A One Two Combo Aimed at UK PE Teachers (How are you treating your dyspraxic students) Words Photos Esteban Erik Stipnieks



Watching dyspraxic forums I notice how radically different my athletic experience in the USA has been from those dyspraxics in UK. I have run cross-country, ran track, flown airplanes boxed and of course photographed and written about the sport. Lets take things from the start I have noticed….the core difference in attitude about disability and sport.

Lets us first look at this probably from the most accurate point of view….this view point of the historian. The USA is Britain’s wild daughter abandoned on the frontier. Class distinctions and a different value system were born on the frontier. The frontier shattered class distinctions which birthed a meritocracy. The need for survival against great odds also put an emphasis on SURVIVAL SKILLS. Yes for some survival is harder then others.  Even the weakest link in frontier family may carry the burden.  In the ethic is also the myth of the underdog was born. The Frontiersman who survived faced great odds the triumph was made greater by the odds against them. The fact “Yankee Doodle” was adopted by the rebellious colonies shows how England’s wild child grew a mean streak. Let’s face it embracing the song meant as an insult is a defiant act. While a dyspraxic pointed out the great commonalty between the British Empire and the USA this dyspraxic was a child of privilege and in his experience with the Boer’s he was not without a dyspraxic moment: his name Winston Churchill.

As I talk to dyspraxics in the UK their seems to an overt hostility in gym class. Let’s get this straight when I was 8 and 9 gym classes was not total paradise but it was not an unending hell. Was I clumsy (yes) was I weaker then most (yes) but I was encouraged the standards Coach Bingham had were high. I cringe at the presidential physical fitness test mocked because it blessed genetically gifted kids. Despite the suffering there was also a fundamentally encouraging nature of Bingham and we celebrated triumphs over rather large odds. Despite suffering PE was a place where I could advance made progress and was actually less stressful then academics. The burst of physical activity helped relieve tension. The cultural difference was rather then being mocked for my performance I was hit with encouragement and the demand to do better. I was in youth soccer and in playground games I was encouraged to play against some the elite youth players at school during recess. Later Shae Wilkins son of the basketball coach made me feel welcome playing basketball. So instead of facing hostility I was challenged and I was taught that while I had far greater distance to travel I was still welcome. This situation often occurs in the USA. Many coaches are believers in the underdog narrative and encourage some dyspraxics this is foundation for later activities.  This attitude prevents long term many cases of obesity.  There has been an article recently published about negative experiences in PE and obesity the link to this article is here. http://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/news/show_news.php?id=18

In the USA there seems to be a noticeable difference in youth sports. I have heard some positive stories about Judo dojos in the UK. Coaches are also mindful that the stubbornness and emotionalism of a dyspraxic are qualities that can be converted into something positive for the team. My novel Tales of Dead Armadillo centers on a character who with both dyspraxia and faith remakes a team in an image his head Coach ultimately likes. Also note while reading it the dyspraxic character legitimately attains Private Pilot’s License and achieves a letter in the sport through legitimate means. I have been told this story is fundamentally shocking to the UK mindset.

Now let me am so bold as to strut some American pride here. The photos I have been splicing in here were taken by a dyspraxic. Had Bingham not been so ornery demanding and encouraging had I not gotten positive early intervention http://www.sabusybodies.org .Even with the military I have found myself being cheered on and called “sir” by those who knew I failed basic. Winston Churchill was shielded from his dyspraxia by his class and social standing. The World will forever be grateful for Churchill.

Coach Noel Hansen was fundamentally a good coach. By high school I was blossoming. At age 14 I found myself still struggling by not so overtly. Coach Hansen did not treat me any different. Coach Noel Hansen knew how to properly teach the form of running to all athletes. A further breakdown of his technique is found here.  The form was an edge that paid dividends in the competitive environment in 5A North Texas high school running. I would later fight and spar with some local boxers. When Chato fought at Maverick Plaza I witnessed the fight essentially second time. I had sparred with him and the two were remarkably alike I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you are a PE teacher in the UK keep in mind a dyspraxic shot them! No I would not be a champion boxer, champion pilot, world class distance runner.  I would however compete at the lower levels.  I would gain a life long appreciation of sport.  In high school my mood would be moderated by long runs and I would love the acceptance of a great team. 



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Tales of Dead Armadillo cross-country running USA a dyspraxic hero