Just Say No to Dodgeball . .
. and More Ways
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to Cure the Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Part II
Part I, Ken Reed, PE4life's Director of Marketing
and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Physical Education (CAPE),
talked about the "New PE," a model for physical education in schools
that promotes individual achievement, as opposed to "old school PE," which is
"all about calisthenics and picking teams for competitive sports and
dodgeball." PE4life, a not-for-profit organization founded in
2000, is devoted to developing quality, daily physical education programs for
trying to picture my old high school gym teacher doing this stuff [the "New
PE"] and I'm not seeing it. Do you find a lot of people are resistant to this
Ken Reed: I don't
know if I'd use the term "a lot" but there are definitely physical education
instructors that are resistant to change. A lot of them have traditionally been
coaches and they use the same coaching athletic model in PE as they do with
their sports teams. They're really two different things. You're talking about
elite athletes in competitive sports versus trying to improve the lifestyles
and long-term wellness of the entire student body. So, like we've mentioned
earlier, we've moved away from the pure sports model to a physical fitness
model that includes sports as just one part. But we do stress lifetime sports
such as tennis and hiking and biking and things like that. These PE4life
institutes have fitness centers that look very similar to what you'd see going
into a health club in terms of stair-stepper machines and that type of
thing. BB: What was PE4life's involvement
with the creation of PEP (Physical Education Program) grants?
KR: We were one of
the leaders, but I don't want to say the only leader. We were originally
founded by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, but now we're an
independent 501c3. We still work with them on National Lobbying Day. Every May
we have a National PE Day where we bring in celebrity athletes and PE advocates
from all walks of life and talk to legislators on the Hill about the importance
of PE and funding for PE. The primary focus is on PEP grants, which this year
totaled $69 million. BB: When a school
applies for a PEP grant, are they required to institute the "New PE"?
KR: No. There are
certain stipulations in the PEP grant, but money can go to training; it can go
to equipment needs. It can go to facility needs. A lot of the PEP grant winners
have actually come to our institutes for training, but there's no requirement
that they do.
BB: What is CAPE?
KR: CAPE was
launched at National PE Day last year as a subset under the umbrella of
PE4life. The thinking behind CAPE was that to effect change, we're going to
have to do some public policy work. We wanted to create a public policy think
tank focused on physical education that would put out position papers and
reports. If you go to our Web site, you'll find the "Blueprint for Change."
That was the first thing that CAPE put out on National PE Day about what the
issues and roadblocks are and what needs to happen. We publish op eds and
things and the plan is to start doing an annual report card on the state of PE.
CAPE is kind of a research and public policy arm for physical education.
We'll do some research
ourselves, but we'll also collect and integrate existing research out there and
publish the key findings and position papers for use locally at state levels
and nationally in a variety of ways with media and legislators, and so on.
BB: What are some of the specific benefits of
physical education besides just being fit?
KR: One of the
challenges we face is getting cut in schools because parents and administrators
say they have to focus on academics. Well, there are some good studies now
showing the connection between physical fitness and academic performance.
There's a researcher at
Harvard named Dr. John Ratey who does brain research in physical fitness. He's
an avid believer in the value of physical fitness for brain functioning and
calls physical activity "Miracle Growth for the brain."
There's a standardized
test for fitness at schools called Fitnessgram that has six categories of
physical fitness. The kids that score highest on that Fitnessgram also score
highest on academic achievement. It's a position paper CAPE is going to do in
the coming months, the connection between physical activity and academic
BB: Do your
programs go beyond PE? Are you trying to educate parents?
KR: Definitely. If
we could get the soccer mom phenomenon working on physical education, we could
rally parents and that would be a great advantage. We have a national
endorsement by the PTA on the need for PE4life-type programs, so we're working
But parents are a
challenge because it's a psychosocial thing. A lot of the parents need a lot
more physical activit, too. Because they're inactive, they don't feel
comfortable pushing their kids to be more active, so there are a lot of
challenges dealing with parents on this issue. BB: How'd you do in PE?
KR: Fortunately or
unfortunately, I was one of the top jocks in my school, so I was a kid who
loved dodgeball days when I could pummel the poor, unfortunate kids, but
looking back, I can see why those kids dreaded dressing for PE and hated
dodgeball and hated getting picked last on teams. I would never recommend the
old way of doing PE at all. BB: What
changed your mind?
KR: I got a
doctorate degree in physical education and sport administration. Through that,
my eyes were opened. You hear this old line about sports building character and
being good for kids. My thought was, if that's true, why are we just focusing
on the elite athletes? I started doing research on the decline of intramural
sportsthey've almost gone the way of the dinosaur. I discovered most kids drop
out of youth sports by age 12. Once you start looking at these statistics on
what's happening to our kids' fitness levels, there's no way you can condone or
support the old way of PE.