Physical Education Hall of Shame
The Physical Education Hall of Shame (PEHOS) now has a real home, right here on PE Central. This is it: the place of dishonor and ignominy where terrible "fizz ed" activities, games and practices are enshrined so that physical educators can not only understand why such games are to be avoided, but also so that these same teachers can become more reflective and thoughtful practitioners of their profession.
Early and famous inductees into the PEHOS are listed below, along with a brief explanation of why they have been enshrined. If you know of an activity that you wish us to consider for PEHOS please submit your activity here.
It is important to note that most of the PEHOS activities certainly can and should be modified to make them much more appropriate for use in our physical education classes. They all have certain game elements that are mentally stimulating, educational, and beneficial to students’ fitness.
- Tag can be altered from one “chaser” and 25 “runners” to a game in which fairly matched partners chase and tag only each other, all at the same time
- Steal the Bacon can be changed from having 22 “watchers” and only one pair of “stealers” from opposite teams to a game with six distinct “stealing” zones and 12 students playing at one time.
- Full-field soccer can be altered from one game, one ball, and 24 players (16 of whom may never touch the ball) to several separate small-sided small-field games in which everyone will have a chance to play and learn.
In different forms and constructions, almost any of the PEHOS activities and practices can become useful and productive physical education activities. But in their “pure” form, these games are simply inappropriate.
PE Hall of Shame Articles:
To read the original HOS articles by Neil Williams you can purchase back issues of JOPERD here.
- Williams, N. (1992). The physical education hall of shame. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 63 (6), 57-60.
- Williams, N. (1994). The physical education hall of shame, part II. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 65 (2), 17-20.
- Williams, N. (1996). The physical education hall of shame, part III. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 67 (8), 45-48.
- Williams, N. (2015). The physical education hall of shame, part IV. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 86 (1), 36-39.
Submit Your Hall of Shame Activity for Review
Remember the games / activities listed below were inducted in their traditional and pure form. That meaning that the teacher chooses these activities to keep kids busy, happy and good and does not provide any direction or teaching. If these activities are modified and learning objectives are taught then these activities might not be in the HOS.
- Dodgeball (Inducted: 1992): The all-time classic! The main objective is to attempt to inflict pain, harm, injury, and embarrassment on one’s opponents, and have a good laugh doing it. Is this the worst PE game ever?
- Duck, Duck, Goose (Inducted: 1992): A game of minimal participation; the chosen “goose” attempts to get up from a sitting position and try to catch the “ducker” who only has to go about 60 feet and already has a full running head start. Everyone else just sits and screams at ear-shattering pitch and decibel levels.
- Giants, Elves, and Wizards (Inducted: 1992): An updated version of the already bad “Crows and Cranes.” Participation time is at a bare minimum, the rules take forever to explain, and even then, students are still confused. The game usually ends when two students crash heads together.
- Kickball (Inducted: 1992): A game students can organize and play quite well all by themselves as early as second grade. Combine that with minimal activity for 90% of the students, the potential for embarrassment when a batter misses the rolling ball, and the opportunity to get players “out” by hitting them as hard as possible with a thrown ball. Is this why we went to college?
- Musical Chairs (Inducted: 1992): A classic “elimination” game in which the least skilled and least attentive students are immediately eliminated and then sent to improve their abilities by sitting on the floor, spinning mindlessly in circles on their “glutes,” and waiting 15 minutes for the winner (almost always the same kid) to be determined.
- Relay Races (Inducted: 1992): An eight-minute activity in which a student gets one 20-second chance to “go,” and either succeed or fail in front of classmates’ eagerly watchful eyes. Successes are generally ignored, but failures are fodder for continuing ridicule at least through dismissal at the end of the day.
- Steal the Bacon (Inducted: 1992): A sideline game in which two opposing players come out to the center of the court and compete against each other in front of the entire class. Any activity with this potential for embarrassment and absolutely minimal activity time easily qualifies as terrible.
- Line Soccer (Inducted: 1994): A more dangerous version of Steal the Bacon. This is another sideline game where two opposing players compete in front of the entire class with the final glory being the opportunity to kick a soccer ball as hard as possible directly at the head, stomach, or other body part of a member of the defending line. Siblings Line Basketball and Line Hockey also qualify as HOS members on the basis of close family resemblance.
- Messy Backyard (Inducted: 1994): A misbegotten and mindless creation where students on opposing teams frantically throw objects over a barrier into the other team’s court until the whistle is blown. Then the objects are counted and a winner is determined. Factor in students’ inabilities to count so many objects, the ignored stop signal, blind luck and the inevitable piercing screams of young children and you have one of our worst games of all time.
- Red Rover (Inducted: 1994): Who’s the toughest kid in class? We’re about to find out as players run, one at a time, and attempt to crash through the opposing team on the other side of a basketball court. This game is a relic from a time when football and wrestling coaches taught PE to occupy their time during the day and we apparently did not care at all about the safety of our students.
