Monday, November 27, 2000

Dodge Ball Is Destroying Our Kids

Sorry, gym teachers, you’ll have to find something else to do on those rainy days when your class is stuck inside. In Cecil County, Maryland, school officials want to ban the game of Dodge Ball.

Why must Dodge Ball go? Because they say schools should be teaching cooperation and teamwork, and Dodge Ball is all about individualism. And they say the game may cause some kids to lose self-esteem if they get hit and knocked out of the game.

This is not the conclusion of gym teachers, but of school administrators and their consultants, like Judith Young, who advises school districts on physical education. She says, “The notion of throwing things at people, pegging people with other objects, is contrary to what we’re teaching elsewhere in school.”

So is tackling, Judy. You want to ban football next?

She also complains that kids will lose self-esteem if they’re eliminated early in the game, and we can’t have that. Amazing that a woman can consult on physical education without understanding some of the basic concepts of sports. For instance: someone has to win, someone has to lose -- someone will be first, someone will have to be last!

Before you know it, we’ll stop grading kids on how they’re doing academically, because the ones who don’t score high enough might...wait, I’d better stop before I give them any ideas.

What are you going to do about running around the track? Tell the faster kids that they shouldn’t be so speedy because that might make the slower kids feel bad? Does everyone now have to run at the exact same pace?

Actually, that would have helped me in junior high, when I cared so little about running around an oval that even the fat kids would lap me. But my disinterest had nothing to do with losing self-esteem on the track. It had everything to do with puberty, and not wanting to have to take a shower in the gym locker room at the same time my body was undergoing those transformations. Believe me, I trained long and hard to learn just the pace I could run without breaking a sweat. No sweat, no shower.

Cecil County is not the only school system making changes like this. Dodge Ball and Kickball -- even Basketball! -- are being replaced around the country by smaller games or individual exercise regimens. How an individual exercise regimen fits into the teamwork concept, I have no idea.

Next, they’ll eliminate your basic game of tag. There’s probably some psychology to show that being “it” for too long a period can destroy a kid’s self-esteem. Hide and seek has to go, too. It’s a documented fact that both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were certified “seekers,” and you know what happened to them.

Other changes to be made under the new Esteem-Enhancing Sports Rules:

Baseball: Three strikes and you’re still in.
Volleyball: No hitting the ball where the other team isn’t.
Basketball: The vertically-challenged won’t feel left out with a lower net.
Hockey: The goalie has been eliminated as a wasteful obstacle.
Bowling: Keep going, you’ll get all the pins down eventually.
Soccer: All players may use their hands at any time.
Tennis: You may hit the ball no matter how many times it has bounced.
Track & Field: Time and distance no longer affect your score. We just want a good effort.

What Judy and her pals don’t understand is the one thing that makes Dodge Ball fun. The idea is NOT to go after the fat kid, the slow kid, the geeky kid, etc. Any true Dodge Ball player knows that the best part is going after your best friend. If you can throw that big rubber ball at your closest pal and hit them hard enough to leave a bright red mark on their thigh, your day is made!

Of course, if they catch it and wing it back at you, then you could be the one spending the rest of the game sitting down, drawing patterns in your reddened flesh with your fingertip. But you always know there will be another chance in another game on another day.

Unless you live in Cecil County, Maryland, that is.