Gym Showers, a Fading Tradition
Today’s teens aren’t shocked by much. They don’t blink an eye when they spot a kid with drugs or a classmate with a baby. It’s not that big a deal anymore if guys or girls dye their hair pink and pierce their faces. But the idea of getting naked to shower after gym class? No way, José. Eyes bulge at the mere mention of showering around other students, which was common — mandatory, even — in middle schools and high schools across the country just a decade or two ago. "I wouldn’t do it," said 16-year-old Adrian Alequin, a junior at Winter Park High School. "It’s way too weird. I don’t want to see another guy like that."
Today, students generally have the option of stripping down to wash off the sweat and grime after workouts in the hot Florida sun. Most of the time, though, they don’t. Even after hours of sports practice and rigorous competitions, many kids wait to bathe at home.
Boone High football and track star Marvin Bracy is one of them. Last semester, Marvin skipped showers after his twice-a-day gym classes, preferring instead to freshen up with a washcloth and a dousing of BOD Man body spray. After practice in the afternoons, Marvin said he goes straight home. "I just don’t feel comfortable around all of those people — they play too much," he said.
It might seem odd that teens, who are notoriously self-conscious, would forgo a quick rinse to keep from stinking in class. But veteran educators explain that the behavior isn’t that unusual in an era when people of all ages are becoming more concerned about their privacy.
New airport body scanners can now see through your clothing. Companies — and governments — can share all-too-intimate details about you. And though people may not be able to control those invasive forces, they can exert pressure over school rules they do not like. The result: Parents, who have their own horror stories about showering in front of their peers and undergoing shower inspections by gym teachers, have pushed for an end to the practice. And school districts, worried about lawsuits and other problems, have given in. In some cases, school officials have even begun discouraging showers. In the early 1990s, the Hollidaysburg school district in Pennsylvania drew national attention after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue over its shower rule. A girl there got in trouble for refusing to open her towel so a gym teacher could make sure she wasn’t wearing underwear into the shower.