The Advantages of Transforming AAHPERD into a Professional Physical Education Organization
Davis, Kathy, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
I became a member of AAHPERD fin 1974, through tine National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS, formerly DGWS}, when I was a freshman physical education major at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. In these past 37 years, I have seen AAHPERD deemphasize its "physical education" roots, and move into a more fragmented collection of associations that are all related, but struggle for identity. With an alliance structure, the very nature of separate associations seems to build walls between us. Now, the AAHPERD Board of Governors and the Alliance Assembly have both voted to move AAHPERD in another direction--into one unified organization with one unified, focused mission.
There are many reasons for the unification, not the least of which is to emphasize our commonalities. Some colleagues would say that the reason for this change is economic--AAHPERD membership has declined more than 20 percent since 1998, and some of AAHPERD's associations are struggling financially. Others would say the reason for the change is relevance--several of the national associations have reviewed their current roles and missions within AAHPERD and have made proposals for where they can be housed in the future. Still others see the reason for change as a need for efficiency--AAHPERD is an organization that lacks a congruent mission and is "trying to be all things to all people" in a very fragmented field (Zeigler, 2010}. Lastly, others would say that the reason for change is that AAHPERD needs to "keep up with the times" or join the "physical activity" bandwagon in order to survive. In this editorial, I would like to examine each of these reasons, and advocate for the advantages of reorganizing into a unified "physical education" professional organization.
While the economy has certainly played a role in the declining financial position of AAHPERD, we need to concentrate on our common beliefs and goals across all areas. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has been able to find financial resources through its Corporate Council, grant funding from many sources, and partnerships with collegial associations (e.g. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], American Heart Association [AHA], etc.). Members of the new organization could share this success across various interest areas. Why not capitalize on the success of NASPE and focus on NASPE's primary mission of physical education and sport? With 200,000 physical educators across the United States who are potential AAHPERD members, why would AAHPERD want to reorganize away from one of its biggest assets?
Several of AAHPERD's national associations have been undergoing changes. The American Association for Health Education (AAHE) has already expressed its desire to leave AAHPERD and join another organization that might better meet its needs. A large number of our physical education members need training and professional development in health education (because they also teach health), which could be provided by our colleagues in AAHE. About a year ago, NAGWS initiated a move to become a council under the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR). Having been a member of NAGWS from the beginning of my career, I know that NAGWS has always been an advocate for girls and women in sport, which could be integrated into the mission of NASPE in a thoughtful manner to ensure the identity and future of NAGWS.
Although it is the second largest association in AAHPERD, AAPAR initiated a merger with NASPE last year because of the two associations' closely related missions. They saw the potential strength of merging the two associations with very complementary missions into one even stronger association. I was encouraged to see that reasonable professionals could look objectively at two associations and work out the details of a merger that focused on the strengths of each association. …