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IFAC Reflections Part 2
January 22, 2019
A review of Jerome Simian’s workshops on physical preparation for sport. I had to choose between different “strands” of coaching topics at the IFAC conference in Loughborough. A difficult choice, not wanting to miss out on some excellent speakers. I chose to attend Simian’s because of a quote I heard on the HMMR podcast: “I […]

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What has happened to P.E in this country?

Progression, Variety, Precision

Gravity bootsThese were the 3 cornerstones of Physical education and a gym culture where “you went to learn, not to train” according to Ed Thomas at GAIN V this year.

Dr Thomas is a mine of information on the history of P.E. (I don’t mean a GCSE syllabus) and its educators.

He is pictured here helping Andy Stone get to grips with inverted brachiation training (read more on this from Thomas here)

“A perfect storm of ignorance” has led to sports replacing physical culture. If you look at our “PE” lessons you will see that they are really games lessons.

Blame it on basketball

Schools used to have gymnasiums filled with equipment that allowed participants to do a myriad of different exercises in large groups safely. They were taught in formations and shown how to teach each other.

This led from the floor, to above the floor training using ropes, beams and bars. This is why pull up scores were so good in those days (In 1948 the Iowa high school fitness manual stated that in order to get an A grade, you had to be able to do 44 pull ups).

gymnasiumThen, someone invented basketball and the schools had to remove all the kit and allow that to take place.

This meant that the PE had to move into the playground, which depended on the weather, and so a decline took place.

Look at the girls in the picture on the right, and compare that to the “fitness suites” that schools insist on using nowadays where girls completely disengage and listen to ipods on cross trainers!

Methods, Materials and Motivators

3 things the ancients had according to Thomas. I can’t really do justice to the depth and width of his knowledge, but the detail of the systems and structures that were in place hundreds and even thousands of years ago was enlightening.

Some key points I learnt:

  • Systematic teaching methods and organisation of big groups helps learning
  • Posture in the workplace or school classroom needs addressing (I will cover this in more detail soon). It is the foundation of all sporting movements.
  • PE assumes greater importance every time a nation goes to war
  • The link between Restorative, Martial, and Pedagogical systems is key.
  • The link between Personal, Interpersonal and Transpersonal health is also key.

Seeing him speak and spending time with him over the 5 days made me realise how poor and shoddy PE in this country is. We have gone backwards over the last 100 years, and especially over the last 30 years.

That is why I am running a series of workshops and offer training courses for the PE teachers who do want to try and influence the next generation. Otherwise our whole country will suffer from a lack of knowledge and ability.

This is the first in a series of blogs looking at some of the key concepts that were discussed and delivered at the Gambetta conference in Houston I attended in June this year (hereafter GAIN V).


  1. […] (All week, everything came back to posture and precision, variety and progression) […]

  2. […] “Progression, Variety and Precision” that Ed Thomas talked about were very apparent in Knowles’s […]

  3. […] here- would we now call that “training to train”? This is what used to be taught in physical education classes in schools before they became games […]

  4. […]  “Sports reflect society”. Kids have less opportunity for informal play and experimentation. PE classes are sports classes, rather than physical education. […]

  5. […] way of building inclusion is to get the players to teach other (Show, Do, Teach as Ed Thomas said last year). This helps build relationships and improve performance […]

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