By Ken Reed
Due to factors such as the dramatic decline in physical education classes and intramurals in K-12, and a huge increase in screen time (computers, video games, social media), along with an increase in processed junk food and Super-Size-Me fast food meals, today’s high school and college students are, on a whole, more overweight, obese and physically inactive than their counterparts from decades past.
Most colleges aren’t helping matters. According to a 2013 study, the number of college students with physical education requirements is at an all-time low.
However, a couple colleges are doing something about it.
At League of Fans, we’ve written about Spelman College in Atlanta in the past. They dropped their varsity athletics program in favor of a fitness and nutrition program for all students.
“When we studied this early this year, I was startled to see that we really only had 80 student athletes out of 2,100 students (in varsity athletics), and our program was costing almost $1 million,” said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the college president.
Tatum decided that when it comes to wellness, all students need to be athletes, in terms of becoming more physically active. In addition to dropping varsity athletics, Spelman’s physical education classes moved from a sports focus toward general fitness.
Highlands College in Alabama has taken things a step further. All Highlands College students are required to run a half marathon together (along with some faculty and staff members). If students have medical problems that don’t allow them to run the half-marathon, they are given alternative physical activities to do.
While making all students run a half-marathon might seem a little overbearing on the part of college administrators, the requirement is well-known and communicated in multiple ways to prospective students. Students know what they are getting into when they enroll at Highlands.
The half-marathon is part of a broad-based health and fitness plan for Highlands students. Students have access to excellent gym facilities and a healthy-focused meal service plan. Once a week, everyone participates in an intramural activity of their choice and the school participates in a tough mudder-esque event in the spring.
Highlands students have discovered there are benefits beyond just improved physical health.
“Especially when you’re new, you’re kind of skeptical, because you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can barely run a mile,” Highlands student Heather Archer told Runner’s World, fresh from one of the last sessions of her 6 a.m. Friday morning run group. “But Highlands College has really shown me what it is to be healthy, and when you’re healthy, your mentality is better, your outlook is better.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon