In Light of the Obesity Epidemic, Should High School Athletic Departments Be Required to Share Facility Space/time with After-School Physical-Activity Programs?

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Making this mandatory will not solve the problem. High schools tend to add sports to their athletic program. Often schools do not have the space to accommodate the sports already in place, and sharing the space creates a far-less-than-desirable environment for administration of the athletic programs. Many of our elementary schools provide only one or two 30-minute sessions of physical education per week. The lack of priority in educating youngsters to develop love for movement and a healthy lifestyle, which puts a premium on physical activity and nutritious eating habits, is unfortunate indeed. A push for daily quality physical education programs in our schools will underscore the critical importance of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Looking for ways to get kids active after poor habits have already been formed is not enough to address the root causes of this epidemic.

--Don Boggis, physical education/wellness teacher, Hollis/Brookline High School, Hollis, NH; adjunct professor, Springfield College, Manchester, NH campus.

I believe that high school athletic departments should be required to share facility space and time with after-school physical activity programs. In order to promote health, wellness, and fitness in every community, there must be a means to that end. High schools provide an array of facilities, and they should be used to the fullest extent. There must be guidelines, however, as to who can use these facilities and when they can be used.

First priority should always be given to the athletic department. The facilities that are being used for high school athletics should be off-limits to the community and after-school programs. However, these programs should have access to the facilities that are not being used. The athletic department could create a schedule consisting of the times and locations for each practice, game, or performance.

Legitimate programs could create partnerships with the high school to share space and time; however, these programs would have to meet certain criteria in order to be considered. First, the programs would have to be supervised by one or more adults who meet specific qualifications. Second, the programs must have a certain number of participants. For example, it would be counterproductive to reserve the entire gymnasium for only three participants. Lastly, the programs must relate to health, wellness, and physical activity. A karate class would have a legitimate claim to the facilities, whereas a scrapbook class would not.

--Jana Paulk, graduate student, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.

In rural, low socioeconomic areas, "gym" access may be limited or nonexistent. Opening high schools would provide a cost effective and accessible facility for all. However, most people who are overweight need cardiovascular exercise rather than strength training. High schools should keep their weight room doors shut, for liability and financial reasons. Long-term weight loss is best achieved through proper diet and exercise. Schools, along with local parks and recreation departments, should provide aerobic classes and health seminars. Most people need to understand the importance of counting calories, calorie expenditure, basic nutrition, the FITT principle, and heart rate training for long-term success.

--Jamie Griggs, physical education chair, Tom Green Elementary, Austin TX.

High school athletic departments have always been about select or elite groups of athletes and the provision of facilities for sports teams, resulting in a relatively small number of students receiving what amounts to a privileged allocation of facilities. High school athletic departments should shift their focus and embrace after-school physical-activity programs.

--Scott A. G. M. Crawford, professor, College of Education and Professional Studies, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools offer after-school intramural programs to give all children the opportunity to be physically active on a regular basis. …