Friday, November 10, 2006

Dodgeball Rocks!...

I know there are a lot of recent public school banning s of dangerous activities (like tag???). I've heard a few comments about dodgeball being a source of segregation and an excuse for the bigger and more popular kids to pick on the smaller, less popular kids. I agree with all that. But remembering dodgeball always makes me smile.

It was raining outside, so we had an "inside day" for gym class. We had large gym classes with 75-90 students. There was a male coach and a female coach, so the locker rooms could be supervised and the class didn't become completely out of control. Of course, the female coach never left her office in the locker room and lots of nasty things happened in there all the time, but I'm sure their intentions were good, right? On inside days, the gym was divided into two parts with a huge curtain hanging from the ceiling, with different activities going on in each area. On this particular day, our choices were volleyball and dodgeball.

All the girls in the class went to the volleyball side, by "choice" of course, where the female coach was managing games. I hated volleyball, so I went to the dodgeball side. To tell the truth, I assumed there would be at least a few girls over there and may have stayed and played sucky volleyball had I known I would be alone with all those jerks. After you cross the curtain, though, you're stuck. And I'd already been spotted by the -slightly amused- coach. The fact that he found humor in me choosing to play dodgeball irritated me. I was not a particularly athletic person, but I was healthy and not afraid to break a nail or mess up my hair by running or jumping.

The coach started dividing people into two teams. He nobly announced that he would do the picking, so nobody had hurt feelings by being picked last. He then proceeded to pick his favorites first, those boys who played football, the wrestlers, etc. I was one of the last 3 to be picked off and the numbers were uneven, so he decided to stick an extra person on my team, saying, "I'll give you guys the odd man out, since you have a girl on your team." I guess I was having a bad day, because I went off on the coach. I yelled right in his face, "How dare you assume I can't play as well as these losers?" I told him I could throw and catch a ball just as good as any boy and could probably dodge better. I don't really remember everything I said in that brief bitchfest, but I ended it with, "You sexist asshole!"

The wrestlers and football players, who answered to this same coach during their sport season, stood in shock. The coach regained his composure and replaced his own shocked look with the former smug amusement. "Well," he said, chuckling, "We'll just see." I never tried so hard at anything in gym class more than that game. We stomped them. I wasn't the last one standing or anything, but I was one of the last five on my team, and we won. I was sweating and beaming with triumph and flashed the coach an "I told you so" look on my way to the showers.

I used to say that I earned the coach's respect that day, since he was nice to me from that point on. He said hello in the halls. He never questioned anything I did in gym class again, even when I opted for weightlifting over the giggly, girly cliquefest that the female coach called aerobics. The truth is, he fell back on the common defense of Shut Up And She Won't Bitch Anymore. It didn't matter though, because that event was a turning point for me in high school. I surprised myself by standing up to an authority, and found it was a whole lot easier to stand up to other students. Who knows what would have happened if I never found my voice.

Maybe I wouldn't be homeschooling now.

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