Sounds from the Gym

by Bob Hazlett

Some sounds are so recognizable you know you are in a gymnasium. The cavernous structure makes so many things sound different and special. It brings back memories of our youth. The high school gym is part of our growing up, and the sounds are unmistakable. You recognize them when you hear them in real life and in your memory.

As I reel off these descriptions of sounds, giving each one just a short phrase, listen to the memory of your mind, and recall some event in your life that made your high school gym special. Sorry, you can’t close your eyes; you have to read the words.

The thump of a basketball on the floor of an empty gym. A sound known the world over.

A basketball hitting the backboard … or the metal rim … or the whoosh of ‘nothing but net.’ Hopefully, it was your shot.

Fans yelling and the pep band blaring at a basketball game. Were you in the crowd or on the floor?

The music of the high school dance band as you plied the floor under the mirror ball with your first love. Did it last, or did you move on to another?

The music and yelling of cheerleader practice. So much spirit and optimism.

The sound of bleachers being opened and closed. The beginning and end of so many awesome events.

The screech of shoes on the gym floor. Maybe at an indoor volleyball game. Do you remember those old rubber Converse sneakers?

The almost inaudible squeak of the high bar or the quiet, rhythmic slap of leather of the pommel horse at a gymnastics meet. Was that your thing?

The blast of the referee’s whistle. A definitive sound, not to be argued with.

The sound of tables and metal folding chairs being set up or closed up for some assembly, or maybe the school play, or maybe PTA Bingo Night, or maybe your graduation.

This one you may not recognize so easily, but if you’ve been there you know it. Once a year many high school gymnasiums become the setting for the school’s brightest to show their creativity – the High School Science Fair. These sounds are not so recognizable. There are fewer participants and fewer occurrences at a science fair than at a basketball game. But be assured the competition is just as fierce. Among the long rows of tables holding three-sided displays, you can hear respectful conversations between judges and students, speaking in hushed tones. Students chat with their friends, nervously waiting to be judged, or relieved at having been judged.

Late in the afternoon, all gather on the bleachers to hear the announcement of winners and the presentation of awards. For seniors, it can mean big bucks into the college fund. Moms and dads proudly walk out with their arms around sons or daughters carrying their display and an award ribbon. In the background, the sound of tables and chairs being folded and stored. In a couple hours, the gym will erupt with the cacophony of another basketball game.

As Bob Hope said, “Thanks for the memories.” Do you remember Bob Hope?

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