Gym class: the unavoidable burden for student-athletes

By Julia Beiler                 

Sports editor

Across many schools in Pennsylvania, students are required to take a certain number of physical education classes in their four years of high school in order to graduate. It’s inevitable that all students need this required activity.

The state of Pennsylvania says that no matter who you are or what you are doing throughout the school you are required to take your necessary gym classes to graduate. It doesn’t matter if you march in the band or swing bats on a field, all students need to take gym. 

But why is it truly required in the first place? According to Shape America, that state requires all students to pass physical education classes. They also say that schools are not permitted to allow students to substitute their required gym classes with any other form of activity. This means that if a student is participating in a school sport, they are still required to take gym classes. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) states directly that, “Health and physical education provides students with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve and maintain a physically active and healthful life, not only during their time in school but for a lifetime.” 

Laziness, obesity, and inactiveness are what is supposed to be prevented by having to take gym classes. It is shown through student-athletes are already preventing these things, PDE also says, “Children who are healthy and physically active increase their chances of achieving to their highest academic potential and are better able to handle the demands of today’s hectic schedules.”

Gym classes are trying to exploit physical exercise within the students in the school. Although this makes sense for those who aren’t active, it doesn’t quite match with the large quantity who are already participating in sports. 

The stereotypes of, “All athletes are jocks” or “The smarter class doesn’t come from student-athletes” have been around for ages. Perhaps these stereotypes are true about athletes, but the time most students put toward their studies, these athletes are putting into practices and games. 

Athletes don’t need the added one-hour class of physical education to try and maintain their physical well being. That hour could improve their work management instead of managing extra exercise. That hour could help bring out the “student” in “student-athlete”.

According to Scholarship Stats, only around seven percent of athletes play at the collegiate level after high school, which is a one in fourteen chance. That means that on a high school varsity team, an average of one teammate will go onto the next level. With these statistics, the odds are not favoring a higher level past high school.

Knowing this, high school sports will be the most competitive level of athletics that most varsity athletes will participate in. These athletes are putting most of their time and dedication to succeeding in their sport because there won’t be another game or practice after they graduate. 

Let’s say an average team practice for five days of the week for two hours, that’s ten hours a week. If an athlete is already participating in at least ten hours of activity per week, why should that time be extended for them with a gym class?

Anyone who takes a gym class will get as much out of it as they put in. Knowing that they might have a game or a practice that night, might not motivate them to run a mile or throw medicine balls around in the gym. It takes the point out of having this class in the first place if these athletes aren’t going to put their effort in to begin with.

These days sports aren’t just in season for two or three months out of the year. Sports have evolved into year-round participation for most athletes. It’s no longer just a few months: it’s 12 months of the year dedicated to winning and competing. So when people suggest that their “in-season” sport will be over soon, they don’t see the depth of what sports are truly like these days. “Out-of-season” has turned into the usual and the norm. 

If the state is saying that students are required to meet these goals and student-athletes are proving to have already met these goals, why are these certain students still being required to take gym classes? The state needs to change these rules considering student-athletes are easily surpassing the components that go into a gym class. 

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