Remembering P.E. Advocate Phil Lawler

If your organization has received a Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP) grant sometime during the past decade, you have Phil Lawler to thank. Lawler lost his battle with cancer last Friday at the age of 60, but his legacy will live on for generations.


The architect of a revolutionary P.E. program in Naperville, Ill., that actually improved more than students' ball-handling skills by incorporating high-tech fitness equipment and detailed health-risk assessments, Lawler went on to share his P.E. methods with hundreds of physical educators and school officials at training sessions in 10 different countries. He became a staunch P.E. advocate on Capitol Hill and helped write the PEP grant, which has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance and even sustain P.E. programs at public and private schools, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs and other facilities since 2001. And his vision was the catalyst for the creation of PE4life.

It would not be an overstatement to suggest that Lawler - a man "new P.E." movement: "It's about enabling each student to maintain a physically active lifestyle forever. It means emphasizing fitness and well-being, not athleticism. It eliminates practices that humiliate students. And it assesses students on their progress in reaching personal physical activity and fitness goals. A [quality] program exposes kids to the fun and long-term benefits of movements. It's really that simple."

It wasn't really that simple; the numerous articles AB has published about the challenges of running effective P.E. programs attest to that. But Lawler's positive attitude made you think quality physical education for every student always was within reach. He maintained that attitude even as his cancer worsened, which made you believe him even more.

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