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The news site of Glenbrook South High School.

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The news site of Glenbrook South High School.

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PE leaders program needs athletic standard

GBS stresses many values that students are expected to display on a daily basis, and towards the top of the list is leadership. Several programs at GBS are dedicated to these ideas of guidance and direction. In my opinion, no program is scrutinized more than the PE Leaders program.

One of the main reasons this program is scrutinized is, unlike Peer Group or J. Kyle Braid (JKB), it’s in the public eye. Every day we watch them and study their every move (or at least I do). Like many, I question the need for and success of the program. I have always had the one-sided view that PE leaders offer nothing to students, but it’s become clear to me that the PE leaders program is not so black and white.

In an Oracle-conducted survey of 176 students, 44 percent did not feel that the PE leaders program was necessary to our school.

That might be because students don’t understand the leadership value the program offers. I think many students only see the teacher aid aspect of it, because that is what they are exposed to.

According to Kay Sopocy, PE Leader program coordinator, the program’s goals are to train juniors in leadership and physical activities, so they can positively affect younger students during gym and assist teachers.

Sophomores can apply to the program via recommendations from previous teachers and a short application. Not being chosen for the program easily sparks anger from some students who often argue they’re more athletic than students taken over them.

According to Sopocy, it’s difficult to cut down the applicants to only 60 leaders, and as the decision is left between only a few people, the determining factors can be minor. Sopocy also said that athleticism isn’t a major factor in the decision process.

“Athleticism can be important, but there are some kids in the class now who are not athletic at all,” Sopocy said. “So really the key is […] they are excellent PE students, they participate all the time and they have good morals and ethics. Not that they’re great players on teams.”

But there’s my main problem with the program. It’s said that athleticism isn’t what’s most important, but they’re supposed to be leaders of “physical education.” Obviously nonathletic kids can be leaders, but should they necessarily be PE leaders?

Junior leader Linda Haber* admitted that although she feels as if she can be a successful senior leader, she’s not confident in her ability to demonstrate a sport due to lack of athleticism, and might have to use a co-leader as a crutch.

According to Sopocy, leaders are matched up based on how she believes their skills compliment each other’s.

But wouldn’t a student like Haber be more fit in the Peer Group program? According to Joy Cooper, Peer Group co-coordinator, the goals are to teach leadership skills and to help freshmen find their “space” in school. There, Haber would get the same opportunities, but wouldn’t have to worry about the athletic aspects.

Giving freshmen confidence in their new school is absolutely a positive aspect to the program, but advancing students’ fitness and abilities is the real goal of PE and I don’t see how they’re assisting in that.

According to Stanicek, the leaders are expected to be a conduit between teachers and students and he is always looking to improve the program.

“My expectations were more, ‘What are we asking our senior leaders to do?’ and to make them […] more of an instructional aid, instead of just another kid in the class,” Stanicek said.

When I was a sophomore I felt as if many of my leaders’ days were spent as average students. During fitness days their “participation” was something as simple as handing out a card to us every time they we went around the track or rolling the dice again after we finished 20 push-ups. Sometimes the effort and leadership were there, but just as much it wasn’t. If I had it my way, leaders would not only be making fitness days more fun, but always running with us and doing the activities we do.

During sports units my leaders would play volleyball or pitch softballs. They might demonstrate a sport initially, but are they leading the rest of the week by just playing with us (sometimes)? Verbal motivation is great, but cheering for us from the sidelines isn’t how students will  ultimately  improve physical health and fitness.

Thus, I think PE leaders absolutely need to be athletic. Instead of just motivating a student if they missed a serve, they could assist them with their technique. I think a goal of the program should be for leaders to pass some of their athletic technique on to students.

It’s true that their job can have merit if they’re demonstrating a sport, but I have found that to be rare. The program as a whole does have a positive effect on underclassmen. I remember feeling more comfortable having two seniors in the locker room that I knew, but the program needs to have different goals or a different way of execution senior year.

While the program does offer leadership to upperclassmen, it would be more beneficial to underclassmen if their leaders could not only verbally motivate them, but also athletically inspire physical betterment, thus widening the gap between Peer Group and the PE Leaders program.

*Name has been altered to protect student’s identity

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