For a family to become a “sports family” and for a child to become a “student-athlete,” then two things need to take place. The family unit needs to be physically active and the child/children need to have regular — ideally daily — Physical Education (P.E.) at school. The P.E. component at school is a key, critical and necessary part of the equation. Not only is a P.E. class a great place to be physically active, it’s a venue where children get to learn about the importance of being healthy, have fun with their classmates, develop self-confidence and earn the respect of their peers. But, it’s worth noting that the biggest positive side effect of a P.E. class is the student’s mind. Research confirms that physical activity during the school day actually enhances academic achievement.

“Exercise wakes the brain up and prepares it to be in its best learning situation,” stated Chad Fenwick, Advisor for Physical Education, K-12 (Los Angeles, California).

“The best behaviors and the best academic outcomes are when they (the students) come back in from physical education,” stated Dave Spurlock, Director of P.E., Charleston (SC) City Schools. “Movement can change the whole dynamic of education.”

The P.E. factor is so influential that children who receive P.E. are two to three times more likely to remain physically active outside of school according to research conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, USA.

Sadly, the current situation in the U.S. indicates that the vast majority of children are not physically active to healthy standards, which means the number of student-athletes is not what it should be. The facts on physically active children in the U.S. are sad and sobering, but reversible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 20 percent of U.S. teens are getting basic levels of physical activity, which is 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous levels of physical activity each week. According to research conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, USA, the number of U.S. children who are active at least three times a week has dropped to 23.9 percent, a decrease of 15 percent in the last five years.

This trend toward physical inactivity has resulted in more than 82 million Americans being classified as physically inactive, based on the joint findings of the Physical Activity Council and Sports Marketing Surveys, USA.

Another revealing side effect of the rising level of physical inactivity in the U.S. is the conclusion of a recent international youth fitness study done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This global study on youth fitness revealed that U.S. children ranked 47th out of the 50 countries studied. There is no more powerful sign of the negative magnitude of physical inactivity by the youth in the U.S. than that particular study. It’s sad, but true, but reversible.

For a family unit to be exercising and physically active, at least one parent (though, ideally both parents) needs to take the lead and be physically active on a regular basis. This involves leading family bike rides, taking trips to the swimming pool, playing pitch-and-catch in the backyard, shooting hoops in the driveway (or a basketball goal at a nearby park), or simply going to a vacant playing field to kick, catch, hit, chase or throw a ball.

One of the lost pastimes on the American sports scene is the decline of pick-up and sandlot play.  Not only do pick-up games of soccer, basketball, baseball, whiffle ball, softball, and touch/flag football keep children physically active, it allows children to the work on conflict resolution skills:

Decision Making: Is somebody out or safe?

Fair Play: Where should we play today’s game?

Fairness: Does the basket count or not?

Integrity: When teams are chosen, are they selected evenly?

It’s important to keep the score in every game with accuracy!

Organizations like PHIT America have been busy uncovering research – highlighting the severity and negative magnitude of physical inactivity in the United States. In addition to its research, PHIT America has also been busy providing a solution to the issue:  PHIT America GO! Grants.

PHIT America GO! Grants help elementary schools that are in desperate need of sports gear, programming or training for physical activity programs. PHIT America GO! Grants range in size from $1,000 to $5,000 per school. Every PHIT America GO! Grant is focused on providing assistance to schools which want to help students improve their motor skills, reduce obesity, enhance their personal fitness and educate them about the long-term value of being physically active and physically fit.

“We are proud to play a role in getting more young school children physically active and playing sports during the school day,” stated Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America. “The GO! Grants are an investment in our national campaign to fight and reverse the ‘Inactivity Pandemic.’  Research confirms the huge benefits that exercise at school has on the academic, physical and emotional health of school children. The PHIT America GO! Grants are changing lives.”

Since September 2015, PHIT America has awarded PHIT America GO! Grants to 730 elementary school P.E. programs in 39 states which have provided physical activity outlets for more than 400,000 elementary school children in the U.S. More than 100,000 young students have been introduced to an active lifestyle in the past year.

By reversing the Inactivity Pandemic, we will see a growing number of student-athletes and sports families, which is not just a good thing for America; it’s a great thing for America!

Mike May is a contributor on behalf of PHIT America, a national non-profit sports and fitness organization. For more information on the academic-athletic correlation, go to and view the docuseries: “Creating Healthier & Smarter Kids: The Power of P.E” The docuseries showcases the significant academic benefits of P.E. and the downsides of physical inactivity. 


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