Relationship Between Physical Education & Athletics

            Throughout history sporting events and athletics have been a driving force for many human beings. Needing to compete and win or even the drive to participate in any given sport gives a euphoria or pleasure that encourages many athletes today. Many men and women have been given the title of athlete but the question remains about the definition of this term. One definition of an athlete is “a person trained to compete in sports,” ( therefore an athlete is a  person who has been educated about a sport or activity, trained to use the mind and body to execute the skills to meet the goal and compete with others who have also been trained to participate in that sport.  The idea that athletics and physical education are connected come from the fact that they have the same foundation. Physical education is defined as the “Education in the care and development of the human body, stressing athletics and including hygiene” (American Heritage Dictionary). Therefore, the practice of physical education is gaining knowledge about keeping the body healthy by learning how the body works, training in athletic skills to help to accomplish good health and to understand how good physical health affects people mentally, socially as well as physically.

            History documents that athletic events known as games and competitions were a part of life in America as many people began to settle in the new colonies in the 1600’s.  Physical education did not become a part of the U.S. until the middle of the 19th century (Polidoro 58). Benjamin Franklin was an advocate for athletics proposing that young men would have regularly scheduled athletic activities in the first academy that he founded; he believed that they should participate in activities such as running, leaping, wrestling and swimming (Polidoro 58). The first form of organized physical education was introduced by John Warren, a professor at Harvard in 1832, who wrote the book “The Importance of Physical Education.” The book informed its readers of the benefits of health and wellness through exercising on a regular basis (Polidoro 70). The second person to be credited with the establishment of organized physical education in the U.S. was Dioclesian Lewis who founded the first physical education training institute in the United States. The first state to adopt physical education in their public school curriculum was California in 1866. A law was passed in this state that all elementary and secondary students must have instruction in health with the promotion of physical exercise that would benefit both the mind and body. A minimum of 5 minutes 2 times a day was, by law, the amount of time elementary school children would receive instruction in breathing and gymnastic type exercises (Polidoro 70). Shortly after this law was passed other states adopted their own physical education programs.  By the time the 20th century was ushered in there was a focus on “new” physical education with the idea that individuals do best by doing (Polidoro 79). The focus was on the individual biologically, psychologically and sociologically (Polidoro 81). By 1930 thirty-nine states created legislation that public schools must provide instruction in physical education. By the 1970’s every state had a written legislative form of physical education standards (Polidoro 81).

            The author of Sport and Physical Activity in the Modern World, J. Richard Polidoro, described his opinion of the difference between athletics and physical education in his book. He stated that physical education is a “single discipline” and also stated that athletics is driven by the need to win and often times the “success of an athlete is measured by economic profit, entertainment and recognition (Polidoro 85).” Where “success is of physical education is measured mentally, socially, and psychologically” in regards to the development of an individual (Polidoro 86). Although Athletics and Physical Education differ in that in Athletics usually focuses on a specific endeavor with the goal of competition where Physical Education encompasses many different athletic activities with the goal of good health,  I believe that they have a similar foundation in the focus of training the mind and body for participation in athletic activities.  If an individual wants to master an athletic game he or she will need to be educated about his or her sport. Being educated on a sport does not mean just focusing on the physical skills; it also includes understanding the activity socially, emotionally and psychologically. In regards to the relationship between athletics and physical education I believe athletics is a component of physical education where an individual can focus on a specific sport or activity learned in a physical education class to advance skills and performance to focus on competition, not just good physical health.

 Polidoro, J. Richard. Sport and Physical Activity in the Modern World.  Boston:. Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

             Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

Word Net Princeton University. <>.         December   2, 2009