The physical education program in the Hamden Public school system was a series of peaks and valleys. The popularity of each activity rested on how much the activity made you sweat while participating. The less you sweat, the less likely it was to affect your appearance for your next class. Since so much of high school was based on looks, everyone tended to enjoy 6 weeks of badminton was followed by another 6 weeks of volleyball. Both of those were indoors and did not involve an arduous amount of moving around. The most popular was ice skating. Since our town’s public rink was on school property, the high school had access to it during the day. The awfulness of walking up all the football stadium steps to get there was canceled out by the fact that nobody had to get changed.
The worst activities included when the teachers gave into the cultural phenomenon that was Tae-Bo. I don’t care what popularity circle you are in, those videos made you a sweaty mess, and everyone in your next class could tell. Other less popular units included weight training, basketball and swimming. Our school had just gone through an extensive renovation period where we had a brand new swimming pool, and they were going to get their moneys worth.
I hated swimming, mostly because when I was younger I was terrified to go under water. I had always been in the lower groups until during one family trip to Texas I finally went tried it. Of course, that lead to a nasty case of Swimmer’s Ear, but that’s another story.
By the time high school started, I was an okay swimmer, not great, but I wasn’t going to die from drowning or fear. When I walked out to the pool area, the teacher came right over to me. I had missed the placement test because of Jewish holidays. There were two levels: advanced or beginner. Since both were already occupying the pool, I wasn’t tested; she just asked me which I would be more suited for.
I watched the advance class swim lap after full length lap and saw the beginner class flailing around in the shallow end, barely able to walk, playing with a beach ball. Some occasionally went underwater, but most didn’t.
What decision would you have made?
For the next four weeks I was back to my childhood swimming level. I gingerly entered the pool, playing up my former fears and feigned excitement over any minor advancement. I thought this was the best play I could have made – gym was never easier. Of course, when I told my mom, she chewed me out for taking the easy road. My argument of “high school swimming doesn’t matter” was countered with “first this, then what?” We had reached the stand off of gym class apathy against mother’s guilt. I decided not to bring it up until we switched sports. When that happened, I promised my mom I would give 100% effort during badminton.