Students reflect on experiences with PE classes as UC Davis ends program

Students reflect on experiences with PE classes as UC Davis ends program

Photo Credits: Quinn Spooner / Aggie. Russell Field at UC Davis usually hosts various physical activities but remains empty during Fall Quarter 2020.

Scheduled courses offering exercise will be missed by many students

In a year filled with surprises, UC Davis added another as they announced plans to eliminate the physical education (PE) courses at the university after the conclusion of the current fall quarter. 

Founded in 1947, the UC Davis Department of Physical Education offered physical education courses to all students at the university. They offered a minor in “Coaching Principles and Methods” as well as other classes like “Healthful Living” and “Sociology of Sport” in addition to the regular activity and sport courses. Regardless of if the class involved physical activity or not, it was a great way for students to destress in a healthy manner and learn something new in the process, according to many students. 

Taught by many coaches at UC Davis, these classes offered an experience to its students that could not be found elsewhere. Being instructional by design, insight from someone very familiar with the topic created an atmosphere that was unique for all students, according to assistant director of the physical education program Stephen Bronzan.

“The PE Program has a long history at UC Davis,” Bronzan said. “The coaches at UCD have always been teachers and the students benefited from having an athletic program that provided an opportunity for an intimate connection with the student body as a whole. It is unfortunate that the students will no longer be provided the opportunity to play, grow, interact and heal in a fun, positive and nurturing environment that no other part of the campus can provide to such a level of expertise.”

Before all classes shifted to remote learning in response to COVID-19, these classes were popular among students and would enroll nearly 8,000 annually. When normal activities resume on campus, the hole left by this departure will have to be filled by something else.

“I am saddened that we are losing this program that has served tens of thousands of Aggies over the years,” said PHE/ICA Courses Coordinator Nancy Wright. “This is especially unfortunate at a time when the promotion of exercise and health for our undergraduates’ physical and mental well-being is so necessary.”

For some first-year students coming in, these classes were crucial in building some sense of normalcy in the college adjustment process. For Ryan Cohen, these physical education classes helped him get more comfortable with the school and also figure out how to fill his once sports-packed schedule.

“I played sports my whole life growing up,” said Cohen, who is now a third-year communication major. “Coming up to Davis, I had no structured form of running around and getting some energy out. Freshman year when I did [flag football], you can totally feel the difference. Even just an hour of [being active], it changed my day. I was always in a better mood in the rest of my classes. It brightened my day up by being able to get outside a little bit in the morning.”

Being able to set the tone for the rest of the day is huge, especially for college students. Having a jam-packed, stressful schedule can take a lot out of students, and taking these classes helped some destress from their long days. 

“I took three classes [my first year],” said Hayley Jacinto, second-year political science major. “I saw [them] as stress relieving. I would choose my PE classes first thing in the morning so I would go to my [other] classes in a good mental state. It made me do better and [allowed me to] focus more.”

Abraham Lee, a third-year civil engineering major, took an aikido class in spring 2019. 

“I was able to learn a new martial art and it was great to go and do some type of physical activity,” Lee said. “[When] working out, I didn’t want to think about my classes, which helped me destress.” 

Many students agree that these structured exercise classes were very valuable. 

“I think students will miss the opportunity to not only meet people inside the classroom environment but also in an outdoor environment,” Jacinto said. “When I was in these classes, I was able to socialize with everyone and was more encouraged to [participate] than just sitting in class.”

The common theme echoed among students is that PE classes gave them an opportunity to have a scheduled class that allowed them to work out in a variety of different ways. Whether it was to unwind and get their mind off things, sharpen a skill or just learn a new activity, many students said these are things that will be irreplaceable when the program comes to an end. 

“There’s something valuable about knowing you have that class,” Cohen said. “It makes you get up out of bed, it makes you do it, then [when you do], you feel good the rest of the day. The [structured] aspect of it is what I think will be missed the most.”

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org