#1 – Crab Soccer
Anyone who’s ever participated in or watched a children’s soccer game knows that they’re absolute debacles. Weak passing. Disinterested goalkeeping. Fifteen kids following the ball in a tightly bunched knot, while the remaining players sit on the field and pick dandelions. Soccer may be the beautiful game, but it’s never been so ugly.
Yet for some reason, crab soccer is awesome. What could be better than seeing a bunch of kids crabwalk around on all fours, trying to kick a ball? The fundamentals are no worse than in actual youth soccer, and the kids get the fun benefit of occasionally stomping on each other’s fingers or kicking someone in the face. In fact, we’re pretty sure we could talk ourselves into getting excited for the Crab World Cup every four years.
#2 – Getting Hit in the Face with a Dodgeball
Sure, it looks like it will hurt. Does it really, though? Only a little*, and once your nose stops bleeding, you barely even feel it anymore. The few seconds of stinging are more than worth it because they allow you to take part in the best gym class activity of them all: getting out of gym class.
What sort of monstrous coach would make you keep playing after you took a dodgeball to the mouth? That would be downright cruel. No, better to hit the showers, then sit out for the rest of the day. Relax, unwind, have a snack, read a magazine, and laugh at all those poor bastards who didn’t have the good fortune to be hit in the face with a rubber ball.
*Unless you wore glasses, in which case your face was covered in lacerations.
#3 – Red Rover
Past generations of kids didn’t have to wear seatbelts, were constantly around second-hand smoke, and munched on tasty lead paint chips whenever their appetites demanded it. Sure, parents now know better, but none of those activities is anywhere close to as dangerous as playing a single game of Red Rover. Could anyone other than an orthopedic surgeon have invented this game?
“Alright, Janey and Bill, here’s what you do: rigidly hold your weak little still-growing arms out rigidly at your sides. We’re going to have another kid run into your arm at full speed. If he can’t break through, you’ll feel the sweet reward of victory. Also, a shattered humeris.”
The game is so much fun that it’s a shame that for the sake of efficiency, future generations of children won’t even play Red Rover. The gym teacher will simply select one child at random, break both his arms, and then have the rest of the kids do something useful, like practice sending each other dirty text messages.
#4 – Parachute
Quick, everybody grab a handle of this giant colorful nylon sheet! Now we’ll rhythmically raise and lower it. Got it? That’s the whole game. Maybe Coach will toss some tennis balls onto the parachute and call it “popcorn,” maybe not. Either way, simply raising and lowering this sail will be the most fun you have all day.
Maybe it’s the hypnotic waving of the colors. Maybe it’s the old-fashioned fun of repeatedly raising your arms. No one can really say. Like a mother’s love, the gym class parachute isn’t something you should deconstruct or analyze too closely. Just raise it, lower it, and appreciate that at the end of the day, kids are really, really easily entertained. Plus, it’s great job training for the 0.0000001% of students who will someday become paratroopers! And even better training for those who will be Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell-style paratroopers!
#5 – Avoiding Taking a Shower
Sure, Coach says, “Hit the showers,” at the end of every class, but that’s got to just be a figure of speech, right? He doesn’t really expect you to shower with all these other guys, does he? Some of them have already hit puberty! And they’ll hit you with a towel or something. We saw it in a movie!
Best to avoid that briar patch altogether. Just pull off your gym uniform, slap on a little new deodorant, and head back to your normal classes. After those quick passes with the Degree no one will even notice that your body is covered with dried sweat. If anyone asks what that smell is, just laugh and say, “Must be the cafeteria.” Quick thinking there, stinky!
#6 – Steal the Bacon
Poor fat kid. He’s already the object of everyone’s scorn and contempt, and then comes the crowning injustice: this game doesn’t involve bacon at all. The “bacon” is just some damn flag that two lines of kids are trying to run out and grab. You can’t eat that! You can’t eat a flag! At least not without mayo!
