Saturday, September 5, 2009

Getting Physical

"That will be twenty-five silly sentences for you, mister man!" No sound was more dreaded throughout Eddington Elementary school than those spirit-crushing words from Mrs. Ford's thundering voice.

My class wrote enough "silly sentences" to fill up a notebook. I did my share after one particularly exciting food fight.

But if you believe conventional wisdom about behavior management, you have to assume most of Mrs. Ford's students now hate writing or are no good at it (exhibit number one: yours truly).
If you want kids to love something, don't punish them with it. It's a sound principle, but in some cases it's being taken too far.

Did you know you're not supposed to make kids exercise, or withhold them from recess, as a form of punishment?

The Centers for Disease Control has its underwear in a bunch over the number of gelatinous, Stay-Puft Marshmallow kids squishing their way into our schools these days, and urges anyone supervising young people to avoid doing anything that would lead them to associate exercise with anything negative. You can find numerous other health and educational professionals who feel the same way.

Aren't they over-thinking things a bit?

As a boy, I loved basketball. It was pretty much all I did in my spare time. Then I got to high school, where my coach went out of his way to make sure I knew I had virtually no skills. He labeled me a "stiff" and made sure I never touched the ball in practice. He also made us run suicide drills and five-man weaves until we nearly choked to death on our own sweat. My Freshman year, every time someone missed a free throw in practice, we all had to run.

After high school, I continued to play ball whenever I could, often going to the gym to shoot free throws by myself for hours at a time. These days, if I weren't parenting and working all the time rather than dribbling and shooting, I could still shoot 90%. My high school coach's negativity failed to destroy my passion for the sport.

More evidence? Let's see... back in junior high, I watched a ton of WWF wrestling with my brother, absorbing the uber-masculine ethos and highly questionable treatment of women. I still remember Hulk Hogan's epic battle against Sgt. Slaughter, who sided with Iraq during the first gulf war, the traitor. When Slaughter put him in his famous "Camel Clutch," I feared the worst.

The referee kept asking if Hulk wanted to submit, and Hulk always managed to vigorously shake his head "no," even though his jaw was in the firm grasp of a 300-pound man sitting on his back. That just goes to show you the power of believing in America.

Anyway, no one watched more wrestling than I did during summer of 1990, but somewhow, regrettably, I did not turn into a steroid-crazed bodybuilder who thinks women are only good for wearing bikinis and distracting authority figures so I can hit someone with a folding chair.

We often forget that role models and adult influences make more a difference than anything else. My mother deserves credit for being a strong female influence in my life. My father instilled my competitive streak and my interest in sports.

No coach or pro wrestler could stand a chance against my parents. Especially not with Mrs. Ford on their side.

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