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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 15:26 GMT
Sports daze: Memories of PE
School PE lesson
Blood, sweat and tears: Gym'll fix it
School sport has always been an acquired taste. The numbing cold, the humiliating jibes from your peers ... and that was just in the showers, recalls BBC News Online's Ryan Dilley.

Now tell us your memories, good and bad, of life on the playing fields.

While health experts lament the decline of physical education schools, reluctant young athletes are no doubt basking in the more relaxed regime.

Children are spending less time on the school sports field than they were five years ago, according to research by Sport England.

HAVE YOUR SAY They are also, presumably, spending less time building up a reserve of painful, humiliating memories and a lifelong loathing of organised physical activities.

School hockey match
Jolly hockey sticks?
In countless Hollywood films, the big game, the winning touchdown, the triumphant homerun are held up as defining moments of youth.

For pupils huddled on balding, rain-lashed pitches in the UK, school sports lessons are often something to be endured rather than savoured.

In place of cheerleaders and snazzy uniforms, austerity has long been the keynote of British school sports.

Fighting spirit is notoriously difficult to muster when trooping out to the school cricket pitch in vest and pants, a single, wafer-thin pad between you and disaster.

Ah, the crack of leather on skull; the comforting words of your team-mates as you sluggishly traipse off the pitch for yet another golden duck.

Running scared

Cross country running is often the answer to deficiencies in the school store cupboard or in a pupil's eye-hand co-ordination.

Though few plimsoll-clad pupils are avid fans of this gruelling event, it can be seen as "physical education" in the truest meaning of the term.

Even those who regularly doze through double maths prove themselves adept at calculating the shortest distance between two points, once set clopping around a snow-covered local park.

The underlying logic of long division is also learned as a single cigarette is passed between 20 defeated runners on the crafty bus ride back to school.

Athletics track
On your marks: School athletics
School sports are, of course, a great way for gawky teenagers to learn to control their maturing limbs and gain the poise which will carry them through adulthood.

School swimming lessons gave many a chance to come to terms with their body image, exchange veruccas with their peers and swallow gallons of heavily-chlorinated bath water.

Despite the pubescent humiliations and locker room horror stories, which of us would have given up those afternoons?

Skins verses shirts. Football scorelines of 25 to nil. Scalding communal showers. Lingering descents of the gym's climbing rope.

And who can forget: "If it was really broken, you wouldn't be able to wiggle it like that."

Send us your comments:

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Here's what you've said:

Having skimmed through the absolute whinging laid bare by the respondents from all over the world, I can see three things:
1) is it any wonder we as a nation are seen as we are by all other nations when the only thing we are qualified for in sport is to moan
2) I presume most of these people are politicians who believe in stopping rather than encourage competition
3) in 10 years time when all youths can only do sport on a computer, we will be happy to have achieved our goal as a generation of rubbishing this one completely
John Urwin, Scotland

Games, UGH!!! I hated them! I think PE was the only lesson in school I ever faked sickness letters from my mum for!

It if was snowing then it was bound to be cross country, if it was freezing it was hockey and if it was raining it was anything else as long as it was outdoors. And of course being the school duffer at sport I was subject to all the usual taunts and bullying (especially as I was an academic kid so the other kids could at last get their own back on me for beating them at maths!).

I also developed a latent talent for spotting ways to skive at games while looking like I was trying to do something, for instance when it was tennis season I and three equally games-phobic friends would always grab the court that happened to be next to the local polytechnic car park and 'accidentally' hit the balls over the fence. Oh what a shame, we will just HAVE to spend 20 minutes going round there to fetch them now....!
Caroline, UK

The majority of my memories of school sports are of bunking off. I did once set the school cross-country record, by miscalculating how long I could spend playing pool at a friend's house....

Oh yeah. Co-educational badminton had girls in short skirts. I approved, and stopped bunking off.
Pete Fenelon, UK

My earliest memory from school in the Midlands was standing in line, in a dusty hall, waiting to jump over a bench. The bench wasn't more than a foot high, but could have been 20ft for all I cared. Six years old, somewhat porky, and short, I just knew I'd never be able to jump over it. Faced with the impossibility of the task and the potential humiliation, I took the only way out. I made my way to the back of the queue, then jabbed my hand into my mouth as hard as I could.

