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Physical Education and Athletics

At the Habersham School, we are committed to integrating physical education into our curriculum as we strive to develop and grow the whole person. We view this element of our curriculum on the same plane as any academic pursuit, and as justified (even required) by our guiding principles of Christian faith.

The Christian faith is incarnational. That is, God came to earth and took on human form in the person of Jesus. In the days of the early church, gnostic philosophy held that things material and physical were essentially evil and only the spiritual was essentially good. Modern remnants of gnostic thought would simply contend that the physical and material are less important (though not quite evil) than the spiritual (even if “spiritual” is vaguely defined.) Because the Christian faith is incarnational, because it’s rooted in the concept that people are image-bearers of God, and because God’s common grace is visible in the physical world around us, THS holds the conviction that the physical body is fundamental to our being. Therefore, an education that fails to develop the physical child with intentionality is lacking.

Physical learning and development is consistent with the Classical model of education. The grammar of PE is based in running, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, and such activities. Focusing on these basic activities builds strength and coordination that can later be applied in athletic endeavors just as history studied in third grade can form the factual basis for an argument articulated in grade nine. The logic stage consists of integrating these activities in the context of games and sports. Team sports such as basketball and soccer, and individual sports such as tennis or track and field all require the combining of the skills learned in the grammar stage in the context of the game or event learned in the logic stage. This is when the focus shifts from the basics of running, catching, and throwing to the rules of the game(s) and strategies for competing well. As understanding increases and skills are honed, logic stage students are prepared for the rhetoric stage (high school.) Just as classically educated students are prepared to articulate and defend a position in their academic pursuits, THS seeks to prepare students to effectively execute and compete at a high level in the physical realm. Whether a given student’s interest is in archery, rugby, or anywhere in between, THS endeavors to immerse that student in a culture focused on pursuing excellence to the glory of God.

Competition is preparatory for adult life. It has long been a common cliché that, “sports builds character.” Yet, rarely is that claim justified and clarified. The obvious elements are learning to work as a team, commitment to teammates and to achieving shared objectives, goal setting, and goal attainment. However, the more critical reason is that students will never have a context that allows them to live through such a broad range of emotion and experience with as little on the line. Consider the basketball player who makes or misses the last second game-winning shot. Whether he faces emotions of disappointment over falling short and letting his whole team down or emotions of exhilaration over coming through for his team hinges on the bounce of a ball. Eventually life will deal that child both sets of circumstances in more significant contexts with more on the line. The child who has lived through these occasions in the context of childhood competition will be better prepared to take them in stride with adequate humility, self-control, and grace as an adult.

In summary, THS sees physical education and athletics as an integral element in educating the whole child. In the same way that academics are not regarded as a solely pragmatic endeavor (to secure a job), athletics are not included solely to produce athletes of distinction. Rather, athletics are viewed as a primary component of developing the body and mind as we seek to produce graduates who think with excellence, believe with confidence, and live with character.


10 Comments

  1. Susan says:

    excellent article!

  2. Leonard says:

    makes good sense to me

  3. jdwelch12 says:

    This (athletics) provides an excellent analogy for demonstrating classical teaching methodology! It captures both the stages of the trivium and the integrated learning elements.

  4. Ammons says:

    Just had a conversation this morning revolving around this very topic! Thanks for articulating so well the thoughts I was hoping to convey. I will be passing this along to several people and will share specifically the paragraph on competition with the parents of the girls I coach in rec league softball. Very well-thought out and extremely timely. Thanks again!

  5. Gwen Bosma says:

    Well written and very enjoyable to read!

  6. Bobby Welch says:

    Unusually well done. A very thoughtful and intelligently communicated apologetic on a subject often misunderstood. Preserving the temple while teaching life lessons set in the framework of joy for the participants and enjoyment of parents and other observers is purposeful and mission appropriate for Christian schools of all genres, but Classical schools especially.
    Bobby Welch

  7. Rodney Steward says:

    A thoughtful and cogent statement regarding the clear connection between the physical and the intellectual. Thanks to the author for posting it!

  8. Kate says:

    I’m amazed at how the stages of academic learning translate so perfectly to athletics! Thank you for this broad perspective on the role of PE and athletics in a Christian school and for the reminder that athletic pursuits should not be viewed as purely pragmatic or only for health benefits, which is how I’ve tended to view them over the years.

  9. Practical thoughts on elemental activities that post-modern elite culture is seeking to eliminate from the lives of children. I hope they might one day re-consider.

  10. Excellent explanation of the role of athletics in educating our children and grandchildren, because our bodies are God’s temple.

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