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The future of PE

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2020 - 12:00am

“Adversity introduces a man to himself.” – Albert Einstein

No contact, non-physical physical education. Is that the future of PE?

Since there is still no absolute confirmation when actual physical classes will be restored, millions of youth have been stuck at home for months, developing less active, more sedentary habits. This may mean a huge decline in the health and fitness levels of young people everywhere. Worse, they may become lazy and have difficulty returning to a more active lifestyle. The focus of the Department of Education has been to create online infrastructure for the main subjects. Meanwhile, all over the country, coaches and trainers are trying to figure out how to adapt to the enforced dispersal of their students.

“COVID virus may be with us for a long time even when the vaccine comes,” says Philippine Sports Commission chairman and educator Butch Ramirez. “The anxiety and fear of getting the virus is so unpredictable that any time you can get it. In the midst of this pandemic, the PE must be strengthened, because mental health and psycho-social support is more necessary and is more and more needed to improve the lives of our youth.”

But the pandemic is uncharted territory which caught everyone by surprise. What happens to the capability to monitor and correct a PE student’s form and progress on the spot?

“The challenge of face to face teaching due to COVID-19 will force schools to contend with the experience of teaching online physical education, in other words, touchless classes,” explains Eric Altamirano, founder of the highly-respected Coach E basketball camps, whose trademark is personalized, small group training. “Compared to face to face teaching, it would be very difficult for teachers to show emphathy to their students in an online setting.There is no individualized attention since you’re not there to physically correct them.”

In a live, physical class, instructors can see all the students at the same time. Trying to squeeze full-body visuals of all students into a virtual physical education class would be inefficient, and pointless. How do you keep track of students’ progress? On the other hand, when it comes to PE, can you literally mail it in like with other subjects?

“The intensity or effort of students in general would be mediocre at best,” declares Del Bacho, mixed martial arts consultant and marketing manager of Victory Gym in Subic Bay. “This would be a challenge for the PE teacher to have his instructions translate properly. It would be ridiculous to monitor each one live in a zoom set-up.  Best way I guess is to have the students record an actual workout they assign, sort of like homework. With students doing a full workout to be submitted after, the instructor will know they actually completed it and even gauge the effort they put in.”

More than that, most youth are energized and enthusiastic when doing activities with friends and peers. The nuances of social activity, like the joking, teamwork and encouragement from others is lost.

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