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Knight Ridder by Karen Garloch
Saturday, March 30, 2013
One of the more interesting bits of news that came out of Washington earlier this year was Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s announcement that, in the future, disabled students must be allowed to play on school sports teams if they can keep up with their able-bodied classmates after reasonable accommodations have been made.
In an Associated Press story that ran on Jan. 25, Duncan stated that disabled students should be included in sports programs so they can “benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court.”
Really? Isn’t being disabled hard enough without adding the trauma of gym class on top of it?
When I was a kid, there weren’t as many developmentally and physically challenged students attending public schools as there are now, but they were there. And I remember thinking that one of the perks of being disabled was not having to sweat all over yourself before third period.
Before we try to force every kid in a wheelchair to hit the showers, I’d like to offer a little reality check by sharing some life lessons I learned from participating in school sports:
1. Sometimes you have to admit defeat.
When you’re standing in right field and the ball is coming at you and you know there’s no way you’re going to catch it unless it hits you on the head, it’s best just to close your eyes, let it land and brace yourself for the heaps of scorn that you know are coming to you from your teammates.
2. No, you can’t do anything you want if you just try hard enough.
Short little legs and high hurdles are an impossible combination, and nothing can change that.
3. Pity hurts, but sometimes you’ve gotta take it.
In gymnastics class, I was terrified by the idea of hurtling my body through the air in ways nature never intended. So my teachers graciously gave me Cs for merely approaching an apparatus and sitting on it.
4. Victory is only snatched from the mouth of defeat in the movies.
The only two sports I was any good at in high school and college were field hockey and fencing. By “good” I mean that my opponents were initially frightened by the sight of me charging at them with a stick or a sword, but they got over it pretty quickly when they realized I had no idea what to do next.
In fact, the entire fencing class was able to defeat me. Twice. Each.
5. Showing up is half the battle; and sometimes, doing something halfway is good enough.
I passed my phys-ed courses in college only because I aced the written tests and took the earliest classes possible. I got extra points for bothering to get out of bed every morning, and racked up even more if it was winter.
6. Taking off your clothes in front of strangers who are hard-wired to laugh at you is a terrible idea.
Need I say more?
Nevertheless, I applaud the idea of including disabled kids in school sports. I know many of them are eager to participate and may even be more athletic than I am. But I also know that a good portion of them — like many of their able-bodied classmates — would really rather just go to the library instead. Now that’s a program I’d like to see.
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