Athletics, P.E. offerings develop stronger general health

Success (Oliver Yu)

John Dang

Athletics and physical education are valuable resources Saddleback College offers its students and the Orange County community.  

“We teach a wide variety of courses and we’re really lucky to have a lot of quality instructors who take pride in what they do,” said Tony Lipold, dean of athletics and kinesiology. “So people want to take their classes over and over again. If you look at this summer, our productivity rate is as high as it’s ever been as there are over 35 students in each class.”

In the fall semester, Saddleback College offers 85 physical education and kinesiology courses.  Students who have an interest in learning or improving their skills in an individual sport can take courses such as golf, surfing, and tennis. Those who are interested in self-defense can take combative skills courses such as karate and advanced aikido.  There are more than 30 fitness courses offered for exercise enthusiasts or for those who are just looking to get in shape. 

Anyone who wants to play a team sport such as soccer, softball, baseball or basketball for fun rather than inter-collegiate competition can do so at Saddleback. Personal training or physical therapy career minded students can take a wide variety of adapted kinesiology courses such as personalized fitness to water exercise and swimming. There are even courses available for students interested in a career in sports training and coaching with classes like Principles and Fundamentals of Coaching and Mental Skills for Sports Performance 2. 

“The golf and driving range we have here provides a great service for the community,” Lipold said. “On one end, we serve the public.  This is a place where golfers like to come and hit balls and the prices are reasonable. We have good teachers down there.  We probably have the best teaching staff in all of Orange County.”

The facility also serves students enrolled in department golf courses.

“It’s great to have a teaching facility for golf.  When you can pay $20 for a golf course and get quality instruction on a quality golf facility, you can’t beat it,” Lipold said.

The college is also noted for its outstanding inter-collegiate athletic program. Any student athletes who want to compete at the collegiate level can try out for Saddleback’s team sports.  Students can represent the Gauchos in football, men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, water polo, women’s golf and soccer this fall semester.  Saddleback takes pride in their sports programs as their entire athletic program is ranked No. 11 in the state out of 104 schools according to COASports.org.

Lipold was concerned by recent state efforts led by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to eliminate funding for physical education courses at the community colleges.

“It just blows me away because the governor, who is a physical type of guy, made a decision to cut 120 million dollars out of physical education, which they call recreational classes,” Lipold said. “We made thousands of phone calls to our legislators to urge them to let the colleges decide how they’re going to make their cuts.” 

State officials heard the calls and the physical education and athletics department is safe for now, Lipold said.

Lipold feels that the P.E. department gets an unfair academic reputation.

“Some people claim that we shouldn’t be the place for people to take recreational classes for their own self-enrichment. Why not? Why should someone be able to come here and take Spanish but not surfing? Why do we discriminate?,” Lipold said.

With national health concerns on the rise, Lipold believes that the P.E. departments at community colleges help provide a solution to the problem.

“We have a national crisis in health with obesity and smoking. If you come to a community college where you can get exposed to classes like yoga or spinning, that instills in you that you need to exercise three to four times per week, and all of a sudden your health cost statewide changes. We just seem to go about things in the wrong way,” Lipold said.

According to Lipold, the P.E. department doesn’t just benefit the community but also benefits the community college with student participation and attendance. He is in the process of conducting his own study.

He’s comparing the student athletes over the last five years to students who attend the college but do not take P.E. 

He is surveying how many units each group takes, retention rate, persistence rate, and overall GPA.  He is finding that the statistics show that student athletes are higher in every area.  Lipold intends to publish the results.

Lipold insists that the athletic department emphasizes academics to student athletes.

“What makes our program so good is we get our coaches to buy into the academics,” Lipold said.  “We want our students to be well rounded and come out of here and be successful anywhere. Our goal since I’ve been here is to move kids on and make sure they’re successful in the classroom.  I’m proud of the number of student athletes that transfer.”

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