The result: when it was my turn to jump, I simply opened my blood filled mouth and let my front tooth tumble to the floor. The sight made even our ex-army games teacher relent, and I was hustled away to the nurse. Needless to say, this trick only works once.
Jacquie McHale, Sweden

I didn't like PE at school I have to say. I wasn't the best at anything and hated having to go and run around in the cold weather. I wasn't very fit and I couldn't swim to save my life. So I'm now nearly 37 and haven't done anything since? Well, no not exactly. Since I rediscovered sport about 15 years ago, I can't get enough of it! I jog, I do weights, I play squash and I play 5-a-side soccer 3 or 4 times a week. Bizarre. Having said that I think there are ways that we can make sport more appealing to children, and that it shouldn't be something we look back at with a shudder.
Rob Buckley, United Kingdom

In academic subjects, if a pupil were not doing as well as they could, the Master in question would endeavour to help the pupil to improve. A Sports Master on the other hand would, at best, avoid pupils who were not doing as well as they could and concentrate on coaching the "team material". I remember being sent on cross-country with others whilst "team material" were coached. At worst, a Sports Master would act in a vindictive and sadistic manner. I was lucky in that I was mediocre at school sports and watched the worst suffer. A Sports Master in my view was the opposite of what a teacher should be. I only started to enjoy and excel at sport as soon as I left the school environment. I hope that things have changed at school.
David V. Avila, uk

PE class was a disaster. Rather than explaining the rules and procedures of various sports, students were just thrown onto the court and expected to participate in teams. The programs really shortchanged those of us who were not sports fans. History classes were much more fun.
robert, USA

Reading some of these messages brought back the abject horror of games at school. I went to school in an area of Scotland where rugby was virtually a religion and anyone (such as myself) who was not inclined was considered the lowest of the low. Primary school was the worst - 10 year old boys forced out onto a rock solid field on freezing Friday afternoons to engage in a pointless exercise of throwing an egg shaped ball around and getting hurt into the bargain. Strangely enough, our coach then is now a well known TV sports commentator and even now when I hear his voice on the BBC I cringe with horror!

By the second year of High School, I perfected a method of avoiding games - a forged note from my mother at the beginning of every school year saying that due to my chronic bronchitis, I shouldn't take part in games. Amazingly, they seemed to swallow this and henceforth I never participated. PE was even easier - I worked out that if you didn't appear at the first session of the term, you didn't get onto the register and the teacher didn't know you existed! I honestly believe that humiliating children by these methods serves no purpose whatsoever and I can only hope that my old school has modernised it's ideas about what constitutes character building and the like.
Adam, Brussels

I too have none too fond memories of school PE, with its intimidating teachers, and humiliation. I played little sport after leaving school, and developed a singular dislike of team sports. It was only recently that I have taken up weight training and found it so rewarding.

This is all such a shame when so much money has to be spent each year by an already cash-starved NHS on diseases such as heart disease and obesity, which could be more effectively prevented by people continuing physical activities after leaving school, rather than being left with such bad memories.

A more enlightened approach to PE at school would pay such dividends for people's health in later life. I feel physical exercise for the young in important, but it appears too many of us leave school with a loathing of sport and exercise which stays with us for too many years.
Steve, Berkshire

Funny how all those who say school sports are a great thing are those who actually had a disposition for them.

There are those of us who just aren't made to run/swim miles. There are those of us who can't throw anything to save their lives.

For those, no amount of school sports could have changed a thing. As for team spirit, give me a break, team spirit is derived directly from the rejection of those that don't make it into the team. Bully for you guys who were in the chosen few, but there are many ways to build team spirit up and it doesn't necessarily involve chasing balls around.

Not to say that we shouldn't practive sports, though. I can't run any distance because my knees have always been weak but I've recently discovered the joy of roller-blading. It's a lot less violent on the knee joints and I can skate for hours, cover tens of miles and I love it.

