Watch this clip, which has been all over the internet the past few days, and list your top 3 takeaways.
No seriously, watch it and make a list. I would accept 2-5 takeaways; you should have more than one.
Here are mine:
- Cool flip. I knew she could flip though, as I’ve followed her career as the best gymnast in the history of the world.
- Weak throw. Rushed, barely made it to the plate with a ton of arc. Poor form with the opposite foot kicking back instead of leading.
- She’s not tall. I knew that, though, and I’ve even seen the picture of her with Shaq.
- She had the player sign the ball. So she’s a baseball fan?
- This was all well-orchestrated. The flip, where she moved in to throw from, having the ball signed. Well executed, too.
In seeing Twitter react to all of this, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone was pretending not to notice the weak throw. It felt forced. Fake.
Why do we have celebrities throw first pitches? The entire point is seeing someone who is famous for not-baseball reasons do a baseball thing under pressure. It’s weird to watch a first pitch and comment on everything except the actual throw.
When I tried to engage a handful people about this, they shied away. It was ominous.. maybe they were anticipating I was going to take a hard right into “Simone Biles throws like a girl” territory or something silly like that? Are those really the only two options here? Either ignore it entirely, or male chauvinism?
Listen, I could take this down a long and winding road about double-standards, or wokeness, or #cancelculture, but this is a P.E. blog.
I’m always observing athleticism. I pay attention to how people walk, how people run, how people catch, how people throw. I notice lots of other things, too, but things relating to athletic ability and competitive drive are up there. It’s just what I do.
Simone Biles is a world class athlete. Better than once in a generation, she’s once in a generation of generations. The best gymnast I’ve ever seen, and it’s not close.
Simone Biles can’t throw. That wasn’t just a bad rep, that was bad form and probably about the best outcome she could have expected in terms of distance and accuracy.
That’s okay! In fact, I think it’s cool. It’s cool she was willing to do something she’s not good at in front of a crowd, and it’s cool that she demonstrated such an enormous variance of athletic excellence within a few seconds.
I try to tell this to my students in P.E. all the time. People seem to think there are two types of people: athletes and non-athletes. Athletes are good at everything sports-related, non-athletes are bad at everything sports-related. I do everything I can to prove them wrong, and this could help.
See, they have a fixed mindset. “I’m not good, and I never will be.” I try to show them that we all can get better at anything we do over and over. When you see someone accomplish a feat of athleticism, it’s hard to remember you’re not seeing hundreds if not thousands (tens of thousands, when it comes to Simone?) of hours of practice (#unseenhours).
I enjoy picking someone the class considers to be one of the good athletes and asking them to do something they’ve never done before. For example, asking a football player to do the A/B/C/D skips that our cross country/track kids do for warm-ups every day. No one can do those skips on the first try, I don’t care how athletic you are. So they end up looking silly and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Or something like that.
Another thing I’ve done is show a video of me playing basketball in seventh grade, my first year (I’m No. 40, in the sleeved tee). It’s effective. I was the last player on the bench, and it’s easy to show the entire clip of my entire playing time in the game, because it’s about 30 seconds. Now, they view me as one of the athletes, so it’s valuable for them to see where I came from. And I look silly.
The third option, besides live examples and personal experience, is anecdotes. So, I tell them about a volleyball class I took in college. I was in that class with a future NFL wide receiver (6-year career!). Six-foot-five, DII conference champ in the triple jump and the best pass catcher in Hillsdale College history. He could not hit a volleyball with any amount of real power. He couldn’t get the timing right! Or the arm motion, or anything. All semester I saw him sky four feet over the net and slap harmlessly at the set, and I was surprised every time.
Simon Biles is an incredible athlete, but she can’t throw a baseball. That doesn’t take away from her other accomplishments; in my opinion, it just makes her human. And if she wants to learn to throw? Well, I’m not going to be the one to doubt her.