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The Insanely Tough Requirements of Historical past’s Hardest P.E. Program

In most trendy excessive faculties, P.E. is an entire blow-off class — one thing to take while you don’t play a sport, and have to meet a well being/fitness-related elective. Contributors typically sit on the bleachers and speak, or half-heartedly play some basketball. 

There was a time on this nation when P.E. was taken extra critically, nonetheless, and it reached its absolute apex at La Sierra Excessive College in Carmichael, California.

Through the Nineteen Fifties and 60s, La Sierra boasted what was arguably probably the most rigorous P.E. program within the nation, if not the world. The so-called “La Sierra System” was born in a time when World Warfare II was over, the Chilly Warfare was nonetheless heating up, and prosperity and technological developments have been making life more and more sedentary and comfy. On this environment, there existed a nationwide concern over whether or not People have been changing into too delicate, chubby, and complacent to not solely defend their nation in struggle, however to vigorously meet the challenges of peace.

As President John F. Kennedy wrote in “The Smooth American”:

bodily health is just not solely one of the crucial vital keys to a wholesome physique; it’s the foundation of dynamic and inventive mental exercise. . . . [We] know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and talent can solely operate on the peak of their capability when the physique is wholesome and robust; that hardy spirits and difficult minds normally inhabit sound our bodies.

On this sense, bodily health is the premise of all of the actions of our society. And if our our bodies develop delicate and inactive, if we fail to encourage bodily growth and prowess, we’ll undermine our capability for thought, for work and for the usage of these abilities important to an increasing and sophisticated America.

Thus the bodily health of our residents is an important prerequisite to America’s realization of its full potential as a nation, and to the chance of every particular person citizen to make full and fruitful use of his capacities.

To stem the bodily deterioration of his fellow People and promote the concept of creating a sound thoughts, in a sound physique, JFK utilized the President’s Council on Bodily Health to reinvigorate bodily education schemes across the nation, and regarded to La Sierra for example of what was attainable on this line.

The primary jiffy of the above video offers you a have a look at what some elements of the La Sierra program have been like.

The La Sierra System had been developed by WWII-veteran Stan LeProtti, who was impressed by the classical, “entire man” method to health that had been championed by the traditional Greeks. LeProtti’s program sought to enhance the energy, agility, steadiness, flexibility, energy, and endurance — in addition to the management qualities — of all of the males within the scholar physique, not simply these comparatively few boys who participated in organized athletics. This system not solely included bodily train — a routine that included an intense 12-minute calisthenic warm-up, sports activities, video games, dance, combatives, gymnastics, operating, aquatics, and off-the-ground work on varied apparatuses like peg boards — but additionally concerned common conferences to speak in regards to the philosophy — the why — behind it. College students have been taught that the health routines by which they engaged not solely constructed their our bodies, however ready their minds for studying and their spirits for tackling life’s setbacks. 

The “Philosophy” part of the La Sierra P.E. handbook consists of each “Bodily Health” and “Psychological Health” as two of this system’s objectives, and lists the next among the many goals of the latter:

  • Pupils are systematically and intentionally required to ‘go all out’ inside their particular person capacities in quite a lot of bodily growth actions, thereby progressively elevating endurance and tolerance of ache ranges.
  • Pupils develop a well-disciplined angle towards the ‘exhausting work precept’ when it comes to heavy, energy-output sort actions.

When the producers of The Motivation Issue, a documentary in regards to the La Sierra System, interviewed those that had gone by way of it of their youth, they reported that this system had delivered on simply this desired impact — and that it stayed with them into maturity; when these La Sierra grads had skilled challenges in later years, they returned to their P.E. experiences as a touchstone — a reminder that they have been able to doing exhausting issues.

One other distinctive trademark of the La Sierra System was its use of “capability grouping” — a hierarchy of ranks denoting completely different ranges of bodily proficiency. The boys have been put in groups based mostly on these ranges, and every group/degree was recognized by completely different shade satin trunks worn by its respective members (sans shirt) whereas they exercised. All freshmen began out on the White Crew, carrying white shorts, after which may work their means up the ranks all through their highschool years. While you examined into the subsequent degree, you bought to discard your outdated shade shorts for brand spanking new ones and proudly show your earned achievement. The colour system was designed to harness boys’ pure propensity for competitors and publicly-recognized standing as a spur in the direction of “bodily excellence.”

One is likely to be apt to surprise if this method didn’t disgrace and embarrass these boys who have been at a decrease degree of health, and needed to put on the lower-level shorts. Wouldn’t the colour teams make them really feel unhealthy about having to broadcast their place on the backside of the ladder?

