Ask an Expert: Keep the Olympics going (in school)

Clayton Ellis, a PE teacher, says even though the Olympics are over, we can use the games to inspire our kids to get moving.

Q. My kids are bummed the Olympics are over. How can I hang on to that enthusiasm to encourage them to be more active in their everyday lives?

A. “The Olympic Creed” by Pierre de Coubertin goes like this: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

“Inspire a Generation!” was the theme of the Olympics this summer. Childhood obesity is one of the major issues in society today. Colorado is considered the fittest state in the country, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, our children are rated 29thin the country. Parents and school districts can utilize a number of initiatives in order to help our children take responsibility for their health.

Our kids spend about seven hours a day in school. Most elementary students get 30 to 50 minutes of physical education a week. That is less than 30 hours of PE for the entire year. Many middle schools do not require any physical education at all. High school graduation requirements in Colorado range from zero to two credits in four years. Most school districts allow students to waive out of physical education classes if they are involved with extracurricular sports, ROTC, or marching band.

On July 28, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a “Let’s Move!”  event in London. The event consisted of numerous activity stations that were led by former and current Olympic athletes from various sports.  The event was intended to spread the “Spirit of the Olympic Games” throughout London and get kids moving towards living happier and healthier lives due to the obesity epidemic. Mrs. Obama told the crowd, “We brought you all here today… because we want you to see that there all kinds of ways that you can stay active and have fun doing it. You don’t have to be an Olympian. You don’t have to join a team. There are so many ways that you can have fun and keep yourselves moving.”  In fact in the United States, fewer than 3 percent of high school varsity athletes continue to play team sports after they graduate from high school and even fewer students become Olympic athletes.

“Let’s Move in School!” is a comprehensive school physical activity initiative created by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education that includes a strong physical education program as the foundation.  It is a tool that includes incorporating movement throughout the school day in regular core classrooms by utilizing brain energizers and other movement practices, providing for physical activity before and after school by incorporating fitness or running clubs, and including a staff wellness and a family and community component in order to get everyone involved in some sort of physical activity. Schools can sign up to receive resources to ensure that the school provides a comprehensive school physical activity program with quality physical education as the foundation. Our youth need the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime.

The Olympic Games are basically a fitness assessment that compare the best athletes in the world.

What schools and parents can do

  • School districts should assess physical fitness with either the Fitnessgram fitness assessments or the President’s Fitness Challenge because everyone knows healthier children are more successful in school.
  • Parents should schedule a physical examination with their child’s doctor every summer especially if they are involved with an athletic activity.
  • Parents can take an active role to ensure that their children are physically active by participating with them in a variety of lifelong physical activities. The obvious choices for parents are to bike, hike, jog or swim, but more creative choices could be to create your own obstacle course, triathlon or modern pentathlon. Host a neighborhood fitness challenge in a local park, or scavenger hunt to find local fitness facilities.

According to the Olympic Charter, Olympism is defined as: “A philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.  Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

The question for parents and school administrators should be, What can we do to inspire a generation to live a healthier lifestyle?

About our First Person series:

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