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September 02, 1988 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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56

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1988

The Pressure To Win

Competitive sports avcitivy, like school sports and
organized teams, have positive and negative aspects. Parents
should be aware of both.

LINDA R. BENSON

Special to The Jewish News

T

he U.S.A. is the land of
plenty for its citizens
— not only more cars,
more TV sets, and more
household appliances, but
more gymnasiums, golf
courses, racquet courts, and
swimming pools, as well.
Yet, in the midst of this
abundance is the realization
that many of today's young
Americans are in alarmingly
poor physical shape.
Consider these statistics
gathered from a nationwide
sampling of 20,000 American
schoolchildren, aged 6-17,
conducted in 1985 by the
President's Council on
Physical Fitness:
• 45 percent of boys aged
6-14 could not hold their
chins over a raised bar for
more than 10 seconds.
• 50 percent of girls aged
6-17, and 30 percent of boys
aged 6-12, could not run a
mile in less than 10 minutes.
• 40 percent of boys, aged
6-17, and 70 of all girls in that
age range, could not do more
than ONE pull-up off of a bar.
25 percent of the boys could
not do any, and 55 percent of
the girls could not do any.
• 40 percent of boys, aged
6-13, could not reach beyond
their toes.
• Girls' performances in
these tests tended to level off
noticeably in adolescence.
The average 17-year-old girl
performed no better on these
measures of strength and en-
durance than the average
12-year-old girl.

Public concerns over the
fitness of America's youth
first came to light after the
Korean War. The Eisenhower
administration established
the President's Council on
Physical Fitness and Sports
in 1957, and for the next ten
years there seemed to be a
concentrated effort through-
out American grade schools
to at least improve kids' per-.
formances on a battery of
fitness tests that were
developed, if not their overall
health status. Many phys. ed.
departments tailor-made
their programs to prepare
kids to take the tests, but the
fitness performance scores
seemed to improve year after
year through the late sixties.
Since 1975, however, they
plateaued. There has been
virtually no change in these
findings since 1975.
Added to this is recent
studies which have shown
that 40 percent of children as
young as aged 5-8 have one or
more risk factors for heart
disease. These include
elevated blood pressure, high
cholesterol, increased masses
of body fat, and other obvious
signs of physical inactivity.
Are we raising a nation of
obese, out-of-shape, children?
Is "flab" the buzz word of the
future? Are the couch
potatoes the ones who are go-
ing to inherit the earth?
Guy Reiff, Professor of
Kinesiology at the Universi-
ty of Michigan has been con-
ducting national fitness
studies on American youth
for the past 29 years, and he
is worried.

The trouble? According to
Reiff, "is our lifestyles." In
the high-tech, fast-paced
1980s, Reiff bemoans the fact
that spontaneous baseball
games have disappeared from
most American city streets.
Many middle class American
kids no longer live in those
kinds of neighborhoods, and
their lives, and the lives of
their parents are too busy, too
programmed, or too isolated.

The conventional ap-
proaches to fitness and exer-
cise for kids, are his greatest
gripe. These are approaches
that have remained rooted in
the past, despite our greater
knowledge and understan-
ding of the interaction of
fitness, nutrition and their
impact over a liftime for im-
proved health status.
"Historically, in physical
education classes we teach
sports skills, which means
playing games," Reiff says.
"Either you get the extremes
of kids who see it as an oppor-
tunity to 'WIN, or as an oppor-
tunity to goof off."
The most obvious answer
these days is for a parent to
sign a youngster up for an
organized sports' activity.
"Most parents are eager to do
the right thing," says Vern
Seefeldt, of Michigan State
University. Whether it is the
swim team at the local swim
and tennis club, Little League
baseball, hockey, or soccer.
Reiff cautions every parent
to consider four important
questions before enrolling a
kid in an organized sport.
1) Do you understand that

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