For those who are naturally pre-disposed : don't be so smug as to disregard those less fortunate than you. I'm sure those of you who just couldn't get their minds around maths could have done without the humiliation too.
Michael O'Shea, UK living in NL

My memory of PE at school is of always coming last in the twice termly time trials (a two mile run). Except one day when, according to my Mum, I came home with a big smile on my face and said "I didn't come last -- Adam broke his ankle".
Josh King, UK

I went to school in Edinburgh and enjoyed PE and was average at most sports. However, in 1st year at secondary school we were all sent on a cross country run in the freezing cold mud and rain. I'm hopeless at running and really struggled. When winter came around again and the next run loomed, I worried SO much about the approaching pain and humiliation that I developed my first migraine....and what a stonker it was. My parents had to come and take me home. I've been getting migraines off and on ever since. Thank you PE teachers !
Jill F Baird, Scotland

I enjoyed sport at school but was merely average. I remember wishing I could be taught how to improve but the PE teachers only took notice of the obvious candidates for the school teams. I have two kids now who are competitive swimmers due to membership of a local club not school. The club has taught them and improved their skills. They are reasonably good at other sports but unfortunately their PE teachers also only notice those who are already talented and spend little time passing on skills to the others. If they would teach rather than concentrate on winning for the school, a lot more people would find sport more rewarding.
Paul, England

My primary school PE teacher (in the U.S.) was a brain-dead ex-jock who moonlighted as a gas station attendant, who was too fat to do a single push-up, and who delighted in humiliating non-athletically inclined children. There was no emphasis on fitness, only on competitive team sport. It was years before I discovered that I actually liked exercise. As an adult, I trained in a karate dojo for four years and progressed to second-level brown belt.
Michelle , Australia

The comment made in the intro to this web-page is well made: "In place of cheerleaders and snazzy uniforms, austerity has long been the keynote of British school sports."

Unless you are really lucky, school sport in the UK is not something to be cherished or savoured. I was not a natural athlete at school and, like many readers, feared being picked last or being forced to be "Skins". All this was done in an atmosphere of total fear and intimidation by a tyrannical PE teacher - no wonder the British are such spectacular under-achievers in international sport!

By contrast, I was lucky enough to spend a year at an American college where playing sport and (in my case) relearning skills was an experience to be, nurtured, encouraged and savoured, and something that I really enjoyed and appreciated.

I now really regret the bad experiences I suffered at school, and wish that the majority of PE teachers would come out of the Dark Ages and support those pupils who are not athletically-gifted but who are willing to learn.
Chris, UK

Far from engendering the team spirit, five years at an English grammar school in the 1950s left me with an enduring terror of taking part in team projects of any kind. The school was academically excellent but, for a chronically uncoordinated teenager like me, the constant emphasis on team sports made school life hell. Forty years later, I still fall apart when obliged to take part in team exercises on management courses.

All children should be obliged to undertake a daily exercise programme to keep them fit, and those who want to take part in team sports should be encouraged. But it's counter-productive to force all children into team sports.
Susan Hague, Belgium

We had PE every day. Mostly we wore aertex shirts and navy knickers. Tracksuits were banned and skirts only worn when you had your period, so everyone knew why you were wearing one. Our sports field was on the edge of a cliff with the bitter North Sea wind cutting easily through the thin cotton. Every now and again the games mistress would break off to tell all the dirty old men hanging around the fences watching us to go away. I hated the perpetual cold, being shouted at, and the rough physical contact. I would much rather have done modern dance or aerobics but that wasn't an option in the early 70s.
Geraldine, England

I spent five years at an English Public School, receiving permanent mental and physical damage. I now have a distorted rib-cage diagnosed as due to malnutrition, and a chronic distrust of all public school products. Compulsory sport taught three major lessons 1 Succeed at any cost.Hate and hurt your opponents, on and off the field. NEVER give credit to anyone else. 2 Bribe and cheat. If caught - deny everything, and shift the blame to anyone, including your own side. 3 Only the first team gets coaching. Don't waste time on anything that doesn't go into the school brochure. Looking at the law, politics, medicine and the sports industry, I can see that mine was not the only school teaching these lessons.
Hugh David, France