To be sure, the absence of real bacon is a shortcoming of this game. What redeems it, then? The absolute certainty of two kids running headlong into each other while trying to grab the “bacon” from the ground. Think the NFL‘s infamous helmet-to-helmet hits are brutal? Well, they’re infinitely more entertaining when you remove those pesky helmets and let cranium strike cranium.
Little Billy went from being a promising student to a drooling vegetable after taking a shot to the noggin during that round of Steal the Bacon, but was it worth it? Of course! What’s the higher brain functioning of one measly kid matter when the other 28 have learned a valuable lesson about how to swipe pork products? These are the skills we’ll really need in a post-apocalyptic world.
#7 – Not Being Picked Last
Sure, the actual games in gym class might not be much to watch, but the pageantry and heated competition of this event more than makes up for it. Watch as the nerdy kids and the uncoordinated kids jockey for position as the more popular, athletic kids pick sides. Watch them puff out their scrawny chests to appear stronger and stand up straight to look taller!
They’ll do anything to avoid a fate worse than death: being picked last for dodgeball. That’s the sort of thing that will turn a 9 year-old into the school’s biggest social pariah. At least until someone breaks wind during a spelling test. Then Mr. Picked Last will be off the hook.
#8 – Volleyball
When played by competent volleyballers, this game can be exciting to play and fun to watch. When played by your average gym class, it’s even better in its own way. There will be three good players — max — in any 30-person class, yet Coach will insist that you spend a week playing volleyball. It sounds terrible at first, until you realize that “playing volleyball” is really just a code for “standing around” when everyone’s awful at it.
Sure, you’ll have to occasionally take your turn serving the ball out of bounds or into the net, but after that, you’re just one rotation away from 15 sweet minutes of inactivity as the ball thuds harmlessly to the floor over and over again. You won’t even break a sweat! It’s the next best thing to forgetting your gym clothes and being “punished” by having to sit out for the day.
#9 – Tennis Baseball
It’s exactly the same as baseball, except instead of a baseball and a bat you use a tennis ball and a racket. This is the sort of innovation that makes gym teachers excited to wake up in the morning. It’s all the fun of baseball with none of the strikeouts, injuries, or excruciating cycles of steroids and growth hormones!
Plus, it enables the school to get some return on all those tennis rackets they bought when the principal had a hunch that the Agassi-Sampras rivalry was going to make tennis relevant again for the kids. It didn’t, but tennis baseball saves the rackets from their only other potential use: rousing games of Let’s Hit Each Other With These Tennis Rackets.
#10 – Being the Early Onset Puberty Kid
Hands down, this is the best possible activity in gym class. He may only be 9 years-old, a mere speck of humanity, but when it comes to gym class, the world is Early Onset Puberty Kid’s oyster. His towering 5’5″ height makes him borderline unstoppable in any game he plays, and the wispy mustache that’s sprouting in spotty patches on his lip gives him an intimidation factor the other kids can’t match. For a year or two, this kid is Wilt Chamberlain, Albert Pujols, and Peyton Manning rolled into one.
Inevitably, the other kids will catch up to him, and by the time he’s 17 he’ll be a short 5’5″ man who’s already losing his hair thanks to the surplus of testosterone that helped him grow so quickly, but man, he’ll never forget his fifth grade gym class heroics. He’ll tell his kids about them some day. Or he would if anyone wanted to procreate with a short, balding man whose life peaked at age 11.
#11 – Climbing the Rope
Lots of gym class activities don’t really translate very well into students’ adult lives; while crab soccer may be fun, it’s never really going to help anyone out of a jam. Climbing up a rope, though? It teaches all sorts of valuable skills: how to recover from a rope burn, how best to pad one’s fall from a high distance, the easiest way to look up a classmate’s shorts … these are lessons students will employ literally every single day in their adult lives. When it’s time to climb out of a fiery pit of lava on little more than a long hanging rope — and mark our words, it will eventually be that time — you’ll thank your gym teacher.
