WHENEVER I see the term ‘keep fit’ or I receive yet another email invitation to join a local gymnasium, I can’t thinking about my school days when keeping fit was simply called ‘PE’.
Just saying that name conjures up all sorts of images for me – cold showers and a cruel pseudo punishment known as ‘changing practice’.
On joining the Deer Park at the age of 11, several lesson hours were given over to learning how to take clothes off and put them back on.
Failure to do this in two minutes would be punished – punished by further ‘practice’ after school or at lunchtimes.
Changing practice at the Deer Park School in the 1960s was a stop-watch timed activity overseen by a teacher in which boys (never the girls) had to remove their clothing and put on sports gear in two minutes.
A further two minutes was allowed put your uniform back on.
If a shower (cold) was required, the time was extended to five minutes in total.
The PE master at the Deer Park who oversaw changing practice was an ex Army physical training instructor called ‘Robbo’ aka Mr Robinson.
Perhaps he introduced changing practice from the Army but he never told us why it was such an essential skill for 11-15 year old boys to learn.
It was also important to him of that boys learned certain gym based activities that would also equip us to take our place in the outside world.
Every boy, no matter what his shape or size, needed to be able to do a forward roll over a three foot high wooden beam and when that was mastered, to be able to do gate vaults from beams about 20 feet off the ground.
Many boys baulked at both and were rewarded with ‘changing practice’.
I was not one of these boys, but having learned both, half a century on, I have as yet to use them.