Promoting Physical and Mental Fitness

By David R. Schuler/School Administrator, August 2015  


I am humbled, honored and thrilled to serve as your president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, over this next year as we collaborate on meaningful advocacy work, change the trajectory of our students’ hopes and dreams and prepare each of them for this ever-changing global economy.

In all of my years as an educator, I never have been more excited to champion public education. I am invigorated by the work you and our colleagues across the country are doing on an everyday basis. I am inspired by the innovation, creativity and collaboration taking place in our nation’s public schools under your leadership.

The theme for this month’s School Administrator is student sports and healthy lifestyles. As administrators, one of our goals is to prepare students to lead successful lives when they journey beyond our schoolhouse doors. Teaching students to live a healthy lifestyle is extremely important in that recipe for success.

A colleague, Kristine Gilmore, superintendent for the D.C. Everest Public Schools in central Wisconsin, always says: “It doesn’t matter how much math a person knows if their lifestyle is so unhealthy that they have a heart attack in their 40s. We must teach our students the importance of healthy life choices.”

Kristine is absolutely right. In our roles as educational leaders, we have an awesome opportunity to reach every student who enters our schoolhouse doors and teach them the importance of making good choices in nutrition, exercise and health. These practices and habits will stay with them long after they leave our buildings. It also is imperative that we model the importance of making good choices to our students and our staffs — which is much easier said than done.

The role of organized school athletics can play a very helpful role in encouraging our students to live healthy lifestyles while in school and upon graduation. Students who are involved in school athletics and activities have a higher attendance rate than students who are not involved, and we know attendance correlates to achievement.

Our coaches and athletic directors also play an important part in teaching student athletes the importance of making appropriate and positive choices in regards to nutrition, exercise and health. They are critical role models for teaching our students how to make the right decisions on and off the field.

Participating in sports can teach students time management, teamwork, goal setting and the importance of being mentally and physically fit. These are all skills we want our students to have when they progress to the next grade level, step onto a college campus or begin their work career.

Technology can be used in so many ways to promote student safety and health, from concussion protocols to create greater safety in contact sports to heart rate monitors in physical education classes to automated external defibrillator training and electrocardiogram tests for students that check for heart defects. These kinds of opportunities can truly be life changing as they transform our physical education classrooms and curriculum.

I encourage you to continue this conversation on social media, using #leadexcellence to discuss the role of school sports and student health as you read this edition. I hope you use the hashtag to highlight the areas where you see leadership and opportunities for growth on a daily basis. I’m looking forward to continuing the dialogue throughout the school year and at next February’s National Conference on Education in Phoenix, Ariz., where our theme for the conference will be Leading for Excellence.


David Schuler is AASA president for 2015-16. E-mail: Twitter: @DSchuler1970