Human Performance vs. Physical Education

November 14, 2019


P.E. is a time where many students across the nation may opt to simply rest and goof off with their friends, however, Hawken School has decided to break this mold. The athletic department has decided to create more of a fit-based performance rather than the standardized tests that were practiced just two years ago at Hawken. This new outlook that the athletic department has created emphasizes the ideas of learning life skills for maintaining fitness, staying healthy for athletic seasons, and growing athletes personal goals. 

The Old P.E. system at Hawken was standardized and impractical. Students were all set to meet the same requirements to achieve higher grades. Some of the standardized tests included sit-ups, pull-ups, the dreaded bleep test, and others. Coach Patty Hace of the athletic department describes, “The way we used to measure fitness was through a standardized testing model… that dictated their grade, but the reality is that the direction we are headed in is more based on a mastery concept.” These tests could be seen as unfair as these few metrics could not simply be combined to see how fit one person is. For example, a large offensive linemen may be large, muscular, and extremely athletic, but asking him to run all 110 rounds of the pacer test may be hard. Conversely, a small cross country runner could have the best cardiovascular endurance in the class, but pull ups could be a challenge for that athlete. These tests could prove harsh in terms of a firm grading system that had no allowance for circumstances based on the athlete. Another problem with this system was that other then the standardized tests at the end of semesters, the class did not promote fitness overall. During the rest of the class time, games were played or other activities along those lines, but this did not necessarily promote health and fitness. These activities, such as dodgeball and ultimate football, also had downsides as most of the time the activity would simply be composed of the two most athletic kids on the team throwing the ball back and forth while the less motivated students stood and watched.

However, arguments can be made for the old P.E. system as many students enjoyed the opportunity to play more games and use P.E. as an opportunity to let loose and get the blood flowing. Many students do not enjoy the lack of traditional P.E. games in the new Human Performance format. The new H.P. system has much more time dedicated to fitness rather than spending time playing games. The seriousness and demanding nature of this new system can frustrate many who see H.P. as a time when they do not have to stress about school as much. In contrast, with this daily system of monitoring performance, there is no time to relax. This intensity can also provide a bit of a nuisance and getting sweaty during the middle of the school day is not very comfortable for many. Overall, though the athletics department has found a way to make gym more effective, they have made it much less enjoyable for most students who are involved.

Though some students might disagree with the new format of H.P, there is no denying the fact that it provides many benefits. The transition from P.E. to H.P. was sparked by the desire of the department for fitness to appeal to all students, ranging from someone who may have put all of their energy into academics, a student heavily involved with athletics, and everybody in between. The long term skill building that H.P. emphasizes is one of the key factors that benefit all students. The teachers look to educate students on ways to improve their fitness long-term. Examples of this could be stretching/recovery, teaching proper form, and learning valuable basic exercises. Students also spend time during the day releasing energy which is proven to be beneficial as it sharpens focus in other classes while getting time to work out energy. “We are focusing much more on student need this year… our previous classes really only focused on the middle group of kids, but now we can provide excellent training for the best athletes while also entertaining those less interested in sports” Coach Hace adds. Sometimes, instructors may offer students a choice of what to do during class. For instance, one half of a class may be playing dodgeball, while the other half who did not want to play may have the opportunity to stretch or do yoga. Coach Hace states that, “[these options are provided] for [students] to find their passion in [the athletic center].” Therefore, the new program serves as a way for students to find a basic motivation for physical activity, whether that includes maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle, or aiming to become a well-performing athlete. Student athletes also can benefit greatly from the various aspects of the new system. The Advanced Human Performance course accommodates for these students who may want to take their physical activity and/or training methods to a more developed and intense stage. Basic exercises and recovery methods shown to athletes will keep them in ideal shape, while greatly preventing the chance of injuries.

All in all, the Human Performance course is still developing, but shows potential to be a great success. Coach Hace states, “What we are hoping for is that we can iron out some of these [difficulties in the transition], so the long-term three to five year plan is that we have students that are able to build fitness plans on their own.” The class is still receiving small tweaks here and there in order to provide the best product possible for future years and students. Students such as the current Junior class who have experienced the difference in the P.E. and H.P. can see what a change this transition has made. Combined with many recent efforts inside the Athletics Department including hiring new coaches, improving strength and fitness training, and focusing on youth sports; the future of athletics and keeping kids in shape at Hawken looks bright as ever.


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