By Ken Reed
Josh Fullan is the executive director of Maximum City, a national education and engagement organization in Canada. He recently wrote a compelling op-ed on the need for more physical education in schools for The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper.
Fullan outliines the physical, mental and academic benefits of regular exercise in the piece. He emphasizes the academic and mental health benefits that people don’t typically associate with physical education and exercise.
“There is a false paradigm here, however: that gym class and good grades are mutually antagonistic,” writes Fullan.
“In fact, research has shown that physical activity is a ballast for academic performance, not an anchor. The Naperville Zero Hour study, highlighted in Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey’s book Spark, details how the Illinois school district leveraged early morning aerobic exercise into top academic test scores, not to mention happier, more engaged students.”
Fullan also noted the benefits of physical activity for addressing the mental health issues today’s young people are dealing with, including those due to the restrictions and challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Physical activity has been shown to increase a sense of self-efficacy and reduce depression, anxiety, stress, loss of control — the very challenges many young folks are struggling with,” wrote Fullan.
Much of the historical resistance to daily physical education in schools comes from the perception — sometimes true, unfortunately — that P.E. only grades athletic ability. Students that are less gifted athletically tend to avoid physical education like the plague. The same is true for students with body image or self-esteem issues. Some students are fearful that a low grade in P.E. might negatively impact their grade point average and hurt their chances of getting into the college of their choice. But as Fullan points out, these concerns can be alleviated to a large degree by removing the stakes in P.E., or ideally, grading — as they did in the Naperville study — based on effort (e.g., achieving and maintaining a target heart rate), not athletic ability.
In addition, school-based physical education needs to focus on teaching fitness and lifetime physical activities and sports, not team sports. When team sports are part of the curriculum, they should involve small-sided teams, such as 3on3 soccer and 3on3 basketball. This helps ensure that all students touch the ball and that the more athletic students don’t dominate the activity.
Moreover, increasing movement in schools shouldn’t be solely left to physical education teachers. Movement can creatively be incorporated into a variety of classes. Recess time at the elementary level is important, as are before and after school intramural sports programs and physical activities. Finally, parents need to be encouraged to promote physical activity at home.
Sadly, at a time when chidlhood overweight and obesity levels are up among young people, physical education classes, recesses and intramural sports programs are being cut in schools across Canada and the United States. That trend needs to be reversed. The research is clear: students receiving daily physical education and meeting daily physical activity requirements are healthier, perform better academically and have fewer emotional and behavioral problems.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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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.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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