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Meet a Real Physical Education Major

Name: Tad Fuller

Education: Bachelor of Science in physical education with an emphasis on commercial fitness management, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California.

Location: Exertec Fitness Center, Napa, California

The Job: After graduating from college nearly 10 years ago, Tad got hired by Exertec as a personal trainer. He worked with people to help them reach their goals--anything from weight loss to training for a marathon.Tad then became Exertec's program director. He put programs together for the club, such as special event races and triatholons.Next he added the title of fitness director to his resume. In that position he juggled program organization along with managing all the trainers in the facility. He created schedules and trained the staff on the basics of personal training.His title now is general manager of the club. Tad collaborates with all the department leaders to make sure the club is moving in a positive direction. Tad and his team are working toward turning the club into a full health center, providing educational programs on how to live a healthy lifestyle.On the downside, as general manager Tad doesn't get to interact much with clients unless they're making complaints about the club.

Words to Live by

Physical Education for you?

Consider Physical Education as a college major if you're crazy about:
Value health (this encompasses diet, fitness, and attitude)
Love sports (doing it--not just watching it on television)
Have confidence (coaches, trainers, mentors should exude leadership skills)

Avoid Physical Education as a college major if you get nauseated by:
Don't like people (commercial fitness is a service for people)
Stink at business stuff (managing or owning a club means being business-savvy)
Lean toward negativity (in fitness, attitude is most of the battle)


Physical Education Major

I have this reoccurring nightmare. It consists of a great white meteor-like object descending on me in slow motion. At the last minute I shut my eyes and hold out my arms straight, clasping my hands in a sort of prayer.

The next thing I know, the people surrounding me are groaning as the round object bounces on the pavement. I've completely missed the ball--again. Then the bell rings. PE class is over, and I get a failing grade in volleyball.

Dustin Jones, Insight's Good Sports celebrity, I am not. Sports have never been a huge part of my life, simply for the reason that I'm not what you'd call athletic. I tolerate endurance sports, such as biking and running, but I shy away from hand-eye coordination activities because, well, they scare me.

But does this lack of athletic prowess exclude me from becoming a physical education major in college? Before we answer that question, let's briefly introduce what a physical education major might entail.

As a physical education major, there are two tracks you can follow.

First, you can teach at the elementary, secondary, or college level. Teaching involves not only introducing students to the wide world of sports, but also educating them on health and the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Second, you can go on the commercial fitness track, which prepares you for employment in the sports business, such as becoming a personal trainer or managing a gym.

Joy Duerkson, a real-life physical education and commercial fitness major at Pacific Union College, has agreed to talk with us about the ins and outs of this subject--including the answer to my future in sports.

On Course: So, Joy, could I ever be a physical education major?

Joy: Well, the most important thing to have is an interest in sports or athletics. Most people who have interest in sports have moderate athletic abilities. They're not all superstars, but they have their areas of specialty.

The one place athleticism does matter is when you have to teach or coach. If you're teaching others how to throw a softball, it makes it easier when you know how.

OC: Have you had to teach others yet?

Joy: Yes! In my theory and technique classes we have to learn the skills of a sport and then teach the general PE classes in college. So we end up being teachers to our peers. It can be frustrating to perform in front of your peers if you lack the physical abilities.

OC: You're a physical education major with an emphasis in commercial fitness management. What does that mean?

Joy: I take most of the same classes as a PE major, but I also study some business, since the theory behind commercial fitness is that you'll open your own health club or work in that area. I have to take classes such as small business accounting, introduction to management, and microeconomics. If I were majoring in physcial education, I'd be taking education classes instead of the business ones.

OC: What do your PE classes entail?

Joy: I take theory and technique classes in each sport--volleyball, track and field, rhythmic activities. Rhythmic activities include such stuff as aerobics, which is good for teaching to elementary students. And there's lifeguard training, where I'll learn CPR.

Then there are upper-division classes such as kinesiology, which is the study of movement. For that class we all had to do a project on some aspect of movement.

OC: What kind of project?

Joy: Some students did a project on the windmill versus the slingshot method of pitching a softball. They studied all the aspects on the different kinds of pitches. I did my project comparing sports wheelchairs versus hospital wheelchairs.

OC: Wow, this major isn't all about just being athletic. You do some major research projects!

Joy: That's the hardest part about this major. There are a lot of students who come into the major thinking it's easy. We're trying hard to let the student body know that we work hard. It's just different from other majors because we're so activity-oriented.

OC: Is that what most people would be most surprised to find out about the PE major?

Joy: Yes, that it's actually a lot of work. And there are so many different things you can do with it. A lot of people think teaching is the only option.

OC: What other options are there?

Joy: One of our graduates became an athletic trainer for the 49ers. Another got a master's in strength and performance training to work in a fitness center with professional athletes. See, this major is a springboard into a lot of areas. Some PE majors go into physical therapy and work in the clinical setting.

If you're planning to teach in an Adventist academy and want to major in PE, it would probably be smart to pick up another major. It'll make it easier for you to get hired if you can teach more than one subject.

OC: What qualities should a PE major have?

Joy: Understanding, mostly. I also think it's important to be confident, but not in a way that will make students feel inadequate. You're going to have a wide range of students or clients--you're not going to always end up with all athletes.

You have to be able to understand where each person is coming from and be sensitive to their individualities. This is really important with coaches, because they end up in the mentoring role more often than teachers do. Kids are really drawn to coaches.

OC: What have you enjoyed most about your major so far?

Joy: Doing the actual coaching with my peers for the theory and technique classes. It was really hard at first. There was the intimidation factor, because sometimes

I was teaching students older than I am.

But it became a process of gaining confidence in myself, and soon I could see that what I said to them really helped. It was a fun, growing experience.

OC: Have you always wanted to do this?

Joy: Pretty much. Since sixth grade I've always been involved in sports. So I knew it was something I wanted to work with, specifically with kids.

Yet when I came to college, I chose premed and biology as my major. But that didn't work too well--especially the chemistry classes.

That first year I ended up spending a lot of time at the gym, because I was on the basketball team. One of the PE coaches suggested that I be a PE major. So at the end of my freshman year I switched. When I told my parents, they said that they always knew I'd end up in the field.

OC: How does this major integrate into your spiritual life?

Joy: Well, my philosophy is that if you're not physically healthy, then your mind and spirit will be unhealthy as well. I strongly believe your health affects your spirituality.

OC: You've also mentioned the idea of being a mentor . . .

Joy: Yeah. As a coach or teacher you're looked up to a lot. You have a really strong influence on young kids. They come to you for advice, and they want to emulate you. I want to be a good influence by showing them the way I live my life. And I think sports and athletics can be a way to witness to kids by reaching out to them on a different level.

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