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MayaMohan2 Posted by:
Maya Mohan, Department of Public Health

Maya is the Physical Activity Coordinator for DPH

What was your experience like with physical education or sports growing up? Two interesting things happened to me this week to make me ponder this question.  One was a meeting asking the question “What is our [the state’s] vision for physical activity and physical education for students?” and the other was a conversation with a friend about becoming a soccer mom and the differing perceptions around that. 

One idea kept coming up in the meeting:  social norms that exist around this topic must change.  For one thing, back in my day, we called it “gym” class and sports were for the top 1% athletically gifted students.  Competition was rampant and sometimes brutal, especially for those of us who didn’t fall in that top 1%.  Physical activity was used as a “punishment” and believe me, being picked last for a team didn’t feel good then, nor is that feeling something that’s easily forgotten.  Those kids have since grown up and now are in positions of authority – they could be school administrators and other decision makers who manage school budgets, for example.  And, really, when they are faced with serious budget constraints and pressures from academic testing, is it any wonder that PE is cut out of budgets and/or given less and less time each year? 

This idea of social norms came up again with my conversation with my friend.  A friend of hers asked her, “If you weren’t an athlete growing up, then why would you put your kids in sports?”   

How would you answer that question?  I can tell you that it is really, really important to give our youth the skills, the access, and the opportunities for being active as well as the skills to know how to lead an active lifestyle as they grow up.  There are national guidelines and curricula standards that outline what a quality, skills based physical education program looks like now.  (Trust me; it’s nothing like what we had!)  There is also research that shows that kids who are fit do better in school (read:  they get better grades!), they get along better with other students, they have more confidence and feel better about themselves… I could go on, but these few should give you an idea that by giving our kids the opportunities and skills to lead active lifestyles as youth and into adulthood, we’re doing more than just improving their health:  We’re improving their overall quality of life.  And, isn’t that our job? 

It saddens me that for so many adults out there, our experience with PE and sports as a youth wasn’t ideal.  But, that’s no reason not to embrace the benefits that being active provides our kids.  We can take our experiences and improve upon them so that future generations get all the benefits of being active, without the stress and awkwardness that we may have experienced. 

What is your vision for physical activity and physical education for students?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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