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When PE was not so jolly hockey sticks
I only have to drive past a school playing field to develop a nervous twitch.
Dreadful memories of the days when, decked out in thigh-length gym skirt and thin cotton top and clutching a battered hockey stick, I would run up and down for an hour on a mixture of grass and mud in sub-zero temperatures.
At our school the weather had to be nothing short of record-book conditions for outdoor games to be cancelled. How we would plead to be allowed to stay inside to play rounders or table tennis, as hailstones the size of tennis balls pelted the sports hall windows.
But the answer was always no – and no-one dared argue with the incredibly strict sportsmistress.
If my own experience – albeit 30 years ago – is anything to go by, it's easy to understand why almost half of girls in Britain actively avoid playing games.
Now activities like hockey and netball are at risk of being scrapped in schools in favour of aerobics – or any activity which might encourage girls' participation.
Maybe someone should ask girls why they don't like games, why they don't like wearing next to nothing in the pouring rain, being pelted by a ball as hard as granite and being yelled at when you miss a goal the width of an average bath.
At least, in that respect, the lads on the adjacent football pitch had a reasonable chance of scoring.
And that's another thing – lads. What young woman wants the classmate she fancies to see her staggering off a windswept (aren't they always?) field in a navy blue mini skirt, caked in muck and covered in cuts and bruises?
To any self-conscious young female, especially one aged 12 and over, school sport is, by and large, an ungainly affair. It may not be politically correct to say so, but it's just not feminine.
It doesn't help that female sports teachers are nothing short of tyrannical. I'm sure ours were headhunted from the French Foreign Legion.
Their voices could carry for at least 10 miles, and hearing the words “Helen Mead” relayed across eight playing fields at 100 million decibels would strike the fear of God into me.
Compared with hockey, Netball wasn't such an ordeal - more a waste of time. Boring is the word that springs to mind.