Why Children Dislike Physical Education

Physical Education (P.E.) has been a part of school curriculums since the 1800s and with the increasing concern over childhood obesity, it will not be removed from the curriculum anytime soon. This can be seen as both good and bad: good for those students who are athletic, and bad for those who are not. While many children will claim that Physical Education is their favorite “subject” when asked, there are many students who dread the class altogether.  

Physical Education is woven into school curriculums for a reason; it’s not just there to torture the children who are not athletic. The purpose of Physical Education is to teach children how to lead a healthy lifestyle. It is also a chance for children to blow off some energy during the day so that they can focus during class. As Juvenal, the Roman poet once said, “A healthy mind in a healthy body”, and this is the prime purpose of P.E. in schools.

Only now do I appreciate the purpose of Physical Education, and perhaps it is because I will never be required to take it again…Alright, that is definitely the reason. For as far back as I can remember, I never liked P.E.. I was the student who “forgot” my clothes at least once a week and forged notes from my parents, pretending to have a sprained wrist or ankle in order to get out of it.

The main reasons I disliked P.E., and why many other students dislike P.E., is because it’s not fun. Physical Education, especially in Elementary Schools, is an essential part of the day to allow the children to run down all of their built up energy in hopes they can make it through the last couple of hours of school. It’s supposed to be a break from structure and studies; however, in many school systems it is anything but. Rather than teaching students essential physical skills to keep their bodies and minds healthy and active, P.E. teachers have decided to use these classes to mold their own future star athletes. This is, of course, what turns many P.E. classes into a living nightmare for most non-athletic students.

I would describe my Middle School Physical Education teacher as a drill sergeant. He was very demanding and needed everything to be done to perfection. We rarely ever played any fun games in P.E., unless we were transitioning into a new unit; mostly, we stuck to traditional sports: football, soccer, basketball, badminton, basketball and so on and so forth. I had absolutely no interest in becoming the next star soccer player, nor did I have any interest in learning how to play football. However, in the teacher’s mind, everyone needed to learn all of the skills necessary to excel in these sports, and students had to perform each of these skills in the “correct” way. If you had too much spin on your football or couldn’t serve a volleyball straight, you were forced to perform the same task over and over again until you were able to get it right. If you went too long trying to perfect a task, the teacher would deem you incapable, embarrass you in front of the entire class, and take points off of your grade.

From my experience, most Physical Education teachers confuse effort with being able to perform tasks perfectly, and this is why students who do not excel in sports dislike the class. A student can be putting in their one hundred percent, but it doesn’t mean that they are going to be able to score a goal. Physical Education teachers need to understand that a student’s best effort doesn’t always meet their expectations. Students dislike P.E. because they feel as though they aren’t ever going to meet those expectations; therefore, they don’t even try.

In order for students to better like Physical Education, I think that it needs to steer away from traditional sports. Children can learn how to be active and the benefits of being active without having to learn how to play softball, soccer, or football. There were some activities that we did throughout middle school and high school that I enjoyed, and that was mainly because they were non-traditional. I loved playing Frisbee golf, monarch, doing yoga, and learning how to swing dance. All of those activities are non-traditional, fun, and active, which is exactly what P.E. should be. In addition, teachers need to understand that not all students are athletic and can be athletic. They need to have more realistic expectations for their students.