Facebook or Fitness?

By Peter Jordan

In Kids, Special Populations

July 11, 2010

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Saratoga High School replaced standard P.E. with CrossFit, and while all kids might not like putting in the effort, most report that they’re seeing great results.

Saratoga High School in Saratoga, Calif., is the home of CrossFit Sawmill. We are, as far as we know, the only comprehensive public high school that not only offers CrossFit classes to our students but also offers no alternative. All our physical fitness (formerly physical education) classes are based on CrossFit principles and are taught by certified CrossFit instructors. We have 10 sections of Beginning Physical Fitness throughout the schoolday, and our facility is used extensively by athletes in our after-school sports programs, as well as by groups of teachers and school staff—all under the supervision of our instructors.

One thing that makes our affiliate unique is our clients do not pay to be here; they are compelled to be here. Students must earn 20 units of physical education credit (the equivalent of four semesters) to graduate. You can earn credits if you are a member of the marching band, and you can earn credits for playing sports after school. But if you are not a musician or an athlete, as of this year you are a CrossFitter.

So what does the average 15-year-old think about that?



36 Comments on “Facebook or Fitness?”


wrote …

Awesome...Today, I would have killed for something like that back then. I HATED football and I was eventually allowed to bail and sit on my ass after school. I regret that to this day. A little forceful persuasion is healthy...

And, to the kid bitching about SATs, on average, Stanford probably wants a well-rounded individual above a single-minded bookworm. The latter are a dime-a-dozen. It is possible to be both smart and athletic. It's a matter of time-management skills instead of just allocating "as much time as possible" to one endeavor and using what's left for others. AND, furthermore, if he'd continue to give it a chance, the benefits from Crossfit or other high-intensity workouts produce benefits beyond physical fitness. Mental toughness is just as important to grinding through a long study session as having good study habits.

The really sad thing is that society enables successful implementation of attitudes like his (or adult versions of his, anyway), where modern conveniences take precedence to individual competency. On the contrary, physical fitness is just as useful today as it was 10, 100, or thousands of years ago. Why? Because humans are still in control, and until that changes, we need to be able to do what our creations cannot.


wrote …

Peter - this is incredible! I am in awe from what you have achieved in a single year.

You have my total respect and admiration!

Good luck and best wishes to you and your team for year two!


wrote …

...I realize that they're "just kids" and have plenty of opportunity for redemption, but it's persistent intervention like this particular school program that lays the groundwork.


wrote …

This is great! I believe that physical fitness, nutrition, and sex ed is more important then any other subject at this age!!!


wrote …

I can't wait to read this, crossfit should be standard fair across the board. Half the problem is that here in michigan the PE requirement is basically 1/2 a credit or 90 hours for your entire high school career but I believe crossfit could instill the seed of fitness better than your traditional ( a.k.a. out of date) PE program.


wrote …

Nice work, CrossFit Sawmill!

As for "Facebook or Fitness" . . . why not both? It doesn't have to be either/or. Numerous CrossFit affilate owners and members do both! But then I'm biased because Social Media is my job for CrossFit! ;)


wrote …

The negative comments from the children are a direct result of the parenting. It's really sad that some kids don't want to be fit and have fun at it. It's really the outlook that they are taught at home or the lack there of. Great job CrossFit Sawmill! Keep going strong! It's the positive influence that kids need today. Not the negative one their media bombards them with.


wrote …

That is great what your doing kep it up. These kids dont know what is good for them. I worked at a high school recently, and most of these kids need it. They are just being lazy. I cant believe they dont get the reflections part of the class. Good work.


wrote …

Little scum, they don't know what is good for them if you laid it out for them on a silver platter.


wrote …

The children are the future? SHIT.


wrote …

Interesting social experiment. At that age, the bottom line is most kids do not want to be compelled to do something, let alone that "something" being Fran. I hope obligatory CrossFit ends up opening more doors than it closes.


wrote …

Crossfit is about forging ELITE fitness. To what extent it should be compulsory is a fascinating question.

Also, can you imagine how awesome some of the people who start crossfit at 15 are going to be in a few years?


wrote …

I get the "kids don't know what's good for them" intuition. But I wonder whether compelling CrossFit 100% of the time is really the best way to achieve the long-term goal of getting this population of kids to be interested (and, later on in their lives, motivated) in being healthy and fit. Leaving them with negative impressions can make them less inclined to continue with CrossFit or any fitness activity when they're on their own. [Do any of you still irrationally hate foods that your parents made you eat when you were little? How long did it take you to shed those holdovers?]

Maybe giving them a day every so often where they play other games isn't a bad idea. Remember these kids are not the athletes playing sports after school--it's the non-athletes who take this class. Applying the flexibility and agility they develop in CrossFit to basketball or dodgeball doesn't sound like a waste of time to me... especially if it helps dispel or delegitimize some of the sourpuss reactions of the kids for whom (through no fault of their own, really) fitness and health are "a waste of time."


wrote …

Great article. A little disconcerting to read those scathing remarks about fitness and Crossfit from the kids. Just goes to show you that at that age, they don't know anything about anything, and insist on knowing it all.

