By Judith Geer
I love the Olympics. The whoosh of boards on snow and the sizzle of blades on ice make me feel like I’m soaring skyward with Chloe Kim and skating effortlessly with Adam Ripon. But, alas, I know that in a million years that’s not possible. You see, sports fans, I was a gym class flunky. From the time of my first gym class as a kindergartner to my last in college I have not been able to do anything to prepare myself, physical fitness-wise, for even a thin veneer of an athletic life. Where did I go wrong? I always liked sports, at least the spectator end of things, and usually got perfect marks on the written rules tests. But, when it came to applying theory to practice, I was a tangle of bumbling frustration. My mind was way ahead darting and weaving around whatever playing surface we were on, while minutes behind would stagger my trembling, sweating, puffing body trying desperately just to remain upright.
Do you know what it’s like being a high school girl and always being the last one chosen for a team? I tried to make light of it, but it’s hard when the captains of whatever we’d be playing would end up flipping a coin and the loser would get me. “OK, Judi,” the loser would groan, “you’re with us. Just don’t get in the way.” My usual position on any team was substitute. I became very good at substituting, too. I could sit on the sidelines better than anybody. Sometimes I wondered why I bothered to suit-up at all. The term “suit-up” brings to mind the subject of gym suits. Nowadays school girls can dress sensibly for gym class in shorts and tee shirts. Back in the 1950’s we were all outfitted in these hideous little numbers that not even the cheerleaders looked good in. These garments were red with pleats in the skirts – yes, skirts! – and, lest we forget, matching bloomers! They had to be seen to be believed, but let’s leave the optics conjured by that description in the dim reaches of the past, shall we?
Then there was the New York State Physical Fitness Test given every year to school kids to determine the state norms of physical endurance. I tried to do well on it, I really did, but all I garnered was the agony of defeat performing countless exercises that felt to me like the tortures meted out in Dante’s Inferno. The one area in which I scored well was my feet. You got five points off if you had flat feet. Since I have absolutely dynamic arches, I got plus five – and I didn’t have to do anything but make an imprint of my wet feet on a paper towel! Unfortunately, my dynamic arches couldn’t hold back the swelling tide of disastrous failures on the rest of the test and my total score came out about the same as my age, 16! I had broken all school records for the lowest percentage on the test, 7%. My score meant that 93% of the kids in the state were more physically fit than I was. And most of my 7% was due to my dynamic arches! When my parents received the test results in the mail my dad, with just the right amount of fatherly protectiveness asked, “Gee, Hon, do you think you’ll live through the summer?”
In my elder years I’ve adjusted to being a klutz. At least my dynamic arches allow me to be good at the one “sport” I can do: walking. That and watching the Olympics. I think I’ll just be grateful for that.
Judith Geer is very good at walking and watching the Olympics.