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Culture Jun 16, 2019 9:17 AM EST

I sucked at dodgeball and I’m not oppressed

Not everything has to be a tool of oppression. Things can just suck. Or be hard. But in 2019 we have to look at any inconvenience and then blame on the lack of global social justice.

I sucked at dodgeball and I’m not oppressed
Jamie Kilstein Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

When I was in high school I failed gym class. I know. Shut up.

You’re probably asking yourself, how did Jamie, of all people, fail gym? Well, I’ll tell you how. I got high, pretended I forgot my gym clothes, which secretly rested at the bottom of my backpack, and then I watched a bunch of kids run around in circles for 45 minutes until the bell rang.

If I had a nickname in gym class it would have been “target.” I wasn’t athletic, didn’t really try, and when I did participate, I stood still long enough to get hit with a ball of some sort.

It’s why I and many other kids hated dodgeball. When we would play dodgeball, I would wait to get picked last, then find a corner, hug it tighter than I have ever hugged a parent and just wait. I would then feel the breeze of those tiny plastic balls of hate fly by, nicking me right in the self-confidence.

So, speaking as someone who hates dodgeball I can say that this Washington Post headline, “Dodgeball is a tool of “oppression” used to “dehumanize” others researchers argue” is the stupidest thing I have ever seen.

First of all, this is the Washington Post! It exposed the Pentagon Papers!

Also, who is this “researcher”?? I assume it’s a terrified child who was just eliminated from dodgeball writing angrily from under the bleachers.

Dodgeball is not a tool of oppression!! When you are eliminated do you become the other team’s slave? NO! It’s a game for jerks and popular kids. Not great, but not oppressive.

I was also bad at math! Should we say that arithmetic only targets the mentally slow students? When I would wander the halls after pretending I had to go to the bathroom, if a teacher tried to stop me should I have screamed oppression?

Not everything has to be a tool of oppression. Things can just suck. Or be hard. But in 2019 we have to look at any inconvenience and then blame on the lack of global social justice.

The story says: “Dodgeball in phys-ed classes teaches students to dehumanize and harm their peers, professors from three Canadian universities said in a presentation this week at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Vancouver.”

OK, when you are a teenage boy, all you are trying to do is figure out ways to dehumanize kids and hide your boner. It’s a terrible time where we are all little monsters. Afraid of everything, hoping that we won’t get laughed at which is why we try to laugh at others first.

The researchers say that it teaches powerful kids all team up and target the week.

My own research (complaining about this article to my girlfriend) shows something different. She told me that instead of targeting the weak they all targeted the bullies. It was 45 minutes of glorious revenge!

No matter what your school did during this terrible game, we probably shouldn’t be teaching kids about revenge and “targeting.” But should we be teaching kids about overcoming fear and adversity? 100 percent.

All sports make kids feel like shit! Dodgeball is just the only one that lacks any metaphor.

We had a tiny kid on our basketball team who no one ever passed the ball to. Every game he looked humiliated and dejected. One day, by some miracle, young Ravi, got the ball. He sprinted down the court with the biggest smile I have ever seen. The crowd screaming at the top of their lungs. Were they screaming because this tiny boy is about to overcome all odds and score a game-winning basket? NOPE. Ravi was running towards the wrong basket and was about to score for the wrong team. Luckily, he was very bad at basketball and missed.

This happened more than 15 years ago and still haunts me. Any sport can suck for anyone cause sports are hard. But hard is good.

One of the researchers then said: “I think of the little girl who is running to the back to avoid being targeted,” Butler said. “What is she learning in that class? Avoidance?”

My girlfriend and I grew up in different states but had the same strategy. Hide and then wreak havoc. Some could say we were learning avoidance, others might say it was a strategy.

When I coached kids jiujitsu sometimes we would play dodgeball. Some of the small kids who were hiding were laughing the whole time not learning avoidance. They were impressed by their own Loki-like trickery. Other small kids were the first to sprint to the front of the game pelting balls and the bigger kids to learn about bravery. Sometimes a kid would get hit and cry and those times all of us would support them.

You know who always won the game? A girl named Mia who is a 13-year-old killer on the mats who doesn’t take shit. She’s also the first to help anyone help who gets hurt.

I played dodgeball as a child and adult and I can tell you that I did not become an oppressor.

At no point in my adult life have a seen a small child then gone into my car, dug around until I found my round plastic ball and pelted at him from across the street. Maybe it even taught me empathy. Maybe seeing kids get targeted in dodgeball is why I won’t stand for it now.

Also from the article: “[Physical education class] should be an arena where teachers are helping [students] control their aggression and move on instead of expressing themselves through anger.”

This is where the article starts to scare me. Kids need to be kids. They need to run around and get hurt. They need to screw up. They need to be jerks, knock someone over, then learn if they don’t go back and help that kid up they will be kicked out of the game and be forced to sit next to the stoned kid who is pretending he forget his shorts.

I agree that children should learn attributes like holding in their anger. I wish young men learned more about vulnerability and young women learned they don’t have to people-please. But gym and sports and competition are also important and shouldn’t be replaced with a sharing circle resembling a tiny person AA meeting.

If while reading above, you were wondering how someone who failed gym class started coaching people how to fight I’ll tell you. At 28 the closest thing to weightlifting I did was deadlift alcohol into my mouth, but then I found jiujitsu and MMA. The only thing scarier then dodge balls are having those people be allowed to cross that invisible line, tackle you to the ground and try to choke you out.

I was always the smallest in my class. I didn’t submit anyone until I got my blue belt. I showed up every day and paid money to get the shit kicked out of me. I can honestly say that it saved my life. It taught me to stop complaining and fight. That I could do things I never thought I could like hug my teammate after beating the shit out of him, or to not be a baby after getting the shit beat out of me. I would probably be dead in a gutter somewhere without this.

If you asked me today if every teenager should learn how to fight I would say yes. Adversity makes us stronger, especially for the small and the weak. That’s how we learn to not take shit. Maybe it’s not the games but how we coach and play them.

I will never forget one of the days my tyrant gym teacher made me play dodgeball. Most of the time I would pace in the back until I got hit. But this day something different happened. After hiding the whole time I was the last one left on my team and people started to cheer. I became possessed. Sprinting back and forth, doing little dance moves to avoid being hit, laughing as my heart was sending shockwaves down my body.

I finally got hit. Hard. In the face. I smiled a victorious smile knowing I couldn’t win but would still put up a fight and make those motherfuckers on the other team work. It’s a lesson I will never forget, and a day I will always smile about.

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