Of course, when it’s your turn to climb up the rope, it’s no fun. The rest of the period is a comedy goldmine, though, as one student after another makes it halfway up, loses their grip, and comes crashing down with a resounding thud of failure. (Imagine the sound of a cantaloupe dropping onto a sidewalk.) Plus, the rope climb often gives way to an even more fun activity: Guess What That Kid Broke in His Fall.
#12 – Making Fun of the Fat Kid
Make no mistake: it’s a hard life being the fat kid. He’s perpetually short of breath, and with a physique like that he’ll be lucky to make it to his 25th birthday without having a massive heart attack. Childhood obesity is a grave, tragic problem that affects far too many children in this country.
That being said, man, is it ever funny to have one of these tubs of goo in your gym class! It’s really kind of the whole point of gym. There’s always something to mock! No matter how far he kicks the ball in kickball, he can never quite waddle to first base in time. In any other sport he’ll be consigned to playing catcher or goalie, not so much because he’s particularly good at catching, but because his swollen body has the most surface area. Just wait until he tries to be the anchor of his tug-of-war team. The moment he falls down will be funnier than history’s 20 best YouTube videos combined.
The exercising fat kid hits his absolute apex if your gym class ever has to use a swimming pool, though. Not wanting to be mocked for his extreme girth, chubso will invariably wear a t-shirt into the pool. Smart thinking, fatty! A sopping wet white t-shirt will totally conceal your heaving boy boobs; that’s why wet t-shirt contests are so unpopular. With your brains and body, you’re sure to go far!
#13 – Running Laps
Nothing says, “Coach drank too much last night and spent the night sleeping outside his ex-wife’s house” quite as clearly as the announcement that today’s gym class will involve running laps. Nevermind that your average gym student can run about three laps before running out of breath and wheezing to a halt; coach doesn’t want to hear any lip today. Just run those laps.
Of course, “running laps” gradually turns into “walking around the gym or the track in a vaguely circular pattern,” which gives way to “standing around” before making a natural transition back to everyone’s favorite game: Making Fun of the Fat Kid. Sorry, dude. Barring some sort of dramatic Jerry O’Connell turnaround, the rest of your life is going to be like this, so you might as well get used to it now. At least coach is grateful that you’re letting him burn off his hangover in peace. He might not call you “Chunk” anymore. Don’t count on it, though.
#14 – President’s Physical Fitness Test
Remember this gem? One gym day out of every year, you’d have to prove your mettle to the President himself — be advised: you personally disappointed President Clinton several times — by performing a series of exercises. Do them well enough and you got a little certificate saying you won the Presidential Physical Fitness Award.
If you couldn’t do them? No big deal. You were probably good at other things, like eating brownies, crying, and being terrible at life.
Now, though? Everyone gets an award. Everyone! Even the kids who are awful at everything. They win the “Participant Physical Fitness Award.” There’s an honor to put on your resume! Here’s the program’s actual delightfully condescending text for the award: “Woo hoo! There’s room for improvement, but these students showed great heart. Students earn this award if they participate in all five activities, and one or more of their scores fall below the 50th percentile.” In other words, “Congratulations on not dying during this easy exam. You are America’s hope for the future!” Now that’s fun!
#15 – Staying in the Locker Room to Hide an Erection
Girls get to sit out of gym when they’re having their periods, but the school board stubbornly refuses to recognize “having a boner” as a medical condition. Between boxer shorts, gym shorts, and being 13, you’ve got no chance of hiding your hard-on, so your only chance is hiding in the locker room until it goes away on its own. Try thinking about something unsexy, like the humiliation that definitely awaits you once the dodgeball game gets started. Maybe even ask a good friend to pelt you with the dodgeball directly on the penis. Otherwise, you could just try hiding somewhere that nobody would think to look. The smart money’s on the locker room shower.