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SirBailey's avatar

Are High School gym classes any good at helping the overweight student rather than making him/her the laughing stock of the class?

Asked by SirBailey (3125points) June 14th, 2009

I remember when I went to high school I use to lose sleep over gym class because I was always the worse, the slowest, the weakest, etc. Fellow students used to laugh and so did the teachers. The kids that “can’t” should not compete with kids that “can”. You wouldn’t put a slow reader with advanced readers. Have the schools come a long way with this or are they still where they were in the 80’s?

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Joinni's avatar

In school I wasn’t fat but I wasn’t good at sport, I hated sports lessons and they didn’t make me like it or get me healthy in any way, it just made me hate the lessons more because I was versing people so much better than me.
I was against sports from the start so even versing people my own level wouldn’t really work but I think it would help.

SirBailey's avatar

@MrGeneVan, so all fat kids are lazy? That’s what it is?

Jayne's avatar

People who can and people who can’t shouldn’t be grouped together in any case, because it takes the fun and the challenge out of the game for everybody. As for self-esteem, perhaps there is some cause for concern, but one could also argue that it helps them learn the very valuable skill of not giving a shit about the opinions of immature people.

casheroo's avatar

Teachers should not encourage students to make fun of others. I would hope that my child would tell me, and I would want that teacher punished.
No one was ever deameaned in any gym class I had. Some people are just better at certain sports. I was great at field hocket and basketball, but put me on a volley ball team and I was screwed.
The point of physical education is to teach the children proper exercise habits, good exerice, and just plain ‘ol activity.
No one should be made to feel badly about themselves. Also, the larger kids in my school gave it their all, I don’t recall ever making fun of them or others doing that.

SirBailey's avatar

I went to a Catholic High School. In fact, I went to the same high school as Sonia Sotomayor.

DominicX's avatar

I agree with @Jayne. When I was in middle school, almost every time we played a sport, there was always an option to be in the “competitive” or “intermediate” group. We did that in high school sometimes, but not as often. I think it’s a good idea. Because I did see kids get made fun of, not necessarily because they were fat, but because they were not doing anything or were bad at it. I remember seeing one of my closest friends get made fun of and it made me quite angry.

We also never had to do the “schoolyard pick” thing. When my mom was a kid, everyone in gym class was together regardless of ability and people got made fun of and the people who were picked last were always picked last. I’m glad that seems to be a thing of the past.

I personally am athletic and had no problems with P.E. (other than I was no good at football or baseball—but not that big a deal), but I just think they should continue to have the option of the advanced and intermediate.

hug_of_war's avatar

I graduated high school in ‘06 and I hated gym. My best friend and I were always the slowest and the weakest. It didn’t encourage me to lose weight, it just made me feel bad about myself.

FutureMemory's avatar

I despised gym so much I found a way to avoid it all together – got my doc to recommend I be placed in “Adaptive” Phys Ed because I had (still have) severe flat feet
which made running laps/excessive walking very painful. (A podiatrist once told me I had the flattest feet he’d ever seen – felt so bad for me he treated me at zero cost – rare thing in NYC!).

Since I was a typical self-conscious teenager there was no chance in hell I was going to change clothes – or even worse – shower in front of a bunch of other kids on a regular basis. No way. I never saw the inside of the boys locker room, a fact I am still proud of 20 years later :)

DominicX's avatar

I find it interesting because we never showered in front of each other during P.E. in middle or high school. During the swimming unit, we showered afterwards, but we still had our bathing suits on. When people changed in and out of their bathing suits, they put a towel over themselves. No one saw anyone naked. Thank God for that…

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

It would be just as bad to segregate students based on athletic ability.

YARNLADY's avatar

I was subjected to that kind of behavior throughout my entire school career. It made me try to commit suicide when I was 18. I was very weak and could not do most of the activities required in gym class. The teacher thought a stong dose of humiliation was a good motivator.

Jayne's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic; In my experience overweight people, or people who are bad at sports in general, are not usually very sensitive about their lack of ability or fitness, but rather about people being mean and making fun of them. They should be mature enough to accept their shortcomings in certain areas, or if they aren’t, they really need to learn how; everyone is subject to sorting by ability at all stages of life. It is much less reasonable to expect them to be able to deal with the full brunt of their peers’ maliciousness.

SirBailey's avatar

@Jayne, “are not usually very sensitive about their lack of ability or fitness”...and you know this how?

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard said of people who have the problem in a LONG time, if not ever.

