PE: The power of a positive mindset


Photo by Viggo Jabon

Sophomore PE class playing tchoukball

Abby Jarecki

I’ve played alongside the best of the best: soon-to-be Division I athletes, state champions, Allstate Athletes of the Week, you name it. I’ve lifted weights in the fitness center with bodybuilders, and I’ve run laps with record-holding cross country and track runners. 

How could I, a 4’11 dancer who quit soccer at age 9 because I ran away from the ball, have had the opportunity to play with some of the most talented athletes in the school? 

Through Phys-Ed, of course. 

As a senior, I’m almost done with my K-12 PE career. With only one semester left to give it my all in class, I’ve been reflecting on my triumphs and defeats, as well as the lessons I’ve learned over the years in the WHS gymnasium. 

PE has challenged me to push my boundaries and get creative with how I put myself out there. Since I’m not what one would call athletically inclined, I had to find my own happiness in PE: a happiness that doesn’t involve winning, but improving. 

In high school movies and TV shows, the runt-like protagonist typically finds himself or herself a victim of countless dodgeballs to the face, or a fraying rope towering over them that they must climb. With all of the odds stacked against these characters, there’s no way that they can enjoy their PE experience. 

Even though I relate to these individuals in initially feeling scared to go up against some of the strongest athletes at their school, I know that PE at WHS is nothing like the movies. 

Yes, the competition remains fierce in some classes, but when you focus on creating an environment of teamwork, development and sportsmanship, the competition becomes worthwhile.

PE is what you make of it. I have learned this through years of cheering on my classmates and being my own cheerleader. This cheering, however, doesn’t always have to be after someone scores a goal or wins a point for their team. It can be when your classmates or PE teachers congratulate you on the little improvements you make. 

When I finally nailed my lefty volleyball serve junior year (yes, I’m a lefty and that also makes things a little harder since many skills are taught on the right hand side first), my partner on the other side of the court cheered for me and encouraged me to keep serving that way. 

More recently, I decided to take a risk and play goalie for my deck hockey team. Even though I let multiple balls fly past me, I kept trying and my teacher noticed this. Rather than rebuke me for my mistakes, he celebrated my participation and willingness to try something new. 

It’s these signs of positivity that motivate me to push myself in class, despite my weak hand-eye coordination and petite stature.  

My advice to a student who feels like they can’t succeed in PE: Don’t try to transform yourself into an all-star volleyball or deck hockey player. Go for that one solid pass, that one key defensive move, that feel-good, proud-of-yourself moment. Be a team player. Cheer for your classmates. Contribute to a positive environment. It all starts with you.