If you read my earlier post on the similarities between graduate school and elementary school, you’ll recall the mention of a game called nine-square that my classmates and I play. My friends family members claim to understand the game once I’ve explained it, but I haven’t discussed how truly vital it is to out lives as DPT students. Without it, I truly think we would be lost.
The typical Monday of a first year PT student begins with traveling to class. Some have a five minute commute while others sit in their cars for over an hour. Then we sit down for our first two hour long lecture. Our classes range from two to four hours long, and we’re in class for 31 hours a week. Some of those hours are spent standing in lab, but that’s a lot of sitting.
A big component of physical therapy is weight bearing. By putting weight through your bones and joints, you strengthen them. We need to stand, stretch, and weight bear regularly. That’s why our teachers have tricked us into playing nine-square at every break we get.
I’m not upset.
Nine-square involves nine sidewalk tiles in a three by three arrangement and your typical four-square ball. The square in the center is the lead square while the bottom right square is the first square. Nine of us rotate through, never letting the ball bounce twice on the ground, touch our square without getting a hand on it, or hit us twice in a row. We’re trying to get to the center.
The ball bounces off the building wall? Still playable. The ball bounces onto the picnic table then onto the railing and back into the air? Still legal. You should run and hit that backward over your head into the squares to the claps and cheers of watching classmates! We have even had three or four people gathered around a small, abused tree for one to knock it out of the tree and the others to try and get the ball back to the squares where it is–you guessed it–still alive since it didn’t touch the ground. It’s fun. It’s fast-paced. And it gets intense.
Nine-square is one of those gems of my PT school that they didn’t tell me about in the brochure. It’s a hidden joy. Your school doesn’t need nine-square, but all schools should have some form of physical activity for their students. Nine-square isn’t only exercise, it’s also a major stress reliever.
Most PT students come from a sports-related background. This means we’re competitive. Academically and physically, we’ve been trained to do better than the person next to us. Now that we’re in a DPT program, we’re not competing anymore. We are collaborating together to solve problems and make each other better therapists. But those competitive impulses haven’t gone anywhere.
Can you even imagine how fiery it gets? I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of slammed balls that bounce high overhead. There’s something about physically hitting a ball as hard as you can that relieves the anxiety about scoring poorly on that last Anatomy quiz better than anything else can.
Even though I love boxing, I don’t consider myself violent; however, I am competitive. If my class didn’t have nine-square, we’d probably be inside studying. If we were inside studying all the time, I have no doubt that I would have been burned-out long before now. And I wouldn’t be the only one. Thanks to nine-square, I’m still a) in PT school and b) sane.
There are somethings that recess can’t cure. For everything else, there’s nine-square.