OPINION: Team gym should be reinstated

The+removal+of+team+gym+was+a+tragic+loss+for+many+student+athletes%2C+as+it+played+a+major+role+in+helping+students+manage+their+time.

Erica Lee

The removal of team gym was a tragic loss for many student athletes, as it played a major role in helping students manage their time.

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Upon receiving programs for the 2022-2023 school year, many student-athletes were puzzled to find that team gym was no longer part of their schedule. In previous years, upperclassmen at Townsend Harris who partook in three PSAL sports across each season of the school year were able to enroll in “team gym.” Since these students were at a sport each day after school, they had a free band during the school day when they would normally be in a physical education class. Unsurprisingly, the removal of team gym has recently sparked significant controversy among the student athlete community.

Between frequent practices and lengthy physically exerting competitions, participating in a PSAL sport is profoundly taxing on a student’s time. Senior Natalia Ramlogan, a three-sport athlete, said “Being on a sports team year-round is especially demanding. Last year team gym allowed me to get all of my work done and destress before practice. This year it would’ve helped me even more because I have so much school work, like college applications and [the] election simulation.” Taking away team gym has eliminated important free time from  athletes’ already hectic schedules. 

Senior Aissatou Lam, a member of the Girls Volleyball team, said “A free [band] instead of physical education would be very beneficial because it would give me more time to focus on my Queens College classes or catch up on any studying or classwork.” 

Team gym allowed student athletes to devote more time not only to academics, but also to other commitments such as clubs, internships, and jobs. Junior Anila Tinaj, who is part of the Girls Varsity Volleyball team, said that “Athletes are working out and doing their sport for over two hours a day. Three-sport athletes 100 percent deserve team gym due to their dedication and hard work to three separate teams. Many of them get home late because of their sport and a free period would help them get ahead on work and study so that they have less of a burden when they get home.” 

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I was looking forward to the prospect of having team gym and free time in my schedule. At the beginning of junior year, it was disheartening to see that not only was there no team gym, but I would also have to take a zero band PE class due to lack of availability in my schedule. Going to school early and returning home late due to sports practices every day is draining and leaves little time for completing homework. Having team gym would both help alleviate stress for athletes and make programming easier for students and administrators. The empty slot on students’ schedules would give students more freedom to take desired classes without the burden of a zero band class.

The SU 2022-2023 FAQ Document states that team gym would not be administered this year because “PE is an important activity every day during school. Research shows that two components, good nutrition and physical activity before, during, and after the school day, are strongly correlated with positive student outcomes.” But undoubtedly, student athletes are already sufficiently exercising every day. A multitude of THHS athletes play club sports in addition to PSAL sports, and the additional hours spent exercising can be physically taxing. Track athlete Emma Cheng said that “team gym would have served as a way to ensure student athletes weren’t overexerting themselves when participating in sports, which can be physically and mentally stressful. Excessive physical activity can lead to injury as well.” 

Team gym was also discontinued due to the high number of physical education teachers. According to Assistant Principal Ellen Fee, “Team Gym started as a class when we lost one of our PE teachers (about ten years ago) to retirement and had fewer PE classes…we now have 7 full-time PE teachers and therefore increased the number of PE classes available for students.” However, despite the increased availability of PE classes to students, gym classes remain overcrowded, with most bands accommodating three gym classes that must be divided across different parts of the THHS campus. With winter inching closer, the outdoor track will no longer be an option for classes that may need to fit scores of students in the available indoor space.

Playing sports year-round is difficult to manage as a student, so considering that these athletes are already getting ample exercise daily, it would be greatly more convenient to have a free period rather than an unnecessary physical education class. Even though team gym was taken away for logistical reasons, it should be reinstituted to relieve stress on athletes and enable them to thrive academically, mentally, and physically.

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