P.E. department says athletics are not suitable substitute

Ella Beiser, Sports Editor

Four of nine schools in the Independent School League allow student athletes to opt out of physical education classes when they are participating in a school sport. However, U-High is not one of them, and while P.E. educators say the topic comes up regularly, they’re working to explain how playing a sport is not a replacement for what is learned in P.E. classes.

Debbie Ribbens

Debbie Ribbens, physical education department chair, believes that when schools allow athletes to skip P.E. it encourages students to join athletics for the sake of an extra free period.

“I really feel that P.E. and athletics are two different realms. They can complement each other but they are two different realms,” Ms. Ribbens, who also coaches cross country and track and field, said. “If you ran for me, your cardiovascular would be great, but you wouldn’t get the same experience you were in my core fitness or yoga class. So it’s a whole different experience.”

Additionally, Ms. Ribbens believes athletes can gain valuable skills from P.E. classes that can improve their performance — skills they don’t learn in practices.

“You might be a great soccer player, but you might not have any flexibility or, know how to dance or whatever your class may be,” Ms. Ribbens said.

Laura Gill, assistant athletics director, agrees.

Laura Gill

“The athletics department believes that P.E. is an integral part of the school day, and we want to make sure that we are supporting that and, I think, vice versa,” Ms. Gill said, predicting that a change would not come soon.

Additionally, Ms. Gill said that in the short time that she has been at Lab, she has heard interest for implementing a program that allows students to complete their P.E. credit with a school sport but has never seen an official proposal.

According to Ms. Ribbens, the P.E. department works hard to make sure that students are placed in a diverse array of classes that they will both benefit from and enjoy.

“Say you love badminton, but you don’t want to be in team sports,” Ms. Ribbens said. “You should be able to pick. And we should offer and we try to listen to the kids and say. What do you want?”

In response to students who say they would benefit from another free period instead of P.E. Ms. Ribbens believes that it would actually cause more stress for students rather than relieve stress because some students might choose to take another academic class instead of P.E.

P.E. classes such as Stress Redux or Yoga and Pilates are geared toward relieving stress and are an excellent way of reaching that goal, according to Ms. Ribbens.

“With the whole health and wellness and social-emotional learning, physical education is a healthy way to have natural endorphins, feel better, and relieve stress. Let’s face it, U-High is a very stressful school with high expectations,” Ms. Ribbens said. “So physical education is one way, during a very stressful day, to release some stress, get your natural endorphins, and associated with other people that you might not see during the day.”

Ms. Ribbens believes physical education, health and wellness are important to continue throughout your life.

“We wish it was every day and we wish it was for four years because stress doesn’t end when you are a senior. You know a lot of the seniors that I coach say ‘I wish you could come and do stress redux during lunch’ because they are so stressed out.”

Ms. Ribbens points out that “athletics are extracurricular, physical education is curricular. So doing a sport after school is a choice that you make.”

“I think an outlet during the day for 45 minutes, four days a week is extremely beneficial to the total person, not just the academic,” Ms. Ribbens said. “We want happy, healthy kids. And you know, if you’re smart, that’s great, too.”