Sure there were some dreadful moments of school sport. We had to endure squalid changing facilities at my North country grammer school plus some perfectly miserable days on the field or pitch in mud and rain and numbing wind. On the whole it was worthwhile and I remained a keen player of various sports. The lads I played with happened also to turn out the most successful of our peer group. The"wimps" in general were not that successful in life either. However it might have been preordained by background and upbringing that the doers and the goers would acheive in sport. Sadly schools now are not playing sport as they used to - does this explain the notable lack of success of the British in many branches of international sport. The British results in the last Olympics were pathetic. Will the Poms do any better in Sydney. I wonder Paul Deel
Paul Dee, USA

I was fortunate in having an attitude that resulted in school sports (in my UK prep and grammar schools) to be positive experiences, regardless of weather conditions or other duress. Thus for example, playing rugby in the driving rain on a field of liquid mud represented a struggle through adversity (followed by a glorious hot shower), instead of being a painful experience that added to resentment against the school regime. It was truly (as goes the cliche) 'character-building'. Now ca. 40 years later, my geological field work in northern Canada does, on occasion, provide similar challenges that also require an appropriate attitude, in order for me to function effectively, and come up with a map at the end of the field season.
Paul Gilbert, Canada

Here's a bizarre PE memory: When I was 15, my family moved to a new town. At my new school, there was a boy named Steve who often got in trouble for shoplifting and other such offences. One day, whilst playing football in PE, the police drove up on the school pitch. Steve was not much into running, but when he saw the Old Bill, he burst away at a speed we thought him incapable of. It was a funny scene: constables chasing him about the pitch, until they finally brought him down. The teacher was gobsmacked, and so was I. Some of the students were cheering for Steve, others for the police. Needless to say, it was an odd day.
Paul, UK

I endured sports at school in Scotland where, unless you were naturally good at rugby, you were relegated to the remnants, huddled on a corner of the freezing. windswept field. Having no talent at games I was constantly the butt of taunts and jibes, and conceived a lasting hatred of rugby. Exercise is essential, and. competition needs to be encouraged for the best athletes, but for the majority a non-competitive approach based on voluntary, fun activities is needed to banish the misery of the old days.
Andrew George, Paraguay

I was brought up in Stoke-On-Trent, and went to a school that believed in no-nonsense with corporal punishment being the punishment delved to those less obedient. I remember one time when during a rugby match I saw a lad tripping another during practice. The teacher took off his boot, grabbed the lad who promptly braced himself and began to wallop the lads behind. Well all I can say was that tripping was not allowed during the game. How things have changed.
Gary Clark, USA

Sport should be something that is enjoyed, it definitly was not something I enjoyed in school in the UK. The whole school sport process really needs reviewing, but removing- reducing it from the curriculum is not the best way ahead. How many golds did we win in the last Olympics??
Chris Jordan, Australia

I am with Christopher McLaren, UK 100%, I have similar memories.
Stephen West, UK

If this is the way British kids feel Australia will keep on experiencing that winning feeling. Australian kids love their sport and look forward to playing each week
Graham Shaw, Australia

I would have to say the worst thing about PE would have to be Skins versus shirts. I would have a panic attack everytime the teams were picked (I was usually picked 2nd to last) and to know if I would be lucky enough to wear a shirt. Being overweight made it very uncomfortable to run around the basketball court with no top on.
Tom, USA

Very few of us are ever number 1 at anything. It's the striving that counts and learning to live with pain.
Mike Maffett M.D., USA

Goodness! I thought that it were just me who hated games. I just HATED them. I live now in a cold country, and I often think back to my British upbringing, and the idiotic lack of respect for the elements (just to prove how tough one is I wonder?). You would not find Norwegians dressed up in shorts out in freezing cold and rain, like we often were in games. Then they used to tell me to run around, and that would make me warm. I just got tired out, and even colder. The circulation used to cut out at my fingers so I got "white fingers" that were numb for hours. I am happy to say I grew out of that... and indeed out of the appalling British school games. I was glad to see the back of it. I HATED it!
Christopher Briggs(ex Brit), Norway

It was a nightmare - slogging about in the English winter through fields which couldn't have muddier if they plowed them twice a day, while adult sadists made helpful suggestions like "what you want to do, lad, is make a bit of an effort." And then there was the communal bath - not my idea of a good time, nor a good way to clean oneself. I really enjoy exercise as an adult - it was just done all wrong.
Nick, US - but grew up in UK

