For as long as anyone can remember, physical education has been a welcome part of the high school curriculum nationwide. Ever since the mid-1800s, schools have placed a strong importance on physical fitness and its contribution to the well-being of students. Especially in today’s society, when childhood obesity looms terrifyingly close and the mass marketing of fast food and video games are promoting sugar and lethargy to teenagers everywhere, exercise and physical education are considered vital factors of a school’s curriculum. But what gym class doesn’t take into consideration is the fact that a large fraction of high school students have turned to playing after school sports as a daily form of exercise and physical activity. High school athletes, in practices and games, are given the opportunity to build healthy exercise habits and spend hours being active, making an additional 50 minutes in gym class two to three times a week excessive and unnecessary. In other words, student athletes shouldn’t have to take gym. If student athletes were not required to take a physical education class, there would be numerous benefits in regards to the convenience and health of the athletes, while also providing opportunities for non-athletes. In such a sports-loving society, physical education should be something that is provided as an alternative to those who are not involved or interested in sports, not required for those who are.
When you consider the hours throughout the week that athletes are spending with professional coaches in an active environment, gym class is not necessary to an athlete’s school day. Students who play sports are already getting up to two or more hours a day of physical exercise when practicing or performing in games. Students who don’t have this type of active schedule may need the 50 minute gym period every other day in order to get their weekly dose of physical activity. Athletes do not. This additional physical activity period creates another obstacle for student athletes: the possibility of overexertion. All students, even athletes, are expected to try their hardest to be active in gym class. But by the end of the day, those 50 minutes of exertion in gym class may have taken a very heavy toll on student athletes. They will not be able to perform to their highest standards for the duration of games and important practices that take place after school. Gym class serves the purpose of keeping students active throughout the school day, but when athletes are already exerting themselves on the field at practice, another 50 minutes in gym is irrelevant and overwhelming.
For high school athletes, feeling overwhelmed is something that is a clear effect of their busy sports schedules. Coaches expect them to be present at practices every day, and additionally participating in every game for as long as the game occurs. Sometimes, games can even run until after the sun has set. With such a tightly packed schedule, and spending so much essential energy during practice or a game, athletes rarely have time to get all of their homework done and study to their best ability. But if athletes were not required to take gym, they would have more flexibility in their schedule to allow for more time for studying. Those gym periods could be utilized in a more beneficial way to athletes, giving them time to catch up on work that they might not have time to do between practices. Exemption from gym would definitely benefit athletes both mentally, by reducing stress levels from slipping behind on homework, and scholarly, giving them a chance to boost their grades by studying more.
Benefits of athletes opting out of gym class aren’t just limited to the athletes themselves- a fraction of students being absent from physical education gives the non-athletes a chance to participate to their fullest extent. With the number of students in gym class cut down, it eliminates the overly-competitive aspect of having athletes in gym who can keep regular phys ed students from getting involved. Students can feel comfortable enough to really try their best in activities, not just hide in the background while the athletes demonstrate their sports talents. And in addition to this, gym teachers would be able to spend closer time with these non-athletes, teaching them ways to stay active and get in shape that they may not learn otherwise. Exempting athletes from gym class isn’t only the right choice for the athletes- it is the right choice for the student population as a whole.
Overall, the clear benefits of athletes opting out of gym class make the decision to allow it such a thing an easy one. If athletes did not have to take physical education, they would be more energetic and prepared for practices and games, they would have allotted time for studying and making up time lost on the playing field, and non-athletes would be able to participate without pressure in gym class. Without physical education, athletes may not get specialized lessons from a gym teacher, but they can get good information about maintaining a healthy lifestyle from coaches, or even parents, instead. If student athletes weren’t required to take physical education, they would become overall better athletes and students. With such advantages blossoming from exempting athletes from gym, all school administrators should be asking themselves why they haven’t allowed it yet.