4th Graders Discover Barrier-Breaking Athletes and Sports Activism

From the virtual confines of the “Zoom gym” to the bluetop of the Brandeis campus, you will notice the joyful sights and sounds of kids running, jumping, and skipping to cheesy 80’s montage music and 90’s R&B and pop. Some things have been completely turned upside down due to the pandemic, but one thing has remained the same in lower school: PE with Coach Pat. 

However, there have been relevant additions to the fourth grade curriculum that Coach Pat is particularly proud of. Each month, students take some time in PE to discuss social issues and highlight pioneers in the realm of sports.

"I have always believed that sports is a powerful tool to teach values such as hard work, perseverance, determination, and discipline," Coach Pat said. "But I also believe that sports can be a platform for social change and that athletes and organizations today are using their voice to amplify others’ and to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for everyone."

Some of the discussions students have had so far are Colin Kaepernick’s protests during his NFL career, the first women coaches in Major League Baseball, and the NBA and WNBA programs used to educate and register first-time voters ahead of this year’s election.

"I am beyond proud of the fourth graders for their engagement and excitement to learn about these issues and am so impressed with the meaningful conversations that we have had," Coach Pat added. "My goal is for all my students to be strong and strong-willed, to stand up for what they believe in, and to lift other’s up."

By showing them examples of athletes paving the way in terms of social justice and equality, Coach Pat hopes that they are inspired to do the same when they leave Brandeis. 

Despite all the challenges of this year, the Brandeis PE program aspires to be a place where students feel empowered. Empowerment is not just physical, and it does not only translate into points on a scoreboard, as Coach Pat's students have learned in class these last few weeks. One example of such empowerment is that, as of last weekend, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play a College Football game. Empowerment is something as simple as seeing someone that looks like you, doing something awesome, and not just telling you, but showing you that you can do the same!