By Jack ’23
For many, physical activity and athletics generally are great pastimes. They foster character development, resilience, and team-spirit. For others, such as myself, they’re rather a nuisance. While a large portion of students at Harvard-Westlake are student athletes of some kind, many are not, and it’s very possible to be a part of that second group and thrive at the school.
PE is required for students in 7th and 8th grade, and always precedes lunch. Students file over to the Marshall Center, one of the few buildings surviving from the Westlake period, whose name plate still mentions its former role as a “performing arts” center, alluding to its gym’s original double duty as an auditorium. Everybody changes in the locker rooms and some in the stalls of the adjoining bathrooms and proceeds to their PE group’s sport station, which changes once every cycle or two. At some point students are offered the chance to do “weights,” where they go to the strength and conditioning room for half their PE days. By 8th grade, most have taken this option and the originally gender-segregated PE groups become all-gender. I didn’t do weights and it was fine; I enjoyed the sports we played well enough.
I should mention that I had a brief stint as a swimmer in 8th grade (shock, horror; betrayal of the non-athletes’ cause!). I went to practice once or twice a week for an hour or two and didn’t much enjoy it, but because it was a no-cut team there wasn’t very much pressure. The coaches were always encouraging despite my poor performance, and there wasn’t any meanness between teammates.
In 9th grade, PE is last period, and can be replaced with a team sport. I kept up my swimming for a trimester in the fall during the off season, when the 9th graders can practice at the middle school. In the winter, when we began to take the bus to the upper school to practice with the high school team, I went back to PE. We mostly frittered away our time playing a dodgeball-adjacent game called “sproutball.”
At the upper school there is no PE, but during your three years there you must complete three trimesters of physical activity credit (or six, if you did nothing in that regard in 9th grade). Options besides a “real” sport include a yoga directed study period (50 minutes twice every six days), drumline, or HWTV, where you film and commentate on school sports events. I chose the lattermost option. Some of my non-athletically-inclined friends have gone for low-intensity sports, like golf and fencing.
In summary, you can get along just fine without doing sports at Harvard-Westlake. No matter what your interests (athletic or not), there is something for everyone at Harvard-Westlake!