As an ex-patriot Brit, I well remember my days at a secondary school. Two things always come to mind. Being forced to go out and play soccer in freezing weather (I now live in Florida!), and being a rather puny youngster, I was never 'picked' for a team - and the PE coach always had favourite 'houses'. I think the system of asking boys to select their own teams was a humiliating experience for many non-sports types, who were ultimately placed on teams, albeit to rejection comments of more sports oriented boys. I was, and am inclined to academics, not athletics.
Geof Jones, United States

School sports is a living hell for the less able as they are routinely victimised by their peers, with apparent encouragement from the PE staff, who are incidentally almost all sadists. It does not promote teamwork, it merely promotes bullying of the weak by the strong. Schools have no right to force their pupils into physical activity. A more productive approach would be to give the children one afternoon a week off to play sport if they wanted to, or to study or entertain themselves in other ways if they did not. I was unable to fully participate in school sport due to a long-term undiagnosed medical condition and the day that this condition was belatedly diagnosed, allowing me to escape PE forever, was the happiest day of my school life.
Dave Lock, UK

I loved sports at school. For me attending comprehensive school opened up a whole new world of sport other than traditional football and cricket. Sure playing rugby in two inches of wet slush wasn't at the time something I enjoyed, however looking back at these "defining moments" I would do it all over again. Sport is crucial in the development of our youth. It prepares kids to work as teams in the work force. It instills discipline. it shows that to truly excel at something you need to work hard, practice and become proficient at your trade. Forget traditions, sport in school needs to be promoted for the betterment of society and our future.
Mark Stanley, USA via Trowbridge UK

Sheer unmitigated misery, bullying by teacher and other pupils and humiliation. I took on extra subjects to get out of PE when I was 14 and have never been in a gym since and that's 33 years ago. School sports inculcated a hatred of all team games in me. Replace the flannelled fool at the wicket and the muddied oaf in the goal with teaching about proper rules of health, exercise interesting and suited to the individual pupil thus truely having a healthy mind in a healthy body
Steve Foley, England

The conditions we endured playing rugby in the cold mud or even on the Ten Mile Wilson Run across the fell do not haunt me the way the living conditions in the boarding houses and the barrage of punishments from the prefects do. Sports got us out of the houses and made us too exhausted to pick on one another. So much for Dura Virum Nutrix.
Mark Headrick, USA

Back in the mid 1950s the boys and masters from my school, Dr Morgan's Grammar School in Bridgwater had a longstanding arrangement to have a combined boys+masters cricket team to play local village teams on Friday evenings. I look back on those years as times when I learned not only how to bowl out village batsmen, but also how to see my teachers as human beings - with strengths and weaknesses - instead of seeing them simply as people doing their best to drum ghastly things like Latin and French and Physics into me. Happy evenings in deepest Somerset, and a great preparation for life.
Greg Miller, Australia (I'm English by birth)

The ancient Greeks - and other ancients - knew well of the benefits of physical activities. In the USA, until the Reaganoids and other conservatives began their slash-and-burn assault on the federal education system, all public school children were required to have physical education (PE) classes either daily or periodically during the week.

However, along with the loss of funding for the musical arts, PE has also suffered and classes are no longer taught nor required in a stunning number of American public schools.

This is a tragedy, especially with Americans presenting with significant numbers of preventable health problems that could be prevented or corrected with the proper forms of recreational activities and exercises: some forms of obesity, heart disease, mild forms of depression, etc.

Add to this mix the change in the world of work, where, instead of a 40 hour work week in the USA and a more rational 32-35 hour work week in the much of the EU, the techies are working 60-80 hours a week, with little or no time scheduled for physical recreation or broader social, cultural, or political activities or involvement.

We are killing ourselves with work and preparing our children to do the same by failing to teach them, either by example or through formal education, that exercise and physical health are important life concerns.

2) My time in PE was an odd mix of fun and healthy recreational learning and of taunts and other forms of social domination by various bullies. I developed an aversion to being around many of the boys in my other classes because of the abuse regularly heaped on me in PE. This was - and still is, unfortunately - considered to be a part of the normal, healthy development of the male adolescent.