A coach on the time, Richard Chester Tucker, who went on to write down his PhD dissertation on La Sierra’s shade system, regarded into this very query. He in contrast the least bodily succesful third of scholars at each La Sierra and at a faculty that had a conventional P.E. program. What he discovered was that there was no distinction between the vanity of the boys in every group. However, the boys at La Sierra have been extra bodily match than these on the different faculty; for instance, on common, the bottom third of boys at La Sierra may do 9 pull-ups, whereas the bottom third of boys within the conventional P.E. program may solely do two. In different phrases, the color-coded shorts system didn’t make college students really feel unhealthy about themselves, however it did encourage them to try greater; perhaps these children weren’t ever going to be elite athletes, however the color-code system motivated them to change into their greatest. As Tucker says in The Motivation Issue, “We got here below lots of criticism as a result of [people said] ‘You’re making these children stroll round in white trunks. What does that do to their vanity?’ It makes them wish to get pink trunks!”

When interviewed as adults, those that went by way of the La Sierra program remembered it as being enjoyable and extremely supportive; the boys inspired one another and helped one another attain the subsequent tier.

Throughout the shade system, there have been 4 most important ranges: White (Newbie), Pink (Intermediate), Blue (Superior), and Navy Blue (Final Athlete). Throughout the Blue degree, there have been two sub-levels: Purple and Gold. Greater than 90% of scholars have been capable of advance from the White Crew to the Pink Crew by the tip of their freshman 12 months, and 60% have been finally capable of make the Blue Crew. For each 100 college students, just one or two have been nonetheless carrying white trunks by the point they graduated.

The next benchmarks needed to be hit to maneuver past the White Crew and attain subsequent shade ranges throughout the La Sierra System.

Every shade degree had minimal, median, and “ceiling” sub-standards; the ceiling normal of 1 shade degree was the minimal normal of the subsequent; hitting the ceiling normal inside a shade degree superior you the subsequent shade up. What’s listed beneath is the minimal normal for every most important shade degree:

Pink (Intermediate)

  • Pull-Ups: 10 
  • Push-Ups: 32
  • Bar-Dips: 12 
  • Sit-Ups: 60 
  • Standing Broad Leap: 6’9″ 
  • 200-Yard Shuttle Run: 34 seconds 
  • Rope Climb (18’, Stand Begin): Use arms solely (no ft)
  • Agility Run: 20 seconds 
  • 880-Yard Run: 3 minutes
  • Mile Run: 7 minutes
  • Man Elevate and Carry: half of one mile
  • Peg Board (Vertical): 6 holes
  • 50-Yard Swim (Freestyle): 36 seconds

Blue (Superior)

  • Pull-Ups: 14 
  • Push-Ups: 48
  • Bar-Dips: 18 
  • Standing Broad Leap: 7’3″
  • Hanging Leg Lifts: 24 
  • 300-Yard Shuttle Run: 52 seconds 
  • Rope Climb (18’, Stand Begin): 15 seconds, arms solely 
  • Agility Run: 19 seconds 
  • 1320-Yard Run: 4:20 
  • Man Elevate and Carry: 1320 yards
  • Peg Board (Vertical): 1 journey
  • Extension Press-Up: 5
  • 1.5-Mile Run: 10:30 
  • 50-Yard Swim (Freestyle): 32 seconds

Navy Blue (Final Athlete)

The median and ceiling sub-standards throughout the Blue degree have been categorized as their very own colours: Purple and Gold. To check for the Navy Blue trunks, you first needed to earn your Gold trunks.

  • Pull-Ups: 34
  • Bar-Dips: 52
  • Handstand Push-Ups: 50
  • Alt. 1 Arm Burpees (30 sec.): 26
  • 300-Yard Shuttle Run: 47.5 seconds
  • Rope Climb (20’, Palms Solely, Sitting Begin): 2 journeys
  • Agility Run: 17 seconds
  • Extension Press-Up (8”): 100
  • Pegboard (Vertical): 5 journeys
  • Handstand: 45 seconds
  • Man Elevate and Carry: 5 miles
  • Mile Run: 5:15
  • 5-Mile Jog: End
  • Impediment Course: Full
  • Swim (Entrance Inclined Place): 1 mile
  • Swim (Underwater): 50 yards
  • Swim (Any Mixture of Strokes): 2 miles
  • Execute Entrance Hanging Float With Arms and Ankles Tied (Deep Water): 6 minutes
  • Keep Afloat in Deep Water in Vertical Place (Use of Arms and Legs Permitted Inside 8’ Circle): 2 hours

Representing the top of bodily health, the Navy Blue shorts have been clearly extraordinarily tough to earn, and in consequence extremely coveted. When a scholar earned his Navy trunks, his accomplishment was introduced over the varsity’s PA system, and the complete scholar physique would erupt into thunderous cheers. 

Between 1958 when the Navy Blue degree was launched and 1983 when La Sierra Excessive College closed, solely 21 college students have been capable of obtain these trunks. As we speak, the usual stays as a testomony to a time that had excessive expectations for its youth — that believed of their potential and pushed them to achieve for as a lot of it as they may.  

Hearken to this episode of the AoM podcast for extra on the La Sierra P.E. program:



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