“PE was the most horrendous experience of my life.”– Twixxi
A strong statement… but for many, the feeling was steadfast. After all, rarely do we hear of any school subject being as polarising as PE.
For all the kids who found it to be the highlight of their timetable, others would spend an hour hiding in the toilets – and given the nauseating nature of most public facilities, we can rest assured that this was not for leisure (or, as was more often the accustion, laziness).
Where some children found their talents on the football pitch, others would experience unrivalled embarrassment and shame. So much so, half of all girls (51%) are put off physical activity by their experiences of school sport and PE.
Talk to your peers – of all genders – and you’ll soon find that negative experiences of sport in childhood are extremely common. While some find a passion re-ignited in adulthood, others remain fearful of re-living the past, desperately shrinking their potential.
Here are some of the most common ways that our school PE lessons dropped the ball – and how your experience of sport, as an adult, could be dramatically different.
1. Social Rejection
“I was bullied at school and, as a result, wasn’t accepted by my peers when we played team sports. I also developed a chronic illness, which made PE difficult. This transpired to be stress-related; I felt so much better when I went to university.”– Jess
Sports require physical and mental strength in order to perform well.
Many people remember the gut-churning feeling of being ‘picked last’ for the team, as well as having their performance openly mocked once gameplay commenced. This was often a symptom of sitting outside of the clique.
At a time when you need to be at your most tenacious, feeling humiliated and rejected during sporting activity is not concurrent with performance or enjoyment.
The stress of rejection can also have negative affects on our health and wellbeing, right there in the moment – headaches and nausea being amongst the most common. This is far displaced from the positive health benefits that we know sports can – and should – bring.
“I was placed with the boys for PE lessons, and they were really boisterous. I just felt like I was in a room full of people who weren’t on my wavelength. I preferred to be in solitude, so liked running. When I was allowed to participate in classes with the girls, I felt much happier; but this was rare.”– Luna
The separation of children by gender can cause acute difficulties for those who are trans or nonbinary – spoiling their chance to participate in sports they enjoy, with the people who they feel most comfortable around.
The disadvantages expand to young people who are cisgender, too.
Aligning sport with gender reinforces negative and damaging stereotypes, often surrounding strength and sensitivity. It seems almost incredible that this is still an enduring issue, with some of our peers noting that these rules were so stringently enforced, they needed to petition to access sports that were not traditionally available.
How could we grow our athletic skills with confidence and freedom, when being put in a pigeonhole was considered part of the package?
3. Peer Pressure
“I like being competitive, so I would attempt team sports at school. I thought I’d be good at it – but the community around those activities would put me off.”– Kate
It might’ve only been Year 10 hockey club, but the stakes felt huge.
Being capable isn’t a magic bullet in regard to confidence. In fact, it can sometimes feel like further to fall – especially if your parents, teammates and coach all seemed to be pushing you harder than ever.
The thought of ‘letting the team down’ – accompanied by audible sighs of frustration – only needs to become a reality once, before acting as a lasting deterrent.
You could have all the tenacity to succeed, but still believe that it wasn’t worth the aggravation; especially when your mistakes could be waved in your face like gym knickers on a flagpole.
“I can still see the showers in our school. Just makes me shudder.”– Louise
Even if you loved to play sport at school, being forced to use communal showers was often sufficient fuel to start forging sick notes.
Whether it was the facilities, the kit or the public wheezing, there was nowhere to hide in PE. At least in other subjects, the task was between you and your textbook; by contrast, PE could feel almost invasive.
So… Do you identify with any of these feelings? Have you spent your adult years avoiding team sports, based on your childhood experience?
You don’t need to resign yourself to treadmills in the gym, or resistance bands at home.
Where PE may have scored a D- in your educational history, roller derby attempts to raise the grade – and help you to resolve any insecurities that linger.
“I didn’t like sports at school and I don’t like playing them now. I have MS which makes physical participation difficult. But, I still volunteer with a derby team. I like the atmosphere and I like derby. There is a place for everyone.”– Sam
If the idea of playing hard and fast doesn’t quite appeal to your nature (and you can find out more about roller derby here) the sport welcomes – and requires – ‘off skates’ members to act as Non Skating Officials, amongst other league roles. Similarly, there’s a pressing need for on-skates referees.
If you’d like to play the game in full, roller derby has a gender policy which will support you to compete wherever you feel comfortable and – although you’ll see plenty of crop tops and booty shorts – we’ll be just as happy if you show up in jogging bottoms and a jumper.
Offering support for every stage of your journey – whether that’s learning to skate a lap, how to call a penalty or how to knock another skater off their feet – roller derby is there to pick you up when you fall, while also encouraging you to get up that little bit faster.
Leave your insecurities at the school gate – It’s time for a physical re-education.
Southampton City Rollers are recruiting new members, for a limited time. Register now for our intake event.
To find out more about roller derby in your area, contact us today.