To be competitive in fencing or any other sport you need to train and train hard. Sports are not only physically challenging, but also mentally challenging. So imagine you are a competitive fencing student in high school. You stay up late studying for a test, wake up early the next morning, go to a full day of classes that include Math, Literature, Physics, and also Physical Education (PE), then after school you head to your fencing club for training. A competitive fencer often has group lessons, private lessons, footwork sessions, and physical fitness training—all in one week. Then come Saturday they head out of town to compete. Sounds pretty grueling, doesn’t it?
Most competitive teen athletes train at least ten hours a week in addition to school. For most this is tough to do and still be a good student and athlete, especially if PE is required as it is in the state of California. In fact, AFM’s own Taly Yukelson was featured in an article on this topic. The addition of PE on top of the intense training for an extracurricular sport can add to the exhaustion already felt by the athlete from their regular workload, making it tough for them to perform at their best. It begs the question: what is the purpose of required PE training and does the student not fulfill that purpose through competing outside of school?
Well, some states have considered this question and created ways to lighten the load, at least in the form of athletics, by allowing students to use the training time for fencing or other sports as an alternative for PE credits.
In the state of California and many others, it is possible to use time spent training for an extracurricular sport as substitution for PE credits, eliminating the need for a student to essentially double up on physical fitness if they participate in an extracurricular sport. You have to meet requirements that essentially ensure you are spending enough time training and that you are receiving instruction in certain areas. Plus you still have to take any physical fitness tests required by the state.
Let’s look at California’s requirements as an example. First, what are the time requirements?
- For grades 1-6, students need 200 minutes of PE instruction each 10 school days
- For grades 7-12, students need 400 minutes of PE instruction each 10 school days
Ten school days is essentially two weeks, so for grades 7 and up, that’s just a little over an hour and a half each week. For a competitive fencer who trains for hours each week, this requirement is easily met.
Then you have the areas of instruction requirement. The student must get instruction in the following areas at some point from grade 9 to grade 12:
- Effects of physical activity upon dynamic health
- Mechanics of body movement
- Gymnastics and tumbling
- Individual and dual sports
- Rhythms and dance
- Team sports
- Combatives for boys
You can probably see how many of these are covered by fencing. If one of them is not adequately covered by a sport (e.g., aquatics), that requirement can be covered by taking a course at school anytime throughout high school to supplement the fencing training.
As you can probably guess, applying and qualifying for this substitution involves some paperwork and effort. But if your child is seriously training in a competitive sport outside of school, it is more than worth it to lighten their load.
On top of the state requirements, it’s also important to check with your specific school district or school for other requirements. For example, some schools say that the sport must not be offered by the student’s school. The drive behind this rule is that the school wants its students to take advantage of what is offered by the school. Fencing, as we know, is typically not offered at schools. Some schools also check that the student is “highly competitive” in the sport. The reason for this rule is that the credit is created for such students that are training hard to compete at a high level—not so other students can join a recreational sports league to get out of PE class.
So learn the state requirements, check with your school, and know your options. In the end though, the effort will be well worth keeping your student healthy and with the energy to excel in both school and sports. The substitution of PE credits with extracurricular sports is a wonderful option for the student-athlete and will go a long way in helping these kids survive their teenage years. Now, if only they’d give credit for those parental lectures.