Monday, January 09, 2006


I got into an interesting discussion about co-ed gym class on Saturday.

I think it was after the discussion about piercings when I said that nose piercings were cool and Chelsea said "why don't you get one?" Hmm. There's a thought.

Anyway, the topic turned to gym--phys ed--and I asked the girls, Cavio and Chelsea and Stephanie--if gym in middle and high school was still co-ed. They said it was.

"Co-ed gym. Now that was a really dumb idea. I'm surprised they still do it."

"I like playing against the guys," said Chelsea.

"Well, you're good at sports, Chelsea," I countered. "What about girls who aren't?"

I was talking from experience here.

Having gone to jr. high and high school in the 70's, I was one of the first generations of girls to be affected by Title IX; I believe that's the name of the law which insisted that boys and girls receive equal instruction in sports.

Equal? OK. Let's put them all together in the same class.

Personally, that didn't make my physical education equal to that of the boys.

In junior high, gym was run "pre-Title IX." We were separated by sex. I liked it.

The girls learned basketball, volleyball, softball, probably much like the boys did. But we also did gymnastics: trampoline, balance beam, bars. We learned archery, which I liked, and cheerleading, which made me feel silly.

Still, I didn't feel as far behind the others as I did in late elementary school, where boys and girls took gym together, and my lack of physical fitness and coordination seemed more apparent next to the blooming strength and speed of 5th and 6th grade boys.

In junior high, there were other small skinny (or tall skinny, or overweight) girls with no coordination or strength, and the teachers could help us at our own level. We made up an interest group on our own.

In high school, my first phys ed class was not only co-ed, but all-grades (that would be 10-12 grade). So there I was trying to play basketball with senior boys! Ridiculous! Did I even PLAY any basketball that semester? I think not. I remember kind of darting around on the court, trying alternately to get someone's attention and not get run over.

I figured it out the next time. I signed up for all the individual sports: swimming, fitness (running and weight lifting), golf. Now THAT worked! One of my prouder memories from high school gym class was running with Mr. Pheneger, the boys' basketball coach and gym teacher! He was running with me! With Jane, the non-athletic one of the family!

Still, I wonder if maybe all this equlity--and maybe the co-ed gym class stuff--has actually helped girls in the long run.

I pointed this out to the girls at TKD.

"When I was in school, very very few girls went out for sports. You had to be very serious and talented and kind of an independent spirit," I told them. "But now, it seems like there are so many sports choices for girls, and girls seem ready to take them. Maybe playing against boys in gym has helped!"

It's definitely true for the TKD girls I was talking with. Chelsea plays volleyball, Cavio plays tennis, and Stephanie runs track and plays basketball (so does Alissa, I believe).

"You don't have to be super great at some sport to play sports anymore. You can just like it and go out for it, like the boys do."

Of course that's not always good, as Chelsea pointed out. "Yeah, there are girls on the team who like volleyball but they aren't very good at all," she laughed.

Well, I suppose equality also might mean cutting people from teams or having plenty of bench-warmers, too.

I think I still prefer those individual sports.

Tell me what you think about co-ed sports in school--stories from your past or present!

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