I'd like to shake the kid that commented about studying for the SAT. To me, it sounds like he needs a class in time management, not more time studying. If he's so concerned about getting into Stanford, then he should get involved in sports (which would have kept him out of CF), student governance, and volunteer.

Oh to be 16 and know it all again...*sigh*

Great work in transforming the face of PE, Peter. Start them young and get them understanding the principles early. It will pay a lifetime of dividends.


replied to comment from Sai Jahann

Sai, you (and others) have brought up some great points about the dangers of "obligatory" CrossFit. In actual practice, all of us--to varying degrees--are incorporating games as part of the daily lesson, as well as occasional game days. Making the experience enjoyable and relevant for the students is something we work hard at. But clearly you can't please everyone.


replied to comment from Peter Jordan

Peter, great work - very impressive.

Kids are going to complain about everything - that shouldn't be a surprise. What is important is that you're planting a seed with them (CrossFit) that works . . . so if / when they do come around to fitness, they'll know that there is more out there than cardio, back and bi's, chest and tri's.


wrote …

Good job Pete, harden our culture! Fight the trend of the stupid and lazy with CrossFit! Stupid and lazy has existed in every culture (some of which have been subjugated by stupid and lazy) and every generation. It is really great that you are planting a seed of 'work ethic' in these fresh young minds who have may have been corrupted. It's great to hear that there is some positive feedback as well. Hopefully these same students can cultivate that spine you have helped them grow and make it through academia unscathed.


wrote …

As a physical educator myself I believe that Crossfit should be the "new" P.E. At Waukegan High School we just redid our P.E. courses and we will be offering courses that include Crossfit as the mainstay workouts. I have been using Crossfit myself (level 1 cert 6/09) and with my students in strength and conditioning class for about two years, and they love it. The final exam even includes 2 benchmark workouts (Cindy and Helen). Two more of my fellow teachers just completed their level 1 this summer. Crossfit is growing in the educational community and I hope to see more schools going to "functional movements, constantly varied, executed at high intensity" for the improvement of students fitness levels.


Stephen Hubbard wrote …

Question: what is the shower situation like at your school? I know a HUGE part of my (and everyone else's) back-off to PE of any kind was the fact that we hated being sweaty all day. I can't imagine liking Crossfit at 10am if it meant I would have to sit around with sweat on my body all day. The group showers in most HS locker rooms are just not a viable option for more insecure teens.

Install private showers and give the kids enough time to shower and change, and I bet you see many more positive attitudes. Nothing feels better than a shower after Helen.


replied to comment from Greg Moisio

"The final exam even includes 2 benchmark workouts (Cindy and Helen)"

Way to go Greg! We did "final gone bad."



Sean McCue wrote …

Nice work Peter. I think you will find that a number of those students who did what they had to do but "hated" class will tell you in a year or two that they really miss your class. Next year will bring better results for you and your colleagues as you can refine your lessons and the returning sophomores will know exactly how class works and they will see huge improvements and gains. They will also enjoy it more the second time around as they will be more comfortable with all the movements. Prepare to be amazed and impressed.

As for those who have commented on kids being brats or not appreciating having CF as a class remember there are lots of adults who try CrossFit at home or at an affiliate that say it is too hard, etc and never come back. These kids have to be there. Some students will enjoy the WOD's but many students will enter class with mild resistance. Some are embarrassed about their inability to move well others are apprehensive about being held accountable for their performance in a subject they do not excel in. My guess is that's the case with the kid wanting to get into Stanford.
There is no way that all the kids in a general PE class will love CF, no matter how many games are played. I've been teaching PE for 9 years and have used the CrossFit principles in my classes for 4+ years. Some kids just don't like PE the same way some kids/adults hate to read or write essays. At least these students will have been exposed to functional movements and they will be better able to evaluate fitness programs later in life.


wrote …

Without a doubt THE most interesting article ever written in the CF Journal. I laughed the entire time. Kids crack me up, they don't have a filter. You just never know what they are going to say but you can bet it's probably going to be a complaint. How I miss adolescence! Keep up the good work Peter!!


wrote …

Great job Peter. I'm jealous, my high school never had the option. As everyone else has been mentioning, kids of a certain age are going to sound off in a negative manner regardless of the subject. Not everyone is cut out to do the difficult thing. I find it inspiring that there are kids that seem to get it, and the fact that they aren't the sports athletes is even moreso to me.


wrote …

Hey Pete, great article!! I'm a math teacher and reading the "negative" comments makes me smile because kids complain about everything (for the non-athletic kid probably more about crossfit than their math class). Have you gotten the "When am I ever going to use this in life" question yet? Maybe what that kid that wants to study for the SAT as a sophomore/freshman can take away is that hard work = success!


wrote …

Saratoga is already an amazing place with one of the best school systems in the US. I have been wanting to move there from the east coast since first arriving years ago. It is THE place to live in the Bay Area, if not all of California. This just makes it all the more desirable.


wrote …

Kudos, sir. This is phenomenal! I hope you are the first of thousands of schools that follow your lead!


wrote …

In my advanced weight training classes this year the students did "Fight Gone Bad". Burpees instead of rowing & scaled througout. I incorporate Crossfit style workouts 2-3 days a week. Sometimes as simple as a 5 minute AMRAP of 5 push ups, 10 sit ups, 15 air squats at the end. Lots of variety available. Classes "earn" game days by their performance in WODs! Still a work in progress, but year 1 was about giving them a taste. We used Wendler's 5-3-1 program as well with great results.

