Athletic Skillz According to 12 Year Old Me

embarrassing stories, childhood tales, high jump, PE class, gym class, athletic, elementary school, true stories, childhood tales, when i was a kid,

Grade seven PE class is the first thing that comes to mind when my athletic skillz are in question.

For some reason, Grade Seven PE teachers are obsessed with high jump the way a French teacher is Le Obsessed with Roch Voisine. Two pillars of excellence in their fields.

My pillar of excellence was avoiding participation in the majority of PE classes for my entire school career, with honorary mention of eluding the ‘high jump’.

It really is one of the worst activities ever invented.

I’m not sure who thought it up or how it ever received endorsement from any school board. 

“We are gonna hang a metal bar in the air, kids will run as fast as they can towards it and then jump up into the air, swinging their bodies over it for a horizontal landing.”

“Horizontal landing, eh? Onto what?”

“A giant shitty mat that every person from every PE class has slobbered on. We will also ensure it puffs out ancient molecules of air and slides across the floor upon impact.”

“Hmmm….sounds pretty good so far, but I’m not sure about that bar. Does it have to be metal?”

“Well, we thought about tying a ribbon to two poles but we spent all our budget on drafty, ill-fitting PE gear. We can’t afford to use new ribbon each time someone misses the high jump. Anyhoo, Gary knows a guy and we can buy a metal bar for $5 from the salvage yard and cover up the rust holes with worn out pieces of hockey tape.”

“Well, I’m still a little concerned about having kids run at metal bars. I don’t want any injuries or lawsuits on our hands.”

“Good point. Gary did some digging and Science told him that landing on the bar only causes injury to females who pretend to make out with Tiger Beat centerfolds of Devon Sawa and pre-pubescent males allergic to bee stings, upper body strength and cotton. “

“Well this sounds like a cost-effective, safe and practical athletic activity that will teach valuable life skills! HIGH JUMP APPROVED!”
High jump seemed like a rite of passage for most of the boys in my class, and sporty girls named Staci who were already wearing sports bras when you were still mustering up the courage to ask your mom about buying a v-neck shirt.
I’m gonna call it survivor instinct that I wanted to avoid the high jump. It didn’t seem like a wise plan to hurl all sixty pounds of my flailing body at a metal bar in a failed attempt at getting my brain to make my feet run, knees bounce, arms shoot up and zoom myself into the air like tranquilized Free Willy all in perfect timing to achieve the high jump. 
I also wanted to avoid the public embarrassment aspect of it. There is always someone who hits the bar. A failure announced by a power whistle from the teacher and an unsympathetic hollow silence from the line up of classmates standing along the cold brick wall.
It’s also a test of friendship. When you knock down that bar you have to replace it on the holders a task that is too difficult to do alone, who is gonna help you? And are they gonna see your fall and run out to your aide? Or will you find yourself scanning the crowd for one true friend to help you replace it onto the holder and do the walk of shame back to the cold line up of whispers and trash talking.
I was able to hold out the first few classes that involved high jump by excuse of a stomach ache. Then the day came I would have to shiver in that line of skittish small talk and wait my turn. 
I talked myself into it. I could pretend that mat is like a giant cloud. Maybe I could run short distances as fast as I can will my feet. Maybe I eject myself upwards with ease I’ve never imagined. Heck! MAYBE I would even be good at high jump. Imma do this. I’m gonna do high jump. 
So, my turn…..

I’m somewhere between anxiety-ridden and motivated by the misguided pre-teen belief that all eyes were on me. I run hard. And by hard I mean my feet and arms move in the broken sequence of a cat dancing on stilts. I need to time it right. The jump has to be timed perfectly. Too soon and I’ll land on the floor. Too late and I’m hitting the metal bar mid trajectory, mid abdomen…..

But, uh oh, now I’m approaching too fast…. I should have jumped…. I didn’t Jump!! There’s no time to jump! So, I dive. Dive with arms in front of me, flexed feet and loose legs trailing behind me. I skim under that bar and glide onto that germy vinyl mat with a painless landing.  

I feel exhilarated, like I just won a street fight with a burly girl who tried to steal my fanny pack. My survival skills helped me avoid bodily harm and the walk of shame. I might even be a PE guru! I’ve solved the HIGH JUMP! Release the confetti cannons, I’ve figured it out everyone! We can all go home and read Tiger Beat now! YOU are welcome. 

Then the whistle blows, twice?! Must be cause I’m so dang impressive. Then I hear the bassy uninterested tones of teacher “next time jump OVER the bar”.  I retreat like an injured spider back into the cold line. To the back, as if we were sorted by our athletic prowess. 

Staci tries to give me some tips. I interrupt her and say I have to pee. I slowly fade back through the change room door and stay in there for the rest of class.

The Bathroom Fadeaway would forever become my trademark avoidance tactic, and I would never attempt the high jump again.

What was one school activity you hated?

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13 thoughts on “Athletic Skillz According to 12 Year Old Me”

  1. Ok this is hilarious! And awkwardly painful at the same time… I loved Devon Sawa and actually mourned that if we ever got married my name would be Sarah Sawa (Read out loud and giggle). My P.E. Nemesis’ were cartwheels and push-up… I swear I was born with t-rex arms.

  2. I was really good at high jump, so I’m sorry for all of this. 😉

    However, this piece is so wonderfully written that I spat tea all over my cell.

  3. High school ballroom and square dancing….. i still sometimes have nightmares. And fist bump to Tiger Beat. I also had a pretty intense crush on Devon Sawa, only to be beat out by JTT.

  4. I failed PE 10 because i couldn’t run around the field and i refused to play grass hockey…..undoubtedly the most viscious sport ever invented! I also hated basketball, all 4′ 11″ of me. Tennis used to terrify me with that yellow ball coming at me at 100 miles an hour. My PE teachet was Harry Jerome’s wife (he was a very famous black runner). She was white and thought basketnsll, grass hockey, and tennis were the only sports we needed to know.


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