We must teach our children that such behavior is unacceptable. It is also imperative that PE teachers learn to teach non-competitive forms of recreation and physical activities.
Reverend James C. Lovette-Black, USA

Many people's childhood experiences with mathematics are similar: the bad teaching; the taunting; often not seeing the point of what you were learning. Adults could, however, see the point. The same applies to sport. Across ages and continents people have agreed that physical exercise and mental work are mutually beneficial. The mind works better when the body is exercised: as Juvenal said 'mens sana in corpore sano' (healthy body, healthy mind); similarly, in Japan, the Bushi class (called Samurai in the West) taught 'bun bu ryoh doh' (the warrior arts and learning the Classics; both paths are necessary).

Plato's Republic discusses the need for people being groomed to be leaders, the Guardians, to do sport as well as study. Scientific research confirms that gymnastics, for example, can help a child in the classroom. There are also social benefits: teamwork is an obvious one. Japanese educator Kano Jigiro developed Judo as an educational sport. He said 'Judo no kyukyoku no mokuteki wa ningen kansei ni ari' (the ultimate purpose of Judo is the building of fine human beings). The problems for schools are the cost of equipment and risk of litigation. This is what needs sorting out. Failing to train children's bodies as well as their minds should not be considered an option.
Nicholas Smith, English, living in Japan

Are all moments in youth required to be positive? The above narrative dismisses the positive lessons of physical education, yet expounds and exaggerates every conceivable moment of humiliation, both public and private. It is not simply positive memories that make a functioning adult. A rounded, functioning human is one who has won great victories and suffered great defeats. The world is not all tele-tubbies and happy ice-cream memories. I thank the heavens and Mr. Ian Hyde-Laye, my 'phys-ed' prof, for every broken rib, miserable defeat and solid ass-kicking I received in high-school Rugby. It is from these moments, as well as the glorious Tries and brilliant victories, that I have become a man capable of enduring what life has to throw at me. School is not there to teach us what we WANT to learn. It is to prepare young souls for life as often cruel and punishing as it is rewarding.
Kristian "Poor Athlete" Gustafson, Canada

The best years of our life - school days! Every Wednesday afternoon -cross country if it was raining. The smell of sweaty feet in the communal shower room. Good training for the Saturday afternoon game of Course Rugby. Ah-those were the days - and I have very few good memories.
Joe Wickham, Indonesia.

Many a Saturday morning spent on a frozen rugby pitch or Wednesday afternoon slogging through the mud of a cross country course. Summers playing cricket and trying any new method of high jumping that came a long. Add to that the evenings lifting weights and circuit training that was what shool sports was about. Cameraderie, sportsmanship, independence and interdependence. Working together to benefit the whole. Isn't that what much of life is about ? The lack of team sports in schools now runs the risk of breeding a generation or more of individuals who will be self centred and ignorant of the ability to pull together when it really counts...when your back is against the wall and the deadline is about to pass. Yes it was tough but it was fun and taught you to stick at it. The rewards will come - not necessarily by winning but also by improving and gaining the respect of those around you. Long live the "Work hard and play hard" ethic.
Keith Greatbatch, Boston, USA - formerly of Harrow

I have payed soccer, basketball, tennis, truck and field and playing all these sports made me great person phsically and mentally. I think school sports are great, and good experience. The biggest thing about high shcool sport, or college sport is that people first see the name of the school on your jersey, than your name, so you are carrying whole community on your shoulders, not to mention the pyhsical you get.
adan, USA

I loathed PE at school. Why does "exercise" have to mean competitive sports? It's quite possible to be fit and healthy without having to endure the humiliation of letting your team down because you are no good at the game. Leave competitive games for those who enjoy them - some of us are just no good at that sort of thing!
Jane, UK

Having left school in '94 I can honestly say that the sports you play during that period help define the person that you become. I know everyone knows a rugby type, a cricket type and a football type. Only after you enter the 'real world' of work do you realise that those overcast, and often freezing, thursday afternoons on the playing fields were heaven as compared to having to work in a stuffy office. It saddens me that the value of sports in schools today is dropping.
Muhsin Subhan, Ex-pat in Japan

