2002.11.27 Too late for dodge ball

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Some people complain about being born too late. They look back at the way things were a few generations ago and they wish they could have been a part of it.

For others it’s just the opposite. Born too early, they didn’t have the opportunity to take part in what’s available now. There were no jet airplanes/TVs/computers, etc. available when they grew up.

The too late/too early dilemma entered my mind during this season of football. In regard to the so-called pigskin, I guess I was born at just the right time. No regrets, other than the fact that I scored only two touchdowns.

I still think I was cheated out of another one during an eighth grade game, but superintendent Henry Geisler, serving as referee, ruled that my forward motion was halted and the play was dead. Actually, I broke free and scored when those incompetent defenders couldn’t bring me down. Mr. Geisler acted too fast, but what can you do?

If I would have been born earlier, I’d have been part of an era when a football helmet had no face mask. If I’d been born a generation later, I would be part of the current era when football is a year ’round endeavor—at least for the dedicated players who are expected to hang out in the weight room all year and grow abnormally large necks.

Those guys are easy to spot and I know I wouldn’t want to be part of it. I notched six years of football during my era in the 1960s, but I wouldn’t make it these days. I don’t think I’d be the kind of football player that contemporary coaches would appreciate.

I suppose there are some kids today who think they were born too late. They missed the days when football started around Labor Day and ended in mid-November. That was it until Labor Day.

Some kids today were born too late for dodge ball. A few schools are dropping it from their gym classes. Now before you start complaining about “political correctness” and all that stuff, listen to the arguments.

First of all, dodge ball supporters say the game provides an opportunity to teach throwing mechanics, catching skills, agility, hand-eye coordination, and lateral and forward movement.

Is that what really happens? Physical education class is supposed to develop skills, but look what happens in dodge ball. The clumsy and the slow are the first ones to get hit. They aren’t learning anything by sitting on the sidelines, but that might just be where they feel most comfortable.

Dodge ball has made it onto some writer’s Gym Class Hall of Shame. It’s called a punishing game that pits “athletic kids against clumsy ones, aggressive against timid.”

In 1995 a PE task force suggested national standards for students in every grade to achieve. For someone in a small town, these guidelines might take a while to put into place. Get the buses lined up for field trips, too.

A 12th grader should be able to participate in a tennis match with some consistency; pass the Red Cross intermediate swimming requirements; navigate a kayak through white water; successfully play racquetball; demonstrate skills for a black belt in karate.

Here’s a quote from “The Death of Dodge Ball” in Northwest Education Magazine.

In schools where PE has managed to hang on, enlightened teachers are introducing kids to activities they can take with them through the years. Instead of dodging a hard rubber ball, kids are mastering cool moves on inline skates and cross-country skis.

Instead of doing a million jumping jacks, they're learning to maneuver mountain bikes, balance unicycles, bounce on pogo sticks, juggle plastic bowling pins—even manipulate wheelchairs with ease. They're paddling white-water kayaks. Dancing to Latin music. Fishing for rainbow trout. Climbing vertical rock walls.

 We wouldn’t have enough wheelchairs or pogo sticks to go around here in the small town.

And lacking trout, exposed bedrock and a white water river, I guess we’ll have to stick with football. Into the weight room we go.  You’ll know us by our necks.

    – Nov. 27, 2002 
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