There is an Athlete in Each of us!

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36501_700679470738_447928094_nRemember P.E. class? Do you remember how you felt about taking a break from the metal exercise of math and science to give your body a chance to move? Some students can’t wait to escape their desk chairs to run, jump, and play. Others dread this hour of the day more than going to the dentist. They dread being picked last, being laughed at, being marginalized, and made to feel inferior.

We recently received the following open letter from a runner named Jane (photo left) on our facebook page:


Open Letter to my Former P.E. Teachers:

You missed your opportunity. You had a runner in your class. You had someone who LOVES running right in front of you and you didn’t give her the time of day. Instead, what you saw was an overweight, shy, introverted girl. You dismissed her, and so many others like her.

Here are a few things I wish you would have told me:

1 – Don’t be afraid of your muscles hurting and the hard breathing. These are signs that your body is working.
2- You don’t have to compare yourself to another person or anyone else’s standard. Keep striving to be better than you were yesterday.
3 – You are stronger than you think you are. You have to dig in to find it.
4 – I believe in you. You need to believe in you, also.
5 – When today is hard, remember there’s always tomorrow.
6 – This is about a life-long process; it’s not simple and it’s not for the short-sighted.
7 – It’s okay for it to be hard; it’s supposed to be.

I hope that the children who are in your care now learn these things and are not having the same shame pounded into them. Every child is an opportunity to share your passion. I hope you will.

Unfortunately, Jane’s experience is not unique. Many students have a bad experience in P.E. classes, or get so caught up in comparing their athletic ability with others, that they will do anything to avoid feeling that way again. They learn to associate physical activity and the athletic arena with failure and negative emotions. The athlete living inside them is at risk of being buried forever.

A great art teacher finds the artist in each student.  A great music teacher finds the musician. Great P.E. teachers, and there are many of them, have the ability to find and value the athlete in each of us. They understand that athletes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. They inspire a life-long appreciation of activity, movement, and physical challenge.

If you know, or had, a great P.E. teacher be sure to let them know you appreciate what they do. If, like Jane, you had a bad experience, remember that you ARE an athlete. Give your inner athlete a chance and you might be surprised just how good it feels to set it free!

*We (Adam and Tim) would like to take a moment to thank our P.E. teachers. We were lucky to have excellent ones who made every student feel valued and validated.


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6 Responses to “There is an Athlete in Each of us!”

  1. Sierra Stevens

    I HATED PE class. It wasn’t because of the teachers I had but because of the kids in that class. I was/am slightly overweight for my age and height and I grew up with the same 22+ kids, always had classes with them, and when it came to PE, they always picked me last or excluded me from their groups. Not only that, they would pick on me and how ‘stupid’ I looked trying to run, or play basketball. But now I’m training for my first marathon while they’re just partying and wasting their lives. So really I want to thank the crazy punks I grew up with for motivating me to run and be better than they said I was :) because if it weren’t for their teasing, I don’t think I would be getting ready for the Colfax full marathon in the spring :)

  2. Laura

    I love this post! I also hated P.E. class and I now love running.

    I actually had an extremely overweight P.E. teacher who used to send us running up to the track behind our school and she followed…in her car. I was generally in the back of the pack of kids running to the sports fields. One magical day, I was among the first kids to arrive at the softball back stop, the teacher thought that I must have cheated by cutting across the field, so she sent me to run laps. Just take that in for a moment, the first time I ran fast and hard and got there with the first wave of kids, I was sent to run laps. As you can imagine, this did not motivate me to try harder.

    Now, running is my “me” time, my prayer time, my escape and reward and highlight of my day. I have encouraged others to join me.

    I was also the runner, hidden in the chubby, slow kid.

    Thanks for this post.

  3. Lindsay

    I have had excellent physical education experiences and not so excellent physical education experiences. I remember beating the boys often and them trying to come up with ways to hurt me or beat me in a race. I am a Physical Education Teacher a Girl’s Cross-Country and Track & Field coach as well as an avid runner. It is 100% correct in saying that each student is going to be at a different fitness level in a physical education class. It is so important to access each student to know each of their fitness levels so that each student and myself can begin making achievable fitness goals. I look at each student as an aspiring athlete and I their personal trainer. It is vital that each student know that a zero tolerance rule for bullying applies in my Physical Education class. It is my absolute goal that each student by the end of the year know how to live and lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

  4. Joleen

    My mom put me in all sports at a young age. She never did any sports- always worked- but gave me a chance to try everything. I did dance, gymnastics, running, swimming, skiing, soccer, and volleyball. From there I had a mixed bag of p.e. teachers- as well as classroom teachers – and coaches….. No one at school encouraged me to go to college, and at home they were shocked when I did. I am the first college graduate in my family, and am proud to say I am a p.e. teacher of 15 years. I love all my kids and try to promote an active lifestyle, I coach and am a triathlete. Unfortunately I have many students that only remember the hardest part of p.e. – running… I hope all of my students will see that I care about each one of them and am trying to encourage a healthy lifestyle, but they are kids and more than likely many of them don’t see the kindness in their teachers actions. I will continue to strive to promote a lifetime of fitness to my students, and I have a request to you parents out there. Value your children, and their wellness. Encourage fitness. Go on walks and bike rides together. Put them in sports, cheer them on no matter what. At the end of the day it’s the people closest to them that will give them the biggest push. Thanks mom!

  5. Jess

    This is exactly why I decided to become a PE teacher. I want to create a positive experience for students where they LEARN the skills necessary to become lifelong movers. There is a large population in our nation that is inactive and I can’t overlook that, with the fact that many people had bad experiences in PE class while growing up. I am determined to change the stereotypical PE class of playing dodgeball and running the mile. I will teach students skills, involve them in cooperation activities, and above all create a safe environment where they know they will succeed.

  6. urbanvegan

    I was very fortunate to have had a fabulous high school PE teacher. Even though I sucked at team sports and was always picked last (No hand-eye coordination which I why I became a runner! ;) I never felt bad about it. But I had a terrible algebra teacher who used to intimidate and embarrass me, and to this day, I have a bit of a math phobia–the same principle.

    My heart goes out to Jane–and good for her for turning her negative experience into a positive one that may also helps others! Run, Jane, run!!!

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