The recent World Cup victory by the US women’s national soccer team collided in my brain today with my upcoming 50th high school reunion to conjure up a mixed bag of memories from gym class and women’s sports before Title IX made sex discrimination in educational programs illegal.
Throughout my school years, I was told that I was “not athletic”. When I couldn’t do things– like swim across the pool in swim class– the reason given was that I was “not athletic. You see, my Mom was telling me what she was told when she was a girl. Mom didn’t know how to ride a bike or swim, and she offered these examples as evidence that she was “not athletic.” In reality, there were access and affordability issues, since Mom was a child of the Great Depression.
Gym Class Cemented My Loathing for Sports
Fast forward from the Great Depression to my childhood in the 1960s, Mom made sure we had bikes and learned to swim, but there were other physical education doors that were open to my brother and not to me. Discriminatory funding practices across physical education and sports offerings created an unlevel playing field for students from kindergarten through the university. Growing up, I was taught not to want activities like sports teams, weightlifting, or a variety of sports instruction in gym class because I was “not athletic.”