|Still have the patches! Think the middle one (still in the sealed package) is worth big bucks?|
Pulled a flier out of my daughter’s backpack last night for the President’s Challenge. Looks like times have changed a bit. What was once an anxiety-provoking program for school-aged kids has been softened a bit (err, melted?) to coax our couch potato kids to put down the Nintendo DS and get moving.
The main event is now the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (the kids call it PALA), and it has become, like a good PAL, much more approachable. The flier says it is “really quite simple, yet can lead to the improved health of most children and youth.” In order to receive the award, kids must participate in activities that get their bodies moving with an increased heart rate, 5 days a week, 60 minutes per day for 6 weeks. To the fit set (myself included) it probably seems like another program where everybody wins. Sort of is, I guess. Meet the requirements and the kids earn a patch, certificate and an “I’m a Champion” wristband.
Yes. Times have changed.
Back in my day the “Presidential” was a grueling test of athletic ability that set the pecking order of athleticism for the year. I remember holding on to the flexed arm hang until it felt like I might pee my pants. Somehow, it seemed that important.
I still have my Personal Fitness Record log from the 7th grade. Evidently it was pretty significant cause it ended up in my middle school scrapbook along with those patches (up top) and a few other ribbons I earned at various field days from grade school. I’m guessing most kids today won’t save their medals and ribbons into adulthood. And if they do, they'll have a large collection of “Participant” souvenirs with no memories of where they came from or that they risked wetting themselves to earn them.
I know I'm being a little snarky. I actually love the idea of promoting a healthy way of life that isn't about comparisons, success vs. failure, or besting your classmates. I love that kids who aren't exposed to fitness are learning that it should be a part of everyday life, not just a few days of standardized tests. And I love that my daughter, who participates in sports all year round, gets to see that she doesn't have to be a competitive athlete to be fit and healthy.
That said, schools can still participate in the Physical Fitness Test. And it’s not far removed from the test I remember, except now they’ve replaced the 50-yard dash with the V-sit reach—a measure of flexibility (a school record my little Miss Competitive is out to break this year!).
Do I have you feeling nostalgic for the good old days? Are you still bitter about not getting that fancy blue patch? It's not too late. Register online at http://www.presidentschallenge.org/. (No, I'm not kidding!) Evidently it’s not just for school kids anymore. Adults can register for the PALA program or the Presidential Champion challenge (which is a grown-up version of the physical fitness test for kids where you can enter your data and receive an evaluation online). The adult version includes aerobics, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition components.
You can even buy yourself a patch. Go get 'em!