Accepting what you don’t do well

Writing this post (about my Naval Academy experience and other things) got me thinking about this topic.

I always wanted to be an athlete. But I lacked…well…athletic ability. Yes, I had some success at junior high football and some minor success during my first 3 years of high school football (JV, small school varsity, larger school JV then…not so much). I had minor success in wrestling and judo at high school and club levels.

But as far as stepping up: comparing myself to a modestly successful college athlete (any level, D-III on up) was a joke.

Yes, I did work myself up to being able to run ok, by lay person’s standards (5:30 mile, 19:00 5K, 310 lb. bench press, NOT all at the same time) and I did a few things as a masters sort-of athlete. But everything I had even a modest amount of success in involved “straight line, repetitive motions”. Example: if I was right with someone at, say, a 10K road run, they would blow me away at a 10K trail run, if the trail was at all technical.

And this is how it showed up: I flunked the Air Force Academy physical fitness test (to get in): despite my practicing, practicing, practicing, I kept doing lousy in the “shuttle run” (you run back and forth around two cones a set distance apart and you are timed for a certain number of laps).

At Annapolis, the only P. E. test I failed was the obstacle course (failed twice as a freshman; had to practice to pass as a sophomore, junior and senior). In the Navy, I flunked the Navy Air obstacle course the first time I tried it, and I had practiced it first! When I got by myself, I cried in frustration. Yes, I passed it the very next day as I only flunked by 3-4 seconds. But at this time in my life, I was in the best shape of my life (39:50 10K run). And I got perfect scores on the cross country run (really) and on the swim. But the obstacle course…just humiliated me.

See the pattern? No matter how much I practiced, anything requiring any “moving agility” was just very difficult for me. I could do pull ups, but getting over the wall and off of it…slow and clumsy.

So…when I teach I remember this. There are students who go to every class, sit up front, go to office hours, do all the work and still have a miserable time with elementary calculus. Some simply won’t make it as engineers. But I can feel their pain and remind them that we need smart people in all sorts of disciplines.


July 2, 2016 - Posted by | social/political | , ,

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