Career Fitness Training for High School Physical Education: An Elective Course Could Prepare Students for the Fitness Requirements of Careers in Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and the Military

Article excerpt

Today the world requires, and educators need to find, ways to meet the career readiness and career development needs of all students, and this goal needs to be integrated into the mission of all education (Engels & Harris, 1999, p. 70).

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Physical education can contribute to the career readiness and development needs of students by providing them with training to meet the physical fitness standards required for many occupations. In recent years, major initiatives related to educational reform, such as "School to Work" and "contextual learning," have effectively engaged students in their education. Developing career-oriented curricula is a popular trend in high schools across the nation. American schools implementing work-related curricula rose from 66 percent in 1996 to 81 percent in 1999, and schools integrating academic and vocational curricula increased from 59 percent to 69 percent during the same time period (Cutshall, 2001). Research shows that contextual teaching and learning are important for student motivation, learning, and achievement (Reese, 2002). Students tend to learn and achieve more when they can connect their experiences and education in meaningful ways. Connecting fitness with career goals puts physical education into an additional context that is meaningful to students.

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By training students to meet occupational physical-fitness standards, physical education can fill a need that is inadequately addressed by current work-related high school courses. Although many schools have Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs that include some physical training, these programs are not available in all schools. Of course, many colleges offer courses that prepare students for careers as fitness professionals and as physical education teachers, but this article does not deal with the preparation of fitness professionals since that involves certification courses that are rather different from simply passing a fitness test. Career paths such as law enforcement, firefighting, and the military have strict fitness standards that must be met by prospective employees. This article will summarize fitness requirements for these occupations and will offer suggestions for implementing a course--a Career Fitness Training curriculum--designed to prepare students to meet these requirements. Though this course is proposed as an elective, it could be modified for use as a unit within the overall physical education curriculum.

A course designed to teach students about the fitness standards required for certain careers and to provide training to meet those standards may appeal to a wide variety of students. The audience for this type of physical education elective would comprise students who are already planning a career in law enforcement, firefighting, or the military; students interested in exploring more about those types of careers; athletes who want to improve their overall fitness; and students who just want the discipline and challenge. Recent events have brought increased attention to police officers, firefighters, and persons in the military. It was during World War II, when 45 percent of the first two million men examined for military service were rejected for physical or mental reasons, that physical education was fully accepted into the educational program in the United States (Freeman, 2001). We are not suggesting that physical education return to a curriculum based solely on physical training, but a supplemental course such as the one proposed here would benefit our society for many reasons. In a time when most schools require few physical education credits and students often take only the minimum requirement, an elective such as this could motivate more high school students to take physical education.

Law Enforcement Fitness Standards

Law enforcement occupations generally have fitness standards that must be met before employment. …