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Joe Wicks – “I’ve become the teacher I always wanted to be”

The Body Coach – and as of recently, PE teacher to a home-bound nation – recalls the process of reaching the place he’d long aimed to get to…

  • Joe Wicks – “I’ve become the teacher I always wanted to be”

One of the first things I realised about school was that it pays off to make friends with the dinner ladies.

I was a proper little foodie, and quickly worked out that being polite and friendly would get me bigger portions and second helpings – so that’s exactly what I did. Actually, when I think about it, that pretty much sums up my attitude towards education.

If there was something I genuinely enjoyed, I’d be totally focused. Otherwise, though… well, I wasn’t a bad kid. But I could definitely be a nuisance. In PE, or D&T, or food tech, I was eager, enthusiastic, always doing what I was supposed to.

Whereas in more academic subjects – like maths, say, or geography – I’d be talking, mucking around, making people laugh. I was the typical ‘class clown’; my shirt was never tucked in, and my Peter Andre-esque curtains were slicked with cheap, wet-look gel that used to set rock-hard.

Overall, I was happy at school, I’d say. You don’t think it while you’re there, but afterwards you realise just how good a time it was. I went to a brand new secondary – we were the first Y7s, so we had no older peers who might have bullied us or led us astray. I had a great group of friends, and my mum did a brilliant job in steering me away from anyone who might have been a bad influence. She was never wrong, and I’m so glad I listened to her.

Natural success

PE was always my favourite subject – so much so that I decided I’d quite like to become a PE teacher myself.

Instead of going to sixth form, I went to college and took a National Diploma in sport science, before getting my degree from St Mary’s University, in Twickenham. I learn best through practical, hands-on stuff rather than sitting at a desk, and took great pride in my coursework, creating folders that were very visual. It’s a shame, I think, that we’ve moved to a system that’s more focused on final exams. That wouldn’t have suited me at all, and it must be the same for plenty of young people.

If you spoke to my teachers now, I’m sure they’d be proud of what I’ve achieved with my life – but probably a bit surprised, too. Back then, my report cards all said things like, ‘He could do so much better if he’d stop talking and playing for laughs, and put in a bit more effort’. The thing is, though, once I realised I was doing something I loved, it was easy to put all my energy into it, and success came quite naturally.

Getting active

Before I started doing what I do now, I did actually try teaching. I worked for a while as a TA in a really tough school. It was really difficult, and stressful, and in the end I had to decide that it wasn’t for me. But now, in a way, I’ve become the teacher I always wanted to be; I run live classes online, for tens of thousands of students at a time! I also have dedicated workout videos for children and teens on my YouTube channel, The Body Coach TV.

And the fact is, of all the things I’ve achieved – the books, broadcasting, the business – helping to get children more active and healthy is the one that most motivates me, and of which I’m most proud. When we did our first UK Schools Tour in 2019 we had no backing, no TV coverage. We did it all ourselves, and seeing the impact was incredible.

Joe Wicks’ ‘PE with Joe’ 30-minute workouts for children are currently being livestreamed at 9am on weekdays via the Body Coach TV YouTube channel

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