Gym Class Heroes: '90s Edition
by Michel Corey | published Dec. 29th, 2015
You wake up and it's a Tuesday morning in 1997. You put on your favorite tee, brush your teeth, grab some Eggo waffles and rush into the car, backpack falling off your shoulder, to get to school on time. You're excited as anything — not just because in elementary school you actually enjoyed going to class, but because today you have gym.
For us kids, gym is one of the best parts of the day because it was the time when all of our jittery energy was finally released and we got a break from listening to lectures about math or history. What on Earth is better than that? We didn't play any of the typical sports. No, it was the best and weirdest games our gym teacher could come up with that would soon become a huge part of our elementary memories. When you are a kid, you don't realize that all the activities chosen by gym teachers are carefully structured to help you and your classmates learn different athletic, cognitive and teamwork skills.
Essentially the poster game for kids in elementary school in the '90s, the various games played with this giant, colorful creativity-inducer were mainly to get kids moving. Its key focus was to increase flexibility and mobility in arms and legs and to increase imagination with make-believe games. Something about those primary colors flailing around in such a rhythmic way gets every kid excited to see how high they could get the colors in the air, how large their igloo could be or if the ball they threw on top of the parachute could roll to them first. Not only is it fun, but it stimulates the mind and gets the juices flowing, increasing brain activity and hand-eye coordination. It's the most simple concept and still the most entertaining game, at least for a few minutes.
This was the most fun you could possibly have while simultaneously feeling like your fingers were being chopped off. Remember that? The scooters actually provide great sensory feedback and help physical development in kids around the elementary age. It's an innovative way for kids to explore and improve their balance and bodily awareness as well. Muscle strength is another big one; moving your legs at the speed of light a clenching your abs until they hurt just to keep from falling off are some of the best ways to not even realize you're getting a pretty decent workout. Not to mention spinning — along with jumping, hand-flapping, rocking and more — can also help teachers and parents recognize if a child has a form of autism or other learning disabilities.
The most basic incarnation of survival of the fittest. Put simply, the teacher splits the class in two, puts all of the balls on the line in the middle of the floor and as soon as the whistle blows the class goes all in.
In more recent years, certain states like New York, Virginia and Connecticut have actually banned or outlawed dodgeball for P.E. classes. According to the National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NAPSE), the game is inappropriate for elementary school because some kids are naturally not as athletic as others and may feel left out. The same thing applies to competitiveness as well. Some studies have been done trying to find a connection between the ego-filled, naturally strong and more athletic students; their psychiatric stability and the outbreaks of school violence. While there have been variations and changes to the rules in certain school districts to make it easier for everyone, there are thousands of concerned parents and teachers pushing to ban it altogether.
In an online discussion post about the game itself, one user argued that the whole point of gym class is to learn about and get more involved with physical education and learn about about fitness and health. When a child is tagged and is forced to leave the game, they are no longer moving around or exercising at all, instead, just watching from the sidelines while the faster runners and higher jumpers compete in the game. This can discourage children from learning about health or exercising on their own because they associate physical activity with inferiority.
A person is chosen to be "it," and as soon as the game starts if you're tagged by "it," you've got to freeze exactly where you are and wait for another person still in the game to come un-tag you. It's one of the more adrenaline pumping games that helps improve speed — it's almost like a less structured form of interval training — and agility, because of all the darting back and forth in various directions to keep from getting caught. One of the main reasons this game is played, though, is to help kids learns how to work together and help their fellow classmates while still trying to stay in the game themselves. Freeze tag gets kids talking and can be a stepping stone to increase social interactions and even friendships. It also increases brain activity with mental training and strategic thinking. You have to be focused, strategize how to get around the person who's "it" while simultaneously trying to unfreeze other players. Play if you dare, but don't get caught!