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Staffer Expresses Dissatisfaction with Mandatory Gym System

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Monday night, and I have finally finished my three hour mound of homework: two geometry worksheets, three chapters in “The Odyssey,” and a study guide for geography. Now that my brain has been fried, it’s time to head to volleyball.

Once changed and ready, we head to the gym, early to being early. At 6:30 p.m., the team gets together, and we split off into groups of three. It’s weight lifting time. Each group will either be doing calf raises, squats, arm raises, or sprints.

Once an hour has passed, we clean up the weights and transition into practice. Practice most often consists of hitting, passing or blocking drills that keep us constantly on the move. If our goal isn’t met, sprinting lines is our usual punishment. At extreme cases, it will often be followed by puking or dizziness.

Each week I will play 10 to 20 hours, the amount of time varying with tournaments. Tournaments are more often than not out of town, causing most of us to miss a day or two of school for each one.

It’s Tuesday morning, and now I have to go to gym class first block. After groggily changing into our uniforms, the class of 30 heads up to the gym.

We start off with a few minutes of light jogging and walking, then ten to twenty minutes of stretching. After several water breaks, we get together in our assigned groups of five, and practice our jump rope routine for the remainder of the hour.

According to PE teacher Debbie Odgen, the purpose of PE foundations is to keep kids active and exercising. For people in situations like mine, any form of PE is a waste of time. I use far more energy and get far more benefit in a single volleyball practice than I do in a block of gym.

There is a simple solution for this common problem. At the beginning of the year before school starts, students interested in substituting gym should take a fitness test. This exam should consist of any combination of timed running, heart monitor testing, and/or a pacer test.

Every day during gym, I’m always thinking about how else I could be spending my time. I could be taking Computer Apps, getting out of the way for next year. I could be in a study hall, getting some that English paper done. I could be in ceramics, actually enjoying myself. Practically anything, for me, would be more productive and useful than PE foundations.

Many competitive athletes at East are in the same situation: already in good shape, yet still wasting time and energy in required gym classes. Freshman Brooks Kendall is a competitive tennis player for the Kansas City United team. His team travels around the region around every other weekend, and they practice nearly five times a week for five hours each. His practices usually consist of hitting drills, playing points, and competitive games.

Brooks also feels his time is wasted in PE.

“I don’t accomplish anything in gym. I already know most of the fundamentals of all the sports they teach, and I’m also already in shape from tennis,” Kendall said.

Clearly, students involved in competitive sports already understand the importance of exercise and are in good shape, and thus don’t gain anything PE classes.

A similar issue is the controversy over drill team counting as a gym credit. In a typical drill team class they will start off with a short amount of cardio, like jumping jacks, followed by stretching, then do crunches for a song or two. For the remainder of the hour, the girls rigorously practice their dance routines.

Freshman Taylor McCullough is a JV Lancer Dancer, and also feels that changes need to be made.

“In our opinion we work so much harder in class compared to what we do in gym. It’s such a blast to be in drill team and it would just add to it if we got that option of taking out gym class.”

In my opinion, it is ridiculous that the ROTC program is counted as a gym credit, while drill team is not. I definitely don’t want to discount what students in ROTC do. But drill team works as hard, or harder than the ROTC members in their classes, and yet they get no credit for it.

Now it’s Wednesday night, and the practice cycle repeats, although this time, we’re mixing up our usual weights routine. Now, we are doing squats with resistance bands, repetitive arm strengthening with resistance bands, and four sets of 2-minute long wall sits. By the time our legs feel like noodles, we realize that that’s the cue to go downstairs to start practice.

Although volleyball is draining and I do get sick of it sometimes, I get more out of it than I can ever explain. I have improved not only in volleyball skills, but on mental toughness as well. Volleyball has taught me how to accept defeat, but come out as 10 times the fighter I used to be, for the next time.

With the amounts of physical and emotional exhaustion that comes with volleyball, it should count for something. The effort of myself and other student athletes shouldn’t be overlooked.

I also don’t want to downplay the importance of gym for certain groups of people. For those students who have a passion for art or schoolwork or theater, who don’t get much exercise, gym is a wonderful thing.

“Every person has their thing that they love,” McCullough said. “Obviously it’s not dancing for everyone. I feel like for people who don’t do other physical activities outside of school, gym would be a workout. But compared to what dancers and athletes do, it doesn’t compare at all.”

Drill team should count as a gym credit, and athletes should have the option of testing out of gym. Testing out of gym wouldn’t any different than a student testing out of Computer Apps. If a student knows all the material in a computer class, taking that course would be a waste of their time.

With gym, it’s the exact same concept.

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Senior Katie Knight is Co-Editor for print. This is her fourth year on staff. She enjoys bossing people around--particularly Co-Editor Andrew McKittrick. She is also a member of the Broadcasting Dream Team. Read Full »

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