Focus on teaching them how then worry about the intensity levels. The students (and some of my PE staff) thought I was nuts teaching technique with medicine balls & PVC!! Learning how to deadlift with kettlebells?? Crazy talk!

Year 2 should be better. I'll implement CF workouts a little differently & learn to "disguise" them better. One thing I would do was to have them perform a lift immediately followed by a CF style exercise--3-5 deadlift reps followed by 15 KB swings. Rest while your 2 partners do the same & complete 3-5 cycles. Not truly CF, but still a taste & a hell of a lot more than the would accomplish the year before when I wasn't in charge!


wrote …

Peter, you are like a superhero. I have taught kids 15-16 before and they are a challenge to say the least, and then to throw them into something that is "hard" to boot, well you must be a superhero to do that.

I love love love the idea that you are implementing crossfit into the PE program. I think that it is the best medicine for our sedentary obese culture. I think that for some kids it will not click right away but down the road when their metabolism starts slowing down and they are becoming overweight and feel like crap they will think back to Coach Peter's classes they will know what to do to turn to get into shape.

The one thing that I would be careful with is comparing times and weights with everyone else on a whiteboard, and that seems to me what you are doing with the reflection time, because that is the last thing that the kid at the bottom of the class needs.

I really hope that this is going to be a trend in the school system.


wrote …

This is just great! I was wondering when something like this would happen. I remember in PE the part of our grade was based on the Presidental fitness testing. Pull ups, 1 mile run, and sit and reach if I remember correctly. It would be interesting to see what improvements would be made from start to finish of the semester with thoes events.


replied to comment from Clinton Canaday

I teach and coach at Pleasant Grove High School and I have also been doing Crossfit with my students for about a year and a half. Since I have been teaching Crossfit in my classes I have had more students than ever before. My classes are above capacity. The students love the challenge, love to learn and be taught all the different functional movements and how they can be applied to their life. I now have one of the best crossfit facilities in the nation thanks to a grant and other coaches at our school buying in to the type of workouts and training that we have been doing.


wrote …

I would not worry about the negitive comments. The only time tenagers stop complaining about something is when they are sleeping. Chances are, they just do not want to look like they "like" something in school because, well, that just isn't cool.

"Youth is waisted on the young." George Bernard Shaw


wrote …

Interesting to read these comments and how most make reference to the teenagers complaining. My experience as a personal trainer so far has been that complaining exists no matter the age. While people may not agree with the excuses or complaining or say that the kids are idiots or don't know anything about anything is ridiculous. Train adults who are already set in their ways and despite saying they "want" to change, don't listen. Or maybe they "listen" but they don't apply. Deal with the same excuses from adults about work and being too busy when a crossfit workout takes 5-40 minutes. Or when they can't eat properly even though numerous suggestions have been given to them for food that is portable and convenient. I'm not saying kids/teens/whatever are perfect; being realistic, people are going to be people and are going to complain when they do something that is difficult or they have little familiarity, no matter the age.


wrote …

The best and most effective to teach children is to be an example. They will see it. I've been in Afghanistan for 6 months and since I left my son has decided he is not satisfied with his fitness level and body composition. I tought him nothing, but, despite my absence he has decided, and announced to his mother, that he "wants to look like Dad". He since told me he is eager to train with me after my return. I never told him he needs to or should do that.
Be the example.


replied to comment from Sai Jahann

I know I am a year late, but to Sai- I had the EXACT same concern! I teach MS PE, and we have different units every month, I can not imagine never teaching parachute, scooters, and etc ever again. And when kids are forced to do something, they typically don't like it. I think they key is to make PE fun and engaging, and that is what I do in my school. I'd say I have about 90% participation rates. But like I said I teach MS, and they tend to "love gym class" at this age. And I still hate oatmeal to this day b/c my father forced me to eat it, and I am now 32~!!!


replied to comment from David Vargo

Imagine those that start in elementary school! Really is amazing stuff. I am starting a before school program in the fall and can already her parents pulling kids out because it's to tough. How do I approach that discussion? I'm building my defense now. Parent's today are too quick to "protect" their kids when really they need to face hard work head on.


replied to comment from Sai Jahann

Remember though, Crossfit Kids WODs are not scaled down versions of the adult class. Chippers are rarely if ever in the programming. FUN is the first priority and games are often times the majority of the WOD. BUT these games do not allow kids to be tagged out and stand idly on the sidelines. They work to get back into the game. We need to be careful to not let kids quit and have their parents step int to remove them. They need this and gentle encouragement and positive motivation should be standard form.

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