Fitness-based high school P.E. stark contrast to Redwood P.E.

December 9, 2019 — by Lihi Shoshani

Incoming freshmen often hear horror tales about P.E. passed down from upperclassmen, and how it’s very difficult and different from P.E. at Redwood Middle School because it focuses on fitness rather than sports. 

There are 20 mandatory P.E. credits required for graduation, yet students can also fulfill those requirements by choosing to play sports. To steer away from the purportedly tough class, many students decide to join teams in the fall, winter or spring.

Sophomore Isabella Lee is one of these students. She decided to jump straight into sports as a freshman, participating in volleyball and cross country in the fall, and lacrosse in the spring during her freshman and sophomore years instead of taking P.E. 

Although she enjoyed Redwood P.E. because of the sports aspect, Lee didn’t like the idea of being graded on completion instead of participation. If students don’t pass the minimum requirement of the state’s fitness level, their grades are negatively impacted. Instead, Redwood P.E. grades are based on if students participate in class, regardless of completing fitness exercises. 

Coming into high school, Lee heard from her older sister, senior Caroline Lee, that P.E. was hard and some students earned grades they didn’t like. Not wanting to risk a bad grade, she decided to avoid the entire P.E. experience by participating in school sports. 

Students deciding to take P.E. often notice drastic differences between the course at the high school level. 

Freshman Dan Garniek first experienced this dramatic change in P.E. teacher Yuko Aoki’s class. After taking P.E. in middle school, the course didn’t line up with what he had first expected. 

“I found P.E. at Redwood more enjoyable because there was more variety. If you didn’t like one specific sport, it was fine because you’d switch to another sport soon enough,” Garniek said.

However, P.E. here requires that students lift weights, learn a variety of CrossFit exercises and run. 

It can be shocking for freshmen in the class to suddenly start weightlifting daily since they weren’t expecting it when entering high school. 

In the past couple of years, P.E. teachers have been experimenting with incorporating more sports in SHS P.E. classes 

“Mr. Lugo’s class is more intertwined to combine with team sports and is more sports-based,” P.E. teacher Rick Ellis said. “We’re seeing how that works.”

One reason for this switch to the fitness-based P.E. approach about a decade ago was that Ellis and other teachers noticed that non-athletes often felt disadvantaged in trying to play sports like basketball and football.

Aoki believes that fitness-based P.E. can benefit students by providing and developing the basic fitness needs that some athletes may not always focus on.

Sophomore Kai Doemling is one of the students who wishes the class was more sports-based rather than centered around weightlifting and running. 

He enjoyed P.E. in middle school because there were more student interactions and less physically strenuous activities. 

“I definitely prefer Redwood P.E. because it was more of a fun and relaxing period while Saratoga P.E. is a class that I dread,” Doemling said. 

Many of his friends took P.E. with him last year since it was required; however, this year, many are opting out of the class by taking a sport, leaving Doemling to “suffer all alone.”

Since it is a dramatic change in P.E. at Redwood to Saratoga, which might not appeal to all students’ interests, teachers are still experimenting with the different P.E. structures, hoping to meet students’ needs to prepare them for sports they are interested in and to increase their fitness.

Ellis noticed that there are significant amounts of students who do sports to get out of P.E. since they don’t think the class is beneficial, especially with team activities. He said increasing the overall fitness levels for students who aren’t usually involved in other sports is the main focus of the class so that students can make the most out of their P.E. experience.