Out on the Playing Field: Providing Quality Physical Education and Recreational Opportunities for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth

Article excerpt

Abstract

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth may be at a higher risk for depression, suicide, and negative risk-taking (Bontempo & D'Augelli, 2002; DuRant, Krowchuk, & Senal, 1998; Garofalo, Wolf Kessel, Palfrey, & DuRant, 1998; Hershberger & D'Augelli, 1995; Moon et al., 2000; Rosario, Hunter, & Gwadz, 1997; Rotherum-Borus, Rosario, Van Rossem, Reid, & Gillis, 1995) and could benefit from positive risktaking associated with physical activity," however, negative attitudes of physical activity professionals may impact the participation of LGB youth. Herek's (1984) Attitudes Towards Lesbians and Gay Men Scale (ATLG-S) was administered to 446 undergraduate students enrolled in child and adolescent health courses at two universities in Texas. Results indicate kinesiology majors reported more negative attitudes towards lesbians and gay men than other students. As a result, the authors recommend preprofessional education programs include information about LGB youth, values clarification, and ways to reduce homonegative attitudes.

Keywords: physical activity, homosexuality, youth, sexual orientation

**********

In order to improve the current health of children and adolescents and ensure healthy adulthood, it is critical that quality physical activity and recreational programs are readily available for all youth. High quality programs include planned, sequential instruction that promotes lifelong physical activity and are designed to: a) develop basic movement skills and sports skills, and physical fitness; and b) enhance mental, social and emotional abilities (Marx, Wooley, & Northrup, 1998). Physical activity and recreational programs reduce levels of anxiety and stress, and participation in such programs often results in higher levels of self-esteem (Calfas & Taylor, 1994). Participation in physical activity relates to positive improvements in academic performance (Dwyer, Blizzard, & Dean, 1996) and improved concentration; better writing, math, and reading test scores; and reduced disruptive behaviors (Kolbe et al., 1986). With current trends and emphasis on academic testing, some have worried that less time spent on academics and more on physical and recreation activities may have a negative impact on test scores. On the contrary, evidence suggests that students who participated in physical education programs did not experience negative effects on standardized test scores. In fact, when a substantial amount of curricular time (14-26%) is spent engaging in physical activity, learning seems to proceed more rapidly per unit of classroom time when compared to those who do not participate in physical activity (Shephard, 1997).

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth

Not all youth have equal opportunity to engage in physical activities; this lack of opportunity could have detrimental effects on the health of these students. Studies have shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth are more susceptible to certain health risks, such as victimization and mental health problems, and more likely to engage in health risk behaviors, such as substance abuse and sexual risk-taking (Bontempo & D'Augelli, 2002; DuRant, Krowchuk, & Senal, 1998; Garofalo, Wolf, Kessel, Palfrey, & DuRant, 1998; Hershberger & D'Augelli, 1995; Moon et al., 2000; Rosario, Hunter, & Gwadz, 1997; Rotherum-Borus, Rosario, Van Rossem, Reid, & Gillis, 1995). Physical education classes offer the possibility for positive risk-taking opportunities, as opposed to negative risk-taking behaviors, provided the youth feel comfortable and accepted in these classes.

Adolescents and adults take risks for adventure, boredom dissolution, excitement, as well as the opportunity to experience success and novelty. Positive risk-taking or "healthy risk promotion" refers to the encouragement of participation in adventurous, thrill-seeking, sensation-seeking, exhilarating experiences that fulfill one's needs, relieve stress, and are healthy and legal. …