Jayne's avatar

I did say “in my experience”, and because a majority of my friends are vastly below average in terms of physical ability, and are not concerned by this in the least. They are perfectly able to maintain high self-esteem even when made acutely aware of their lack of athletic prowess. The conditions under which one may not be able to develop this characteristic is if they are not allowed the chance to have fun and learn to enjoy sports at their own level, free of ridicule; which is precisely the case when students are not separated by ability.

ubersiren's avatar

No. Gym classes everywhere are responsible for a sea of tears. I think it creates body issues and self esteem issues more than it helps. I was about average at sports, maybe a little below, but I both experienced and witnessed humiliation.

SirBailey's avatar

So High Schools haven’t changed as far as this?

Judi's avatar

I still have psychological trauma from grade school PE. I wished so hard that I wouldn’t be the “last chosen.” It was not a team sport, just some school PE thing. It seemed that if you were a poor athlete in my grade school you had no chance of being in the “in crowd.”
I trained and trained for a school track meet once. It was more work for me than for anyone as I had no natural ability at all. I was feeling pretty good because I was running at about 3rd place. I can still hear the burning from a “girl” friend on the side lines screaming, “Come on Judi, can’t you at least get 2nd?”
I slipped to 4th. All the heart, desire and spirit drained from this little girls soul.
I wish there was a non competitive physical activity option for kids like me at school. I love to play and I am sure lots of other kids do too. I think there is to much emphasis on competition and not enough emphasis on play.

hug_of_war's avatar

@Judi – One of the terrible moments burned in my memory was being picked dead last for a sport in PE class. It was down to me and this other kid and I thought surely people would prefer me over him, but no. I don’t think words can express the shame I felt.

Judi's avatar

@hug_of_war ; That was a daily occourance for me in grade school. What teh heck were those teachers thinking?

I just re read my last post and realized that the trauma still lives! I really needed to edit that a bit. now it’s to late.

DominicX's avatar


I don’t think it would be bad if students got to choose what they wanted to do and whom they wanted to be with. It doesn’t have to be the teacher selecting the “fat and slow” kids, but I like said, an option to be with “competitive” people or “recreational” (One of my P.E. teachers called it that). That way people who weren’t that good at the sport weren’t forced to be with people who could be on a real team.

Judi's avatar

@DominicX ; You had a wise teacher. This would be a healthier country if more schools adopted that approach.

SirBailey's avatar

How will we get schools to change when this type of child is in the minority in gym class?

cak's avatar

No, high schools haven’t changed, in regards to gym class and I doubt they will – at least anytime soon.

Gym class really isn’t the focus, right now. Due to budgets being slashed, everywhere, gym is only still being included because it’s a requirement. Generally, from what I gathered from my daughter was people were just basically herded through gym class and that was that. No true focus on anything, except passing the test at the end of the class.

I have mixed feelings on completely separating kids, due to abilities; however, I do see some benefits. Sometimes, though, putting a kid in an area where there will be more of a challenge is beneficial – if the teachers are motivating them and not allowing all the bullying from the other kids. I’m not really sure how long it’s been since you’ve been in gym – but a lot of schools have really cracked down on what a teacher can say to kids. It’s still not perfect, there are still jerks out there – but I think in regards to teachers, that has improved a bit. At least in my small area of the world.

Jayne's avatar

@cak; there is only ever a challenge when you do separate kids. Otherwise, the good players have no challenge from their competition, and the bad players are so outmatched, or so irrelevant to their team, that there really is nothing for them to do.

cak's avatar

@Jayne – I completely see you point. There are some activities my daughter’s school did that were okay to combine the levels – only because of the activity they were doing. They worked together, more than on a competitive level. They did unit on team building and trust exercises. Working together, all levels, was the goal of that unit; however, it only lasted a week or two.

Generally though, I don’t see high school as place where the idea of separating everyone into ability levels will work, at least not around here. They have just enough teachers to cover the minimum requirements. The two that were there had very different styles, the kids spent more time sitting waiting for them to work out their differences than actually doing things. Besides the fact that health and PE are a combined subject. X amount of weeks on book work, X amount of weeks doing actual physical activities. All in one semester. That’s it, she’s met her requirement for PE for graduation.

YARNLADY's avatar

@cak It could work if they are given a choice. However, it naturally happens with the ‘varsity team’ and the ‘b team’ and such, and I think it makes sense.

cak's avatar

@YARNLADY – The varsity and jr varsity are picked for competitive sports, though. Not daily gym class.

Another unfortunate thing in my daughter’s school, they were given numbers – say a “1–2” count. One’s on one team, Two’s on the other team. There really just wasn’t a lot of choices in their class.

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