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


In most trendy excessive colleges, P.E. is an entire blow-off class — one thing to take if you don’t play a sport, and have to meet a well being/fitness-related elective. Individuals 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 significantly, nonetheless, and it reached its absolute apex at La Sierra Excessive College in Carmichael, California.

Through the Fifties and 60s, La Sierra boasted what was arguably essentially 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 cozy. On this environment, there existed a nationwide concern over whether or not Individuals have been turning into too gentle, chubby, and complacent to not solely defend their nation in conflict, however to vigorously meet the challenges of peace.

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

bodily health isn’t solely one of the crucial essential keys to a wholesome physique; it’s the foundation of dynamic and inventive mental exercise. . . . [We] know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and ability can solely operate on the peak of their capability when the physique is wholesome and powerful; 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 gentle and inactive, if we fail to encourage bodily growth and prowess, we’ll undermine our capability for thought, for work and for using these abilities very important to an increasing and complicated America.

Thus the bodily health of our residents is a crucial 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 Individuals and promote the thought of growing 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 seemed to La Sierra for instance of what was potential on this line.

The primary jiffy of the above video provides you with a have a look at what some points 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, “complete man” method to health that had been championed by the traditional Greeks. LeProtti’s program sought to enhance the power, 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, working, aquatics, and off-the-ground work on varied apparatuses like peg boards — but in addition concerned common conferences to speak concerning the philosophy — the why — behind it. College students have been taught that the health routines through 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 numerous bodily growth actions, thereby progressively elevating endurance and tolerance of ache ranges.
  • Pupils develop a well-disciplined angle towards the ‘laborious work precept’ when it comes to heavy, energy-output kind actions.

When the producers of The Motivation Issue, a documentary concerning the La Sierra System, interviewed those that had gone by 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 laborious issues.

One other distinctive trademark of the La Sierra System was its use of “capacity grouping” — a hierarchy of ranks denoting completely different ranges of bodily proficiency. The boys have been put in groups primarily based on these ranges, and every staff/stage 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, sporting white shorts, after which might work their manner up the ranks all through their highschool years. Whenever you examined into the following stage, you bought to discard your previous 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 direction of “bodily excellence.”

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

A coach on the time, Richard Chester Tucker, who went on to put in writing his PhD dissertation on La Sierra’s shade system, seemed 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 might do 9 pull-ups, whereas the bottom third of boys within the conventional P.E. program might solely do two. In different phrases, the color-coded shorts system didn’t make college students really feel dangerous about themselves, however it did encourage them to try larger; possibly these youngsters weren’t ever going to be elite athletes, however the color-code system motivated them to develop into their finest. As Tucker says in The Motivation Issue, “We got here beneath a number of criticism as a result of [people said] ‘You’re making these youngsters stroll round in white trunks. What does that do to their vanity?’ It makes them need to get pink trunks!”

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

Throughout the shade system, there have been 4 major ranges: White (Newbie), Crimson (Intermediate), Blue (Superior), and Navy Blue (Final Athlete). Throughout the Blue stage, there have been two sub-levels: Purple and Gold. Greater than 90% of scholars have been in a position to advance from the White Crew to the Crimson Crew by the tip of their freshman yr, and 60% have been finally in a position to make the Blue Crew. For each 100 college students, just one or two have been nonetheless sporting 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 stage had minimal, median, and “ceiling” sub-standards; the ceiling commonplace of 1 shade stage was the minimal commonplace of the following; hitting the ceiling commonplace inside a shade stage superior you the following shade up. What’s listed under is the minimal commonplace for every major shade stage:

Crimson (Intermediate)

  • Pull-Ups: 10 
  • Push-Ups: 32
  • Bar-Dips: 12 
  • Sit-Ups: 60 
  • Standing Broad Bounce: 6’9″ 
  • 200-Yard Shuttle Run: 34 seconds 
  • Rope Climb (18’, Stand Begin): Use palms solely (no toes)
  • Agility Run: 20 seconds 
  • 880-Yard Run: 3 minutes
  • Mile Run: 7 minutes
  • Man Raise 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 Bounce: 7’3″
  • Hanging Leg Lifts: 24 
  • 300-Yard Shuttle Run: 52 seconds 
  • Rope Climb (18’, Stand Begin): 15 seconds, palms solely 
  • Agility Run: 19 seconds 
  • 1320-Yard Run: 4:20 
  • Man Raise 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 stage 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’, Arms Solely, Sitting Begin): 2 journeys
  • Agility Run: 17 seconds
  • Extension Press-Up (8”): 100
  • Pegboard (Vertical): 5 journeys
  • Handstand: 45 seconds
  • Man Raise and Carry: 5 miles
  • Mile Run: 5:15
  • 5-Mile Jog: End
  • Impediment Course: Full
  • Swim (Entrance Susceptible 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 all the scholar physique would erupt into thunderous cheers. 

Between 1958 when the Navy Blue stage was launched and 1983 when La Sierra Excessive College closed, solely 21 college students have been in a position to 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 might.  

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

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