Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Beginning this year, the PE department will limit the number of PE credits students can obtain through club sports to two. Previously, students were able to gain all four credits necessary for graduation from any combination of the school’s PE offerings. Additionally, seniors will not be able to receive any PE credits through club sports.
The decision was the result of a multi-year internal review by the PE department featuring input from students and alumni, said head men’s basketball coach Landry Kosmalski, who oversees club sports.
“Historically, we haven’t had a lot of club sports, but as we’ve gotten more—which is a good thing—there’s been concern about the lack of faculty oversight over a lot of things,” Kosmalski said. “Therefore, we wanted to make sure we’re keeping some of that in our department where we have the oversight in our PE classrooms.”
Club sports team leaders were unhappy with the changes, according to a representative of the men’s Ultimate Frisbee team who requested to remain anonymous. Many club sports, such as Ultimate or rugby, are uncommon in high schools. According to club sports leaders, the promise of satisfying their PE requirement helps these sports attract incoming first-years and keep them until they become involved in the community, leading many team members to stay on for all four years. Without that incentive, club sports leaders are worried that more students will leave the team during their busy sophomore years, he said.
“It makes club sports feel kind of like an illegitimate way to get that wellness and that PE requirement, because you can’t get the whole thing,” he said. “So a year of drumming is a legitimate way, two seasons of a varsity sport is a legitimate way, but playing a club sport for four years every week, five times a week, is not a legitimate way to be healthy.”
Additionally, team captains said that more faculty oversight over club sports could come without limiting the PE credits they can award.
“We just wish that we were more involved and informed in the whole decision-making process, because we’re happy to meet whatever standards they want, we’re happy to have them come and watch practices and see that we’re really working hard,” said a representative of the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, who also requested to remain anonymous. “But that’s just never been really put out there for us to show them that we’re a legitimate way to get credits.”
However, the PE department is not concerned about club sports lacking rigor, Kosmalski said.
“It’s about instructing the class. We’re members of the PE faculty, we instruct the PE classes, but club sports are student-run […] it’s not a lack of trust,” he said. “There are exceptions with people who aren’t as reliable, but generally, captains are very honest and very reliable about keeping attendance. We just feel that there should be a component of the PE requirement that actually comes from the PE department.”
The other change in policy was to prohibiting seniors from receiving any PE credit at all from club sports. This was made to prevent situations where seniors depend on club sports to give them the PE credit they need to graduate on time, effectively forcing a student to determine whether one of their peers graduates, he said.
Club leaders mostly agree with this change, the men’s Ultimate representative said.
“I think it’s a completely valid thing to worry about, and we agree that seniors should not get their PE credit from club sports. That’s something that should’ve happened long ago, and if they’ve saved it until that late in their Swarthmore career, then they can do it with a PE class,” he said.
On the whole, however, club leaders see the changes as mostly negative.
“Varsity athletes earn and receive many perks for playing sports at Swarthmore. Club athletes should be able to earn many of those same perks including athletic support, trainer access and full PE credit,” he said. “And while we would never argue that we spend more time in club than varsity athletes dedicate to varsity sports, the difference in commitment is nowhere near significant enough to warrant us being denied the entitlements that come with being a varsity athlete at Swat. Cutting the available PE credits in half for clubs reflects a choice made by athletics without student input and against student wishes to continue to promote this double standard.”