District should loosen P.E. prep requirements to support athletes


Art by Kate Xia

Dinu Deshpande

I just had a grueling soccer practice, two hours of conditioning and field work. By the time I get home, eat and shower, it will be almost 10 p.m., and it’ll be well past midnight by the time my homework is done.

I passed out for the night, only to wake up the next morning with a headache and bricks for legs. And as I rushed to throw myself in the shower, scarf down some cereal and bike to school, I remembered why it was so hard to drag yourself out of bed. I had to run the mile in PE after lunch.

Here’s the thing –– I agree with physical education as a required class. I think the fitness and cardiovascular health of kids at school is important, and PE is a good way to achieve that goal. There are many young people who choose to not participate in physically active extracurricular activities, and therefore are at a greater risk of living unhealthy lives. PE is a great solution to that problem.

Yet the issue with PE at Paly is that the only way a student can get out of it, besides playing a seasonal Paly sport, which in itself is a huge commitment, is if they have a minimum of three years of prior experience in the activity, which must include year-round training with a 5-6 day per week average. On top of that, students have to train a minimum of 15 hours per week under a qualified trainer, who, of course, will have to be in contact with PAUSD for updates.

There are students who don’t meet these criteria who would benefit much more from a prep period than a PE period. Take my situation. I played two hours of soccer daily, yet still never qualified to skip PE. Instead of having a valuable 90 minutes to get ahead on school work, I’m stuck doing jumping jacks and playing pickleball on my already weary legs. It’s not only unfair to student athletes, but it also discourages them from picking up sports, destroying the point of physical education.

Moreover, mandatory PE perpetuates the stereotype of athletes being dumber than their non-athlete counterparts. By making student athletes exercise during school, they are compromising both their physical and mental health. As a result, athletes have less time to spend on other activities, including homework, spending time with friends and family and maybe most importantly, sleeping.

I have played soccer since I was 4 years old and played varsity this year. I also played (somewhat) competitive baseball until 10th grade. What I found, is that mile day as it has been affectionately coined, would result in not only a poor performance during after-school practice, but also an unbeatable mental fatigue. I would come home and try to wrap my tired mind around my homework, resulting in both a lack of proper understanding of concepts as well as hours of inefficient work time. And then I would go to sleep, often around 1 a.m..

And yet I never fit into the criteria for skipping PE. I wasn’t even close, as I averaged 12 hours a week of physical activity. Compared to 3 hours and 45 minutes of PE –– including time to change twice, pack things up and prepare for class –– my 12 hours of intense exercise is quite the feat, and should be enough to warrant skipping PE and getting a prep. Those who pass the fitness testing standards, especially those who fall into the “Viking” category of those standards, should be able to skip PE for sure.

Simply put, the restrictions on skipping PE need to be loosened. It doesn’t make sense to have athletic kids in a class that was designed for those who aren’t as physically active. It’s important for students to be supported by school programs, not brought down by them. PAUSD should lower requirements for independent study as a substitute for PE, so student-athletes are encouraged to continue their sport and be supported with an extra prep period.