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Varsity athletes meet gym class: essential or excessive?

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Everyone knows the importance of regular physical exercise for kids. However, should a student who competes in sports at a high level still be required to take gym class, especially during their sport’s season?

“Varsity athletes have already proven to go above and beyond the minimal physical activity recommendations” said senior Bobby Douglas.

Varsity athletes know the basics of physical fitness because they compete at a high level within their respective sport and have spent years working on getting and staying fit.  They often practice 2 to 3 hours a day, and practices involve strength training, agility exercises and cardiovascular workouts.

“The purpose of PE is to educate the students on proper fitness techniques, as well as to provide exercise for the students” said Kevin Goss, a senior varsity cross country runner.  

However, these are benefits the student athlete already gets through their sport.

“To take time and money from the student by requiring they take gym is redundant, improvident and unnecessary” Goss said.

Student athletes often suffer from stress to get homework done after they spend hours after school practicing; consequently, allowing them a study period instead of PE class would help them get their work done.  They are often looking to continue their education in college and an extra period in the day could be used to fulfill a graduation requirement.

“A gym class risks the athletes’ safety and ability to play by making them participate in activities that could potentially injure them,” said Goss. “For example, a cross country runner who twists his ankle playing basketball in PE could potentially cost their team an important race.”

Too much physical activity can also lead to stress injuries. Joe Cleary, a varsity football player, doesn’t see the need for varsity players to take gym at all.  

“Athletes get all the physical activity they need through their sport and they do not need to put more stress on their bodies” said Cleary.

However, gym teacher Mr. Kyle Jenkins disagrees.  He feels PE is a great way for students to learn about their bodies and ways to enhance it which might mean creating a plan to get stronger, building endurance or just staying in shape.  

“I feel varsity athletes may have a general understanding of how to stay physically fit, but don’t have the tools to train their bodies for a specific purpose,” said Mr. Jenkins.

“Even though varsity athletes are in really good shape, there is plenty of information student-athletes can learn from taking PE.”

He points to things like learning how to calculate your Target Heart Rate, identifying different muscles in the body and performing exercises to develop these muscles as benefits of PE that last a lifetime.  

“I was once a varsity athlete and I had no clue how to train my body until I took PE in high school,” said Mr. Jenkins.

Gym class is also a good way to enlighten a rather sedentary day of sitting at a desk.  Mr. Jenkins likes that all students, including athletes, get the opportunity to exercise for 30 minutes.  

“It can be very beneficial for an individual who needs to wake up their brains along with their bodies,” said Mr. Jenkins.

Exercise improves concentration and can benefit students in their academic classes. Gym teacher Mr. Dan Edminster sees additional benefits of exercise.  

“Physical education classes help students learn cooperation and teamwork, reduce stress, and improve self-confidence and self-esteem” said Mr. Edminster.

Saint Viator offers various classes with the goal of promoting lifelong fitness.  

“Those who are competitive athletes should be enrolling in the Advanced PE,”  said Mr. Edminster.  “This is a class where someone can show off their skills or focus on improving their abilities to get bigger, faster and stronger.”

Additionally, juniors can enroll in the Leaders Preparatory class which helps guide them to be a PE leader during senior year.  

“This is a great opportunity for students to decide if they want to go into education or coach,” said Mr. Edminster.

Overall, Mr. Edminster sees the benefit of physical education for varsity athletes.

“If we can lay the groundwork for exercising and working out in class, then this is something they can take with them to college or for later in life,” he said.

The debate will go on with both sides presenting good arguments.  For now, however, Viator’s varsity athletes will be reporting to gym class.  

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Varsity athletes meet gym class: essential or excessive?