This practice is
not confined to the boys' gym. Many a girl develops a loathing for sports in
the fifth and sixth grades because of an overzealous, bullying teacher. Another
highly regarded method is called "group control." The teacher gets the
class to bring pressure on the "offender" by encouraging sarcasm and
ridicule. This is most effective and should develop a lasting hate in the
ill-coordinated boy for his body and for all sports.
This kind of thing
is unjust to the point of stupidity. In the classroom, because the required
work is gauged to meet individual needs, any ordinary child, with an honest
effort, can memorize the spelling words or trace the maps at a given age.
Similarly, we should recognize that no two children have the same muscle
control and coordination. They are being punished and ridiculed for something
they have no control over. And what child wouldn't try his heart out to avoid
such a situation?
With so much
emphasis on skill, we have made childhood athletics a grim business. We have
replaced the fun with hard work, the enjoyment with furious determination. We
have made achievement of excellence the only goal. Thus when we fail (and it is
inevitable that most of us do) we withdraw ashamed and embarrassed. Businessmen
on the golf course have made the game of golf into a deadly affair. My neighbor
broke a $65 putter over his knee and threw it in the river because he wasn't
playing a consistently good game. In a women's bowling league I observed the
captain of the first-place team padding the score because it was losing that
afternoon. A friend of my husband wished he were in better condition. He added,
however, that he would be so "poor" at any sport now he'd feel like a
fool getting a workout in the gym.
This is the crux
of the whole matter. We must decide what it is we really want—a few champions
or a nation of healthy, fit citizens. If only the Beethovens were allowed to
use musical instruments, only the Van Goghs paints, the Rodins clay, the
Hemingways typewriters, this would be a sad world indeed. Yet in sports we have
lost our perspective and our sense of humor. It has become a cult for the
dedicated few while the rest of us worship from the bleachers.
Give sports back
to the rejects, to the imperfect and the ill-coordinated. As Webster says:
"sport That which diverts, and makes mirth; pastime; diversion."
MRS. RICHARD J. ROSS
Ann Arbor, Mich.