Lewis Bowling: ‘The kid will do OK here’

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 02:35 PM

They were mostly UNC fans, but I really enjoyed speaking to and answering questions from the Chapel Hill Kiwanis Club last week. My topic was Duke football and basketball history, which is a subject I teach, write and speak about quite often. I talked about some of the great Duke basketball teams before Coach K came to Duke, such as the teams of coaches like Eddie Cameron and Vic Bubas, and we also talked about how football used to be the big sport on the Duke campus, not basketball.
One member of the Kiwanis Club shared an interesting story about being around in 1961 when he was told by a UNC administrator, “We think the kid will do OK here,” concerning the hiring of 30-year-old Dean Smith to coach the Tar Heel basketball team. We all had a good laugh, considering the great success Coach Smith went on to attain, becoming one of the best coaches in history, in any sport. 
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Many of us can turn to Charles Dickens for some guidance on exercising more and eating less. This great writer would write by day and walk by night, often walking the streets of London for miles at a time. He once wrote, “Deprivation of my usual walks is a very serious matter to me, as I cannot work unless I have my constant exercise.” Regarding his eating habits, he once said, “I do not eat more than half a pound of solid food in the whole four-and-twenty hours, if so much.”
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There is not nearly enough mandated physical education classes in schools, especially in grades K to 12. Every single child or young person should be taking a physical education class or something similar on a daily basis, or certainly on most days of the week. It just doesn’t make sense to have young people sit in a desk all day without giving them a good 30 minutes or more of enjoyable movement and exercise. On average, fit people perform better academically, socially and emotionally.
The United States can follow many other countries’ better examples of getting movement into young people’s lives. The following editorial was printed in a local newspaper way back in 1882:
“An American visitor to the German schools writes with enthusiasm of the thorough physical training which is a part of their education. A large hall is connected with every school furnished as a gymnasium, and all the scholars are trained by a competent instructor to perform gymnastic feats. The exercises are accompanied with stimulating music, and the scholars march, and re-march, break into sections, and go through all the evolutions with military precision. The results, says the visitor, are surprising.
A German school-boy is already half soldier. His muscle is firm, his step sure, his carriage erect, and his whole physique, wrought into a healthy, wiry state, fits him to enter the service of his Government.
No one is thought to be prepared for the work of life without their physical training, said a German professor. A scholar without it is like a pigeon with his wings clipped. He sits and coos, but he can’t fly.
The professor would not believe that such training was neglected in the United States. Do you mean, he asked the visitor, that you teach a lad A B C, and neglect to make his arms and legs strong? Do you give him Greek verbs, and forget the dumb-bells and horizontal bars? I can’t believe it, sir.”

I repeat: “No one is thought to be prepared for the work of life without their physical training. A scholar without it is like a pigeon with his wings clipped. He sits and coos, but he can’t fly.”
Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is www.lewisbowling.com. He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at Lewis_Bowling@yahoo.com.