- Simon Says (Inducted: 1994): Another elimination game like Musical Chairs and Tag, but this has an important element missing from the other two: gleeful teacher deception. This has all the other problems inherent with elimination games too: removal of unskilled or inattentive students, singling out participants for ridicule, and low participation time. But the icing on the cake is the delight teachers take in deceiving, entrapping, and then punishing students when they are caught. What fun!
- Spud (Inducted: 1994): A first-cousin of dodgeball, it is another human target bombardment game where students try to hit, hurt and humiliate other classmates with a thrown object. At least in dodgeball, students have a chance to feint, dodge, and try to avoid being hit. In this classic game, students are told to “freeze” and then just have to stand there and hope they don’t get hit in the teeth.
- Traditional Tag (Inducted: 1994): In its evil form, tag is another self-defeating elimination game in which slow and unskilled players who are caught (tagged) must leave the activity and wait for the fastest and best players to finish up. When the next round of the game is played, those very same players who were tagged early on will be caught first again. Unlike many other HOS games, tag has some positive attributes and a creative teacher can fix the problems.
- Tug Of War (TOW) (Inducted: November 2011): A throwback to our paramilitary roots, TOW involves two large groups each grabbing opposite ends of a rope, waiting for the signal to start pulling, and then attempting to drag the other group over a center demarcation line (preferably into mud). Apart from pointless isometric straining for a few seconds or perhaps a minute, is there any real benefit? Does this game actually satisfy any of the criteria for appropriate physical education teaching practice? And it’s dangerous! Children get rope burns on their hands, get dragged along the ground, and get trampled on by their teammates. With so many other activities to choose from, why would anyone pick TOW?
- Capture the Flag (CTF) (Inducted: November 2012): The way it’s almost always done, CTF is another dinosaur: a large-sided/low-participation activity that mostly excludes the slowest and least skilled movers who then need to wait for the fastest and best players to finish up or rescue them. Like tag, when the next round of the game is played, those very same slow and unskilled players will be inactive again. CTF can be “cured” with developmentally-appropriate modifications, but unless you fix it, it’s HOS-worthy.
- Climb the Rope: The negative aspects of this relic have already been addressed in several PEHOS entries, but the low participation rates, the element of danger, the “made for a lawsuit” thin mat under the rope, the inattentive spotter, the rope burns on the hands and legs, and the grand spectacle of one student attempting to climb while the rest of the class sits and watches are the “perfect storm” of another all-time classic.
- Scooter Soccer: This poorly devised activity happens when a teacher divides the class into 4 teams. Two teams participate while two teams wait on the sideline. There are 2 goals at each end of the gym and students try to score in their opponents goal. Modifications are to throw instead of kick the ball. Many students typically just sit on their scooters until the game time expires. Teams waiting their turn are mostly unengaged. Transition time in changing from spectator to participant is just to burn up class time. There is never any instruction or assessment and the day is usually a waste of time for the students.
- 9-Square Volleyball:
Stay in the game as long as possible, rotating to the center (king) square. How long will you be king? The person in the middle square (the king square) will serve the ball by hitting the ball up and out of their square. When the ball comes into your square simply hit the ball up and out of your square into any other square.
- If the ball falls into your square, you are out.
- If the ball is hit outside of the whole game structure.
the last person who touched the ball is out.
- If someone double hits the ball, they are out.
- If someone hits the game structure, they are out.
When someone gets out, they move to the back of the line. Everyone who was behind them will advance forward one square to fill-in the empty place.
This game may appear as being as portrayed in the videos and on paper, however played without modifications to make it more inclusive it ends up as a 'death to the end' type game, of which is played with a traditional volleyball instead of a lighter weight and larger ball, especially at the elementary level. The students are encouraged to 'spike' the ball to the opponents vs volleying it to them. Also, any student with a disability is truly at a disadvantage merely because of the PVC lines , and they cannot be adjusted. Athletes are again engaged and the lower skilled students never get the opportunity to develop the skill because they get-out so quickly.
- GaGa Ball (played in a Gaga ball pit):
Ga-ga is a variant of dodgeball that is played in a ga-ga "pit". The game combines dodging, striking, running, and jumping, with the objective of being the last person standing. Players hit the ball at each other with their hands, and are eliminated if the ball strikes them on or below the waist. Installing these things is a big undertaking and playing the game in the traditional form without any modifications is simply inappropriate.
- Walking the Track :
Sadly, this activity is used a lot at our schools. It seems to be the "go to" activity when there is limited gym space, a substitute teacher or just a poor desire to thoughtfully plan a purposeful and meaningful lesson.
