excused from P.E. for the duration of my education. Although I was in constant pain and convinced I would not survive to adulthood, I was always grateful for the get-out-of-gym-free card the universe had mercifully handed me, sparing me further humiliation and salvaging my last shred of dignity.
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