For the last week, my husband and I have sat side by side on the world’s most uncomfortable sofa and watched the Olympics on NBC. As we watched the strong, very fit, ultra coordinated women’s beach volleyball players last night, I looked over at Gene and asked, “Do you remember that time in college I convinced my friend, Cynthia, to take Volleyball for an easy physical education credit?”
Gene burst out laughing as he remembered.
It was years ago when I was a young engineering student at Georgia Tech. Tech required its undergraduate students to take three credit hours of physical education (PE) — one of those hours being Health. I have always been rather athletic and participated in different sports in my youth, so taking collegiate-level PE classes didn’t faze me a bit. I took Health, Volleyball, and Basketball, and got an A in each — some of the only As I made during my years at the “North Avenue Trade School.”
One evening, one of my girlfriends from down the dorm hallway came to my room for a short study break. Cynthia, a Management major who was always on the Honor Roll, asked me to suggest an easy PE class she could take the following quarter that wouldn’t damage her GPA.
“I don’t like running,” she said. “And I’ve never been very sporty.”
“Take Volleyball,” I said without hesitation. “It’s fun! And it will be the easiest A you will ever get at Tech.”
“What’s required?” she asked.
“You go to the gym twice a week and play volleyball with a bunch of geeky guys for an hour,” I said. “The coach also makes everyone do 50 sit ups after class, and after three or four weeks, it’s easy.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“If I’m lying, I’m dying,” I laughed. “It’s the easiest A you will ever get here.”
Cynthia registered for Volleyball for the following quarter.
Two or three weeks into winter quarter, Cynthia revealed to me that she was struggling in Volleyball and was considering dropping the class. My mouth fell open.
“Before you make a decision, let’s go over to the Student Athletic Complex,” I said. “I’ll work with you a little.”
We went to the gym that evening, and I quickly realized that Cynthia lacked coordination — something I took for granted. What I found easy was not easy at all for her.
“Just keep your eyes on the volleyball, get under it, bend your legs a little, and make contact with the ball,” I coached, as I bumped the ball to her about a hundred times. “You can do this.”
An hour later, even I (the eternal optimist) had my doubts.
We went back to the gym the following night for the same. I bumped another hundred balls her way. She may have returned 40 percent of them, and half of those went shooting off to the side. Sometimes she missed making contact with the ball completely.
She was distraught. I was distraught. But she decided not to drop the class. I worked with her all quarter. Some of her male classmates worked with her, as well.
But as the quarter came to a close, she had not improved much.
Cynthia, a straight A student who went on to become a well-respected attorney, made a C in volleyball. A C!
She was devastated. I was devastated. After all, I’m the one who urged her to take Volleyball in the first place.
My husband still finds the story amusing.
“It didn’t kill her to get a C,” he said last night as we watched USA’s women beach volleyball players spike the ball in the faces of their opponents. “It didn’t change a thing in the trajectory of her life. She met the requirements of the curriculum, graduated, and went on to be successful.”
I guess, but I’m still haunted by it all, though I’m sure Cynthia put the episode behind her long ago. Still, I wonder if Cynthia follows women’s volleyball. Probably not.