Coach’s Corner: Get a Move On! 

Lack of unstructured play

Now here is a social media post that really caught my attention! It sure does seem to be a true statement.

Drive through neighborhoods and take a look. Think about your own neighborhood. I go back to a time when I was growing up, and I remember riding my bike several miles to play in a backyard with 10-20 other children all day long. Lunch was not important, just the nearest water hose to get a drink of water. Of course, nowadays we hear “do not drink out of a water hose.” The days were filled with wins, losses, and children making up their own rules, and decisions were made with cooperation. Kickball, baseball, wiffle ball, home run derby, football, war games, apple-throwing battles… gone are those days.

We see more now… groups of 3-4 kids playing video games; mostly children are playing in organized sports if in big groups. These organized sports are supervised by coaches and referees. Decisions are made by the adults in charge.

I tend to agree that a lack of unstructured play is hurting children in invisible ways, not only psychologically but physically. In fact, research is confirming that the lack of movement and outdoor play is harmful. (Read more at

I believe that the Trinity Christian School physical education department addresses some of the worthwhile things we have lost. Imagine a P.E. program where the children in K-4th grade run almost a mile every day, just in warm-up time. In grades 5-7, the children are expected to jog at their own pace for 20-24 minutes. I have checked pedometers, and children are pleased to show readings above 6,000 steps before P.E. begins. We then play games that last 20-35 minutes, when more movement takes place and cooperation is encouraged. P.E. is a “no sweat, no glory” atmosphere. A “badge of honor” is a sweaty shirt.

P.E. Parties

In grades 5-7 we conduct “P.E. parties”—short sprints alternating with walking for a cardio experience that gets the heart rate up with high-intensity interval training. We challenge our large classes to sprint so fast that they will circulate enough air to move the banners in the gym. Making eight banners sway is no small feat, but the students can get those banners moving!

After all the fun of jogging and running, it is push-up time and core time for grades 5 and up. The children have a goal of 100 push-ups. At the beginning of the year their form is rough, but the number and quality of push-ups improve as the year goes on. This helps with core and strength development. (I personally wake up and do 400-500 push-ups to start my days at 3:30 a.m. Everybody should be able to carve out time to do a small number of push-ups!)

The games we play in P.E. are fun and filled with movement. Children are expected to mediate with each other if a coach misses a call or event in the game. This is what happens in neighborhood unstructured games: fewer lines, fewer games requiring honed skill, and more games in which all children can be successful in small ways.

100-Mile Club

We also have the 100-Mile Club at Trinity, now in its seventh year. In some years, nearly half the lower school population has participated. The children are challenged to walk, jog, or run 100 miles during the school year. These miles are logged in P.E. class, and parents at home tally the miles their children walk, jog, or run outside of sporting events. An awards assembly at the end of the year celebrates perseverance and the number of miles logged by each participant.

Walking the Walk

Lastly, it is not enough to say we attempt to address the issues I read about; actions speak louder than words. Our P.E. coaches talk the talk and walk the walk. All P.E. coaches work out in some way. We have coaches who play with the children and coaches who do their own strength training throughout the week or even daily. Several play recreational sports. One is a personal trainer, and several are certified. Some coach sports and participate in practices. We have coaches who go out on runs. Trinity’s P.E. coaches look the part.

Trinity Christian School has an active P.E. program that we hope will continue to enhance the education of today’s children, but also counteract the trend toward deteriorating health in our aging population. Movement and competition in physical education were “life” in my childhood. Cultivating a lifelong love of movement and competition is a goal within our P.E. department. I believe that the best part of the week should be P.E.!

Cultivating a lifelong love of movement and competition is a goal within our P.E. department. I believe that the best part of the week should be P.E.!

Stay tuned for more thoughts on P.E., competition, movement, and life!


About the Author

Rus Phillips (aka “Coach”) is a physical education and varsity soccer coach at Trinity. He has coached for over 20 years and has a passion for exercise and a love of competition. Coach begins each day at 3:00 a.m. with 400 push-ups and a weight training session. In his free time, he enjoys working on his trees and plants, walking his dog, and coaching or watching soccer.


About Trinity Christian School

Pursuing Excellence for Mind and Heart

K-12 Independent Christian School in Northern Virginia

Located just over 20 miles southwest from Washington, D.C., 10 miles south of Route 66 in Fairfax, and 10 miles west of the Capital Beltway

Educating students to the glory of God by pursuing excellence for mind and heart since 1987



A 2019 National Blue Ribbon School