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The Campanile

Opinion: Paly’s Physical Education program due for reevaluation


Life at Paly goes a lot like this: taking loads of Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes, going to numerous extracurriculars because your parents force you to and staying up past midnight to finish some random assignment that probably won’t even be collected the next day.

But when I was an underclassman, the thing I dreaded most was going to Physical Education (P.E.) class three days a week. I did not enjoy a block period where we had a “proper warm-up” and then did nothing else. I didn’t enjoy learning how to play soccer for the hundredth time. I didn’t enjoy getting sweaty for my next class.

No matter what we thought of our P.E. experience, we did benefit from it though. At the end of the day, our fitness, flexibility, hand-eye coordination and many other health-related things improved. Regardless of whether we were part of a sport or not, P.E. improved our athleticism.

Although P.E. has its benefits, it still does not motivate enough students to perform well in the class.

“We always have to find different ways to motivate the kids.”

David Duran Paly P.E. teacher

Most students, myself included, did not have fun in P.E. unless we had friends in the class, so we could talk and laugh at all the “try-hards” together.

So, how can we change P.E. for the better, so that students can have a good time and get in shape? P.E. has a lot of good things going for it but we need to establish a system where the students and teachers can be happier.

Aside from fitness testing in the beginning and end of the year, the things we do in P.E. class are decided on by the teachers.

“We decide [the curriculum] as a department. Every teacher has the same expectations for the students, and it makes it easier for a student to transition between classes.”

David Duran

First, P.E. teachers should take it easier on student-athletes in order to prevent injuries and poor performance. I went through P.E. as a cross country and track runner. For the bulk of the fall and spring season, I enjoyed my prep. However, when I was doing both the sport and P.E., it was a disaster.

Running the mile the same day as a tough track workout was particularly frustrating. However, I could not get out of running the mile on days I should not have. Although teachers should not give preps right away, they must remain conscious that too much stress on the body can result in injuries.

The main reason I was constantly forced to run in P.E. is students constantly lie to get out of running. I’ve seen it numerous times. If students started taking P.E. more seriously, then the teachers would trust us more and become more lenient.

Sometimes, P.E. was my most entertaining class of the day. On other days, staying in the crammed weight room doing bicep curls wasn’t the best thing I could have been doing. P.E. teachers should gauge their students’ interests before committing to a certain activity  for an extended period of time. Even though we have a new, top-notch weight room in the gym, many students do not value their time in the weight room as much as others.

A possible solution is incorporating more time in the weight room for students in Athletic Conditioning, which is an optional class that sophomores can take instead of P.E.  Students who want to solely get in better shape can join Athletic Conditioning, and students who want to do a little bit of everything can stick to P.E.

In the same vein, the P.E. program should allow students to choose what sports they want to play. Everyone enjoys playing their favorite sport in P.E.  However, when I play sports I don’t like as much, I get lazy and difficult to cope with.

If we get the choice of sport we want to play, we will end up getting more exercise, as opposed to if we are forced to play sports we don’t like. If the student body sometimes end up playing sports we do not like, we likely won’t give 100 percent effort into it.

However, P.E. teachers think that things should remain the same as far as the typical work-day goes.

“I think many of [the students] enjoy P.E. It’s probably the most social class in the whole school. We’ve built a good system here at Paly and things have improved a lot after the construction.”

David Duran

I do think P.E. has more benefits than disadvantages, and I do think the new facilities have made things better. However, regardless of all the benefits, more flexibility in class could still make things better for both the students and teachers.

We also need to design the curriculum to prepare us for certain life situations. We should learn more self-defense to prepare ourselves if someone attacks us. We should spend more time learning CPR. We should learn how to bandage cuts and wounds, in case we are ever caught in an intense situation. Aside from simple CPR training in living skills, no other class teaches us these crucial and potentially life-saving techniques.

Finally, the P.E. Independent Study program needs reform. A sophomore student taking Independent Study P.E. can receive preps for participating in sports outside of school. However, the requirements for receiving this prep are not fair.

According to the Paly website, independent study is the only option available to students who have accomplished the following requirements. Students must have completed freshman year P.E.,  must have a minimum of three years of prior experience in the activity, the qualifying experience must be year-round training for five to six days per week and the student must train a minimum of 15 hours per week under appropriate supervision of a qualified coach.

These rules are unreasonable, and it seems like they were designed to prevent students from obtaining preps. First of all, the program is only available to sophomores. Second of all, the student must train for a minimum of 15 hours per week, but according to Paly athletes from various sports, Paly athletes only spend around 10-12 hours a week instead themselves. Students spend less than four hours a week in P.E. so students in Independent Study have to spend a significantly longer time in training, making it significantly harder for athletes outside of Paly to obtain preps.

Also, why do students need a minimum of three years’ prior training? It’s possible for anyone to become great at a sport with less than three years of it.

If the P.E. atmosphere was more relaxed then students could be more enthusiastic and would get more exercise in result. If this happened, both the students and teachers could be more satisfied.

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