Walking the track is an activity that involves...wait for it...walking the track. There is no "start", no "ready, set, go", no flags or timers. You simply walk the track. It is a day in PE where students get to refine the ever so challenging gross motor task of walking in a circle. Do we focus on staying in the lines? No. Do we try and walk fast? No. Should we run? Only if you want to, but it won't improve your grade. We simply practice our ability to be mobile, something we did on our way to PE and something we will do when we leave PE to go to class. Surely, there has to be a better way to engage kids in a meaningful and productive experience in physical education.
Inducted Inappropriate Teaching Practices
- Students on Display (Inducted: 1996): a first cousin of One Line, One Ball. This happens when one student performs a routine, skill, or test while everyone else gets to sit and watch. It can be fine for the most talented and confident, but devastating to the fragile self-image of low- and middle-level performers. And it’s an incredible waste of valuable class time.
- One line, one ball, one chance (Inducted: 1996): this usually happens with large classes and limited equipment and facilities: perhaps 15 students line up to shoot a ball, climb a rope, or attempt a skill. Practice time is virtually non-existent and long lines put pressure on each performer to do it right every time because chances are few and far in between.
- Roll out the ball (Inducted: 1996): this basically implies no planning, no teaching skill, no organization, no curriculum, no goals, no objectives… and no value. We’ve got an important job and we get paid reasonably well to do it. Is this the best we’ve got?
- Inappropriately sized equipment (Inducted: 1996): Only the varsity players need to use a full-sized basketball, soccer ball, or volleyball, so why do we insist on using this equipment to teach fifth graders? If only one student in our school is the high school quarterback, let’s at least teach the football unit with a junior-size ball that everyone can throw.
- Exercise as punishment (Inducted: 1996): If one purpose of our physical education programs is to promote positive attitudes towards lifetime physical activity, using exercise to punish or discipline students is certainly counterproductive. Short of total humiliation in front of the class, we can probably do nothing that will alienate students more quickly than having them run laps or do extra push-ups.
- Student captains choose teams (Inducted: 1996): this practice turns our students loose on one another to humiliate, embarrass, degrade, scar, and damage classmates in front of their peers. There’s no need to subject our students to this teacher-sanctioned psychological torture. Let’s leave the formation of student teams and groups to the people best qualified to do the job—the teachers.
- PE Class as Sports Camp (Inducted: 1996): The rationale driving many schools’ physical education programs today is still rooted in the premise that p.e. class is the place where future varsity athletes are born. But since most adults rarely, if ever, participate again in varsity-type sport after they have left high school, we need to focus on the activities our students will actually do later in life: individual pursuits with a recreational and lifetime fitness core: walking, running, swimming, adventure, biking, weight lifting, tennis, golf. Wrestling? Not too likely.
- All Star Lines (Inducted: October, 2011): In a full-class sports game with two teams, each team consists of two lines or sub-groups, and those lines alternate off and on at regular intervals. With only a few minutes remaining in the class, and the outcome in doubt, the teacher announces that it is time for each team to put out their "All Star Line". In a nasty twist on the practices of “Student Captains Choose Teams”, and “PE Class as Sports Camp” each team is told to determine who are the "All Stars" and who gets to sit and watch.
- Athletes Sit Out on Game Day (Inducted: November 2011): In this practice, students on varsity teams are excused from participation in physical education class on game day. Sounds reasonable if the PE class is running four miles and the athlete has a game/meet later in the day with similar aerobic demands, but this is not usually the case. If one of our goals is to develop competent movers for a wide variety of lifelong activities, what sense does it make for a football lineman to be excused from tennis on game day?
- Shirts vs. Skins (Inducted: March 2012): This inappropriate teaching practice for boys' classes is a variant of "Students on Display" (inducted in 1996): teams are identified by whether or not they are wearing their shirts. Not only does this suggest the large-sided games we are trying to avoid but the prospect of going shirtless is absolutely horrifying for those students who have low self-esteem and poor body images. No matter how tight your budget might be, please buy some mesh scrimmage vests!
- Attendance Taken While Students Sit in Squad Lines (October 2013): Instead of using instant activities, or self-directed warm-ups and/or appropriate dynamic stretching while roll is taken, the instructor wastes several minutes of valuable class time as students sit in squad lines or do static stretches in place waiting for something educational and worthwhile to begin.
- Is This a Good Game or Activity Evaluation Tool by Scott Ronspies, Eastern Illinois University
- Active Participation for Every Child Demonstration
- Dodgeball Spoof from Support Real Teachers
- The Dodgeball Debate (Comedy Central)
- The Dodgeball Debate, Part 1 (HBO Real Sports)
- The Dodgeball Debate, Part 2 (HBO Real Sports)
- Girl Breaks Neck Playing Dodgeball
- The Weak Shall Inherit the Gym Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated
- Instructionally Appropriate Practices Document, K-12
- Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education
- Appropriate Instructional Practice Guidelines for Middle School Physical Education
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