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What Can I Do to Help 50 Million Strong by 2029 Succeed? (Part 1)

Posted 1 month ago - by Dr. Steve Jefferies

It’s been a couple of years since SHAPE America announced 50 Million Strong by 2029. If you are a SHAPE America member, you will have heard about 50 Million Strong. If you aren’t a member and would like to learn more I’ve written about 50 Million Strong in past Gopher blogs and on PHE America. You can also learn more about it on SHAPE America's website.

50 Million Strong is a bold vision for the future of our profession. Similar to President Kennedy’s 1960’s courageous “moonshot” vision of getting a man safely to the moon and back within a decade, succeeding with 50 Million Strong is by no means guaranteed. In fact, success is unlikely if not all of us who teach physical education or health education fully support it. The question is how? What can you and I do?

50 Million Strong’s vision is for the physical education and health education professions to take leadership for changing the physical activity and health habits of America’s 50 million school-attending students within the next 12 years. It’s a daunting, if not mind-boggling, task. How can our profession possibly transform the behaviors of 50 million youngsters?

The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu reportedly wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Today, people talk the same way about climbing mountains or succeeding at anything. It’s a simple message: Don’t let yourself be put off by imagined problems. Get started, give it your best effort, and see how far you can get. 50 Million Strong is no different. We know it’s going to be hard. If it were easy, someone else would have already done it. They haven’t. When Kennedy spoke about going to the moon he said:

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

In thinking about succeeding with the vision of 50 Million Strong – making physically active lives and healthy choices the norm for future generations – there’s no one better prepared to lead this health revolution than us. No one. However, all of us must take that first critical step. So, if you teach health or physical education, here’s how you can start your journey.

  • First, don’t concern yourself thinking about 50 million students. Instead, think specifically about those that you personally teach. It’s probably a few hundred students each year. It’s this group you are responsible for, not the remaining millions. That’s someone else’s job. The way for 50 Million Strong to succeed is for each of us to achieve the vision of active and healthy youngsters with those that we teach. If all of us do this, 50 million students win.
     
  • Second, the starting point for any teacher who wants to support the 50 Million Strong vision is to commit. Pledge that starting tomorrow, you will do your very best to transform the physical activity and health habits of all of your students. Remembering ALL is critical here. Fortunately, some of your students will already live physically active lives and make mostly healthy choices. That’s great and a good beginning. However, your new mission must be to make this the norm for all of your students regardless of their family circumstance, opportunities, and challenges.
     
  • Third, succeeding with 50 Million Strong demands that you and I must prioritize what we do. It’s going to involve making some choices because there’s not enough time for us to do everything we’d like. 50 Million Strong identifies the main purpose for our teaching: Preparing our students with the skills, knowledge, desire, and motivation to lead physically active and healthy lives.

There’s no doubt that what we do can help our students with reading, writing, and math, prevent bullying, improve fitness and friendships, increase test scores, and much more. But that can’t be your main purpose if you are to have any chance of getting all your students motivated to be regularly physically active and healthy. For many teachers, this will take a change in thinking and acting. And probably the longer you’ve taught the harder it will be. But without making this change nothing else is going to change. Doing what we’ve done won’t get us different results.

Finding reasons not to make these changes is easy. Few school administrators see physical activity and health as their responsibility. Test scores and academic performance concerns keep them awake at night. This preoccupation with academics has led many of us off course. We’ve attempted to do too many things, done nothing exceptionally well, and struggled to get support for our programs.

We all know that physically active and healthy students do better at everything. Not just academics but socially and emotionally. If you did just this one thing well in your school, it would solve many of the challenges you and your students face. Your students would thrive and the importance of physical education and health education to your school administrators, board members, teachers, parents, students, and the community would become obvious.

Next time, some suggestions for programmatic and teaching changes you can make to advance your personal 50 Million Strong commitment.

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