Friday Five – Five things I remember about PE at school

A selection on vintage hockey sticks.

This week’s Friday Five is ‘5 things I remember about Physical Education classes at school’.

1. The PE kit

I went to an independent girls’ school, so we had a truly hideous PE kit – yellow aertex t-shirts with brown PE knickers – urgh. To make matters worse, we had to store our PE kits in red drawstring bags that weren’t easy to carry, so most people only took them home at the end of term (or possibly half term), so a lot of people had really stinky PE kits – yuk!

2. Picking teams

Apart from when my best friend was selected as Captain, I can’t remember being picked first, but I can’t say that I was scarred by not being selected. There were only 21 people in my class, so after 14 people had been chosen to play netball, the remnants got to play a version of netball on the other court. As the only person who hadn’t played netball before secondary school (there were only 3 other people in my class at primary school), I had no idea of the rules, so it didn’t bother me that I rarely got to play properly.

3. Two laps of the track as a warm up

This felt like such a punishment. I have no idea just how slowly I ‘ran’ at that stage, but I’m sure the warm up took longer than the lesson. (We only had 35 minutes, which included the time it took to walk to and from the main school buildings and changing time).

Southampton Athletics track

4. ‘Standards’

Miss Lucas, the PE teacher, had a file of ‘standards’, which is the level that she expected us to reach for each track and field discipline. These were modified slightly for each year group, but were based on the ESAA Standards (for county and national championships). I think I failed to meet every standard, which was very demoralising. I did try to remonstrate with Miss Lucas on a couple of occasions as I was ‘up a year’ at school and some of my classmates were 18 months older than me, but she seemed entirely unconcerned. I sometimes looked at the standards for the year below and felt slightly heartened by the fact that I could actually achieve some of them.

5. Carefully selecting a role that meant I didn’t have to interact with a ball

I hate ball sports – I just don’t have the required coordination to catch a ball and am always afraid that I’m going to get hit. I quite enjoyed batting in rounders matches, but when it came to fielding, I tended to be put in deep field where no-one ever hit the ball. Hockey was the sport that terrified me the most. We didn’t wear shinpads, so getting hit by the ball was painful. My chosen role was Right Back as it meant that I didn’t really have to engage with the game and could spend my lessons chatting to Lizzy, who usually played Left Back.

What are your memories of school PE?

10 Responses

  1. Ugh memories. The bleep test. HATING sports day because we all had to compete in something and I was awful at everything (except the longer distance running but these were so unpopular that the only kids who did them were REALLY good). I was once second reserve for the C team in netball and that was the closest I got to being on a team!!! Very very glad I no longer have any need for ball sports in my life 🙂

    • Sports Day :-S I’d completely forgotten about having to take part in something. I went for shot putt and discus as I couldn’t run and I couldn’t jump. I’m not sure I could throw either – I could barely pick up the shot, but I managed to finish 3rd for discuss and there were more than 3 of us!

      When I recently did my coaching course, it was alongside athletics coaches. One of them was a throws coach. His activity was for us to work on throwing a futsal ball. He kept asking for feedback about how our throws were going and I had to admit that I was so focused on making sure that I caught the ball when it was thrown to me that I hadn’t thought about my throwing technique!

  2. I had no idea about the standards book, generally I did my best in the stuff I liked and didn’t bother with the rest. A lot of girls seemed to lack the desire to try – I can remember ended up doing shot put, long jump, 100m, hurdles and relay in sports day and I don’t think I ever did better than third place but it was a damn sight more satisfying to just try my best than this soppy everyone’s a winner nonsense my own children have become accustomed to in their school – I don’t think it encourages kids to push themselves or try at all.

    • Did you have Miss Eva? I think PE is the one subject where I would have been happier if we had been placed in sets. I wouldn’t have cared about being in bottom set if I had been with other people who were similarly incompetent as maybe we could have helped each other. I lacked the desire to try as I was so far off being competent and had no idea how to improve. I think my long jump record was 3ft and I only just managed to clear 1m at high jump :-S Fortunately, (or maybe unfortunately) my inability to compete in school sports hasn’t stopped me from being competitive in middle age!

      • Ms Lucas too ? I think that there was maybe too much focus on the kids that were capable already and no encouragement at all to try things outside your comfort zone or experience – for example I hated high jump so was allowed to not do it as a trade off for agreeing to do extra sports for sports day which seems a bit odd looking back…

  3. Standards were applied in my school too. To get an A in PE in year 10 we had to run 100m in less than 12 seconds. Crazy to expect that from 15 year old girls really.

    • Wow – that’s tough. At my very fittest, I think my best would be 18 seconds for 100m!

      At GCSE level in UK, I think students get assessed on their practical skills in individual and team sports, but they get more marks for showing progress and being able to articulate what they need to do to improve.

      • My school was just harsh because we had some old school PE teachers who’d been at the school 20+ years and were frustrated at their own lack of athletic success

  4. Oh the memories! Yes I was right back at hockey too. No action there! Standing on the icy all weather pitch with very little clothing on. I went to a state school – track suits were not allowed but in winter you could put your cardigan on over the dreaded airtex top. My PE teacher was nice though. She tried to tell me that I could do it if I tried- I didn’t believe her and only now do I see that she might have had a point. ?

    • I think that PE (like music) is one of the subjects where there’s a clear divide between those who do something outside of school and those who don’t. I loved dancing and has lessons 3 days a week, but we didn’t do anything like that at school. I liked gym (although I hated having to prance around in PE knickers and t-shirt) and I loved aerobics when we did that in year 10, but hockey wasn’t the sport for me.

      I wish I’d had a supportive PE teacher like yours – even if it didn’t do you any good at the time. If only PE in school could be taught differently, there might not be so many girls who stop all physical activity when they leave.

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