Richards: Club sports should count toward physical education credits

Jason Richards, Staff Columnist

As I start my sixth semester here at Case Western Reserve University, the dreaded physical education (PE) requirement is looming upon me. Two semesters worth of physical education classes are required for all bachelor’s degrees here, and, when you realize you only have three semesters left, this can be alarming.

I told myself freshman year I’d never procrastinate on my PE requirements. Rather, I would be proactive and sign up for Power Volleyball or Cardio Games in my first few semesters in order to be able to focus on coursework as my classes got harder.

Like many others before me, I also told myself freshman year that I’d never succumb to the well-known epidemic of the freshman 15.

If you’re following the theme here, I wasn’t able to stick to either of these goals. Admittedly, however, the freshman 15 is on me more than my impending PE requirements. Now that I think of it, the former is probably a direct result of the latter. Anyway, I digress.

CWRU advocates for the health and well-being of its students. One way of encouraging students to try different forms of exercise is through these PE requirements. They offer students a class that breaks from a traditional lecture structure and requires no homework. However, while athletes who play varsity sports are relieved of these prerequisites, those in club sports are not, despite exerting as much—if not more—physical activity each week. 

The CWRU athletics webpage, as well as the Case Bulletin, which posts academic regulations, programs of study and course offerings, also recommend that physical education credits be completed in a student’s first year. However, the limited number of classes available, and class capacity within those that are offered, restrict students’ ability to complete their requirements in the first year.

Each semester, CWRU offers 15-25 co-educational lifetime sports classes. A quick class search in the Student Information System (SIS) shows that each class has multiple time slots, but an average class size limit of only roughly 20 students.

Your first year or two, you’ll be lucky to get into a physical education class—unless you find waking up at 8:00 a.m. for indoor rowing to be your calling. Most of the time, upperclassmen take PE spots before any freshman or sophomore students get a chance, since seniority takes precedence in class enrollment. Our pattern of PE enrollment creates a cycle in which upperclassmen, still needing to fulfill the prerequisites, fill most of the available classes, preventing first and second year students from taking the classes. As a result, these students then wait until they are upperclassmen to take PE classes, and the cycle continues.

CWRU sponsors 19 NCAA Division III varsity sports, according to this year’s general bulletin. Athletes in these sports are able to substitute their sport for the PE requirement during that sport season.

But CWRU’s physical education fulfillment fails to include club sports. All club sports that don’t fall under the 19 sponsored varsity ones aren’t accepted toward physical education requirements.

Enabling club sports to count toward physical education credits, as varsity sports do, would solve many of the aforementioned problems. Further, it addresses the graduation requirement: inadequate class size, time constraints and the lack of facilities for hosting classes. At the same time, including club sports in the PE requirement encourages student engagement in extracurricular activities—another feat CWRU has been working toward in recent years.

Currently, CWRU has 17 listed club sports on the athletics page, including archery, ice hockey, lacrosse, and ultimate frisbee. These club sports provide just as much physical involvement as any class that meets the physical education requirement. I’d go further to say that they require much more commitment, athletic ability, training and physical education than the classes that actually count towards CWRU’s graduation requirement, excluding the varsity sports teams. 

I’m personally not part of any club sports. I don’t have the commitment to wake up at 5:00 AM to row on the Cuyahoga River most days out of the week, or take up archery when my engineering classes slow down. (This is, of course, sarcasm—they don’t slow down.) I just believe the physical education aspect of these club sports stretches beyond what any two-day-a-week, one-hour class can accomplish, and are, thus, certainly deserving of PE credit.