I came from a school that has one of the finest sports reputations in what was the Commonwealth. I was good at all sports that I tried and prefered getting smashed up in a game of Rugby to double English any day. Give me a few more inches and several less broken severed tendons and school sports would have been "as good as it gets".
James Conran, Scotland

I have to agree with Christopher on this one! Looking back on my time at school, weekly games sessions would come around all too quick. Particularly during the winter months! Physical education is important, however I feel students should be given more choices, and not be made to feel that braving it on the football field is a requirement for being a star pupil, or for staying healthy.
James, USA

Okay I've only just left school, but for me school sports weren't as bad as most media reports make out. I must have played in upwards of 300 fixtures since the age of 9, and not all of them were about winning-I don't even consider myself good at sport but the fact was that our school had an "a" and a "b" team for every sport and every year-so not only was everyone able to take part but you would also be participating with and against players of your own calibre. This whole idea that you were ridiculed because you were chosen last also begs the question, why not let the teacher in charge decide and/or split up the pupils into teams.

I find it hard to believe that no-one has thought of that before-all it needs is a little show of leadership from teachers to counter this idea that it supposedly took place every lesson. As for the sports at my old school, yes we had the rock hard floor, the crying players and the whole getting very cold factor but then we also had warm summers stood in the field in idyllic settings for an afternoon. Plus the fact that due to my introduction to hockey at an early age, I later went on to play for the county. Now a school leaver, I find that I miss the compulsory sport as it provided fitness as well for free-without personal trainers, gyms and what-have-you-what irony in today's fitness-obsessed world.
Alex , Currently in Malaysia on gap year

In today's computer orientated world school sports are needed more than ever. Kids sit at a desk all day and then play games etc at night, when else will they get any excersise. I left school nearly 20 years ago have played football in the snow with only singlet, shorts and plimsoles on as bought the wrong kit with me. I probably endured the sarcastic taunts of my classmates in the showers too, but can't remember it. Sports teach teamwork, develop the juvenile body and at least in my day were a great break from classroom based lessons. All in all I enjoyed playing sports, and was by no means a sports superstar playing for the school team or anything like that. Sports have a valid place in the school curriculum and are probably more deserving of a place than some of todays trendy social lessons.
James Jeffrey, USA, but English

Those inter-house games where your house had 75% of the school team were absolutely great, because you were expected to cut your teeth on 55-0 scorelines (ie rugby) and you generally did. But then came the trip on Saturday morning to play ????? Grammar away and you came back home on the receiving end of a 33-11 defeat made you appreciate what it was like for those other 'make-up-the-team' house teams. Long may they rule and long may they continue the tradition (God knows we seem to be dropping traditions every week mowadays).
Alan Edwards, Houston, Texas via Stockport

I was born in Devon and lived the first 20 years of my life there. I was in Grammar School in the early fifties and sport for me was a lifesaver. I did not do well in the classroom, but found respect and acceptance by excelling on the cricket pitch as a permanent member of our school's First Eleven. No unhappy memories for me, unless it was when a match was canceled because of rain.
Brian Aggett, U.S.A.

Sports was great, whether it was vaulting in the gym or playing rugby outdoors. It's a cliche, but the latter was great at building up team spirit and camaraderie. The lessons learnt on the playing fields definitely help later on in life, both at university and at work
Sabir, UK

We had to play rugby aged 10 on this windswept pitch at the top of a hill. The ground was rock hard with frozen puddles. Our legs and hands went blue. The teacher stood on the touch line with two coats, scarf and gloves shouting: "Tackle him, tackle him." It got so cold that half of our team started crying.
Nick, UK

I once chose to do aerobics with the girls instead of rugby with the other boys. I endured severe taunts, but it was worth it. Instead of slipping in the freezing mud, I spent the winter in a warm room doing stretch exercises on a blue mat. The next year, I took double physics and chemistry just to get out of PE. School sports were simply hellish and I used to feel sick to my stomach on the days I had to suffer those lessons.
Caspar, UK

School sports for me personally was a nightmare, the last one to be picked, enduring the hate that was prevalent just because you were no good at sports. Maybe a rethink needs to happen on how to promote a better sports education in the UK
Christopher McLaren, UK

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28 Feb 00 |  Education
Sport 'squeezed out of schools'

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