On the subject of Joe Wicks & PE Curriculum

When pandemic hit the UK, few of us knew what to expect, or how life would evolve. All of us had to change our routines, learn to be more patient, agile and tolerant, while many of our freedoms & habits have been curbed, meetings with family and friends forbidden, schools & borders shut. We all had to adjust to the new norms and learn to live with fear, anger, frustrations and anguish. Many parents learnt to combine work from home with home schooling. While also welcoming Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, into their homes, as his free morning PE YouTube lessons were added to many schools’s virtual learning schedule.

Image courtesy of The Body Coach Instagram

I have to say that I write this as a mother of two children and not as a PT or PE teacher, as I am neither. When I suggested Joe’s videos to my children, they both agreed to give it a go. But five minutes in, both said that it was the first… and the last time they were doing it. I have a boy and a girl, with a few years in-between them. One sportier than another, each knowing their own mind – again, both said ‘thank you, but no thank you’. So I looked for alternatives and additions to my kids virtual learning in terms of PE. My son’s PE teacher does video lessons for his students and sets challenges that kids can do in their free time. He reminds them to warm up, cool down and to pay attention to form – all important for injury prevention. In addition we practise some tennis skills with video lessons and tips provided online, for free, by tennis coaches of the club my kids used to go to. My son’s fencing club does virtual Zoom lessons, challenging children of different ages physically and mentally, fostering a sense of community & providing free pre-recorded video tutorials online. Does the press mention them? Not so much. Do any other PTs or more importantly PE teachers, with their hard-earned qualifications, certifications & practical experience of working with the children, get spotlight on national TV or radio? Again, not so much. The star of PE is Joe and all the credit seems to go to him. And that is where it just doesn’t sit right with me.

To many parents Joe offered a half-hour daily lifeline of exercise for their children, letting mums & dads focus on something else (unless they workout alongside the children – a great habit, encouraging common ground and closer family ties between generations, as well as a healthy dose of competitiveness). However not everyone was enchanted. I have friends who aren’t fans of his exercise routines, citing lack of proper warm up and cool down. Some mentioned that he has no exercise plan, choosing an exercise based on a coin toss. Some said that he doesn’t focus on the correct form, so as a consequence one can sustain an injury. I actually know a few people who pulled muscles, while doing Joe’s routines, alongside their children.  

Image courtesy BBC Children In Need

Now, that brings me to another important point. Qualifications. Last week Metro featured an article by Louise Griffin, talking about Joe Wicks reportedly being eyed by the Government to lead a review of the PE curriculum. Now, my question is this – what makes him better qualified that school PE teachers ? He might have become ‘nation’s favourite PE teacher’, but in reality he is not a PE teacher, he just does workouts ‘aimed at kids’. Joe is The Body Coach and the public figure. He is not a qualified PE teacher – please correct me, if I missed his qualifications and he is – I couldn’t find any information confirming that on his website. You can say he is qualified, because he is a father. To which I will reply that then every parent is a qualified PE teacher – yet personally, I wouldn’t dream of pretending that I know how to teach my kids PE better than my children’s PE teachers. I admire and respect them and in this instance think they are the ones that need support of the government and government’s ear – not Joe, even with all the good that he has done providing free YouTube lessons for the school children.

Why does one person get all the credit? There are plenty of PTs who were left jobless due to pandemic – why aren’t any of them getting the attention from national television, radio and the press? Is it because they are not ‘top draw influencers’, like Joe? And what about PE teachers – don’t they have opinions and knowledge, as well as first-hand experience that is no less and, dare I suggest, more valuable than Joe’s, when it comes to teaching physical education to school children? It’s almost like the situation with Jamie Oliver – first he got the Sainsbury’s advertising deal, now we see him as the Tesco cooking ambassador – are there no other chefs, who were forlonged or left jobless, who deserve the spotlight and the money? When did it become ok to reap the accolades on select famous few, forgetting all the others? Why so much importance is increasingly placed on influencers, not professionals with their qualifications and experience?

As a PT I know pointed out, teaching kids physical exercise and sports is a completely different matter when compared to adults. PE teachers are qualified to educate, teach & train children, not adults – and training as a PT is different. So without taking away the credit for providing free exercise and raising money for the NHS, let me ask again – why does the credit go to one man, with PE teachers and the work they do forgotten or pushed aside? And why does the press and social media choose to promote him, instead of giving an opportunity or platform to other men and women (no less qualified than Joe) to do good, raise their profiles and earn a living? That is something I mull over lately, as I navigate home schooling of my two kids alongside their wonderfully dedicated & hard-working teachers. Personally I feel grateful to many people & professionals who are helping keep my children fit and healthy, while we all are slowly easing out of the quarantine. They might not be famous, nor be the headliners, but they are the real heroes of our times, if only we took the time to notice & be vocal & appreciative of their contribution. As always, food for thought.

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