Is in our past. I recently arrived at my friend Ron Jones’s Lean Berets BBQ just in time for a slideshow he was presenting on the La Sierra High School P.E. program from the 1960’s, heralded by Stan LeProtti. LeProtti revolutionized physical education programs back then after an appearance on the tonight show where he demonstrated what his elite students were doing. Even the ‘lower ranked’ students, in terms of abilities, surpass our current high-schoolers’ abilities by a landslide. After airing, his curriculum wound up being adopted nationwide.
What struck me as fascinating was the resemblance to the Natural Method as conducted by Georges Hébert. Indeed, athletes/students were performing the tasks shirtless, wearing only shorts and light shoes (explained thoroughly in the Hygiene section of the upcoming book), the ultimate in training was done off the ground and none of the students in the slideshow were overweight. LeProtti had a ranking system, color coded in the shorts/apparel the students wore, not unlike a martial arts belt system.
Speaking of martial arts, the purpose of physical fitness contains that element (martial/military), along with medical/corrective element (attention to form notably) and pedagogical (games, sports, play). Continents apart and culturally different, Hébert and LeProtti shared the same vision. Since there are only recordings and some video available of his philosophy, outside of slides and testimonials, I do not know at this point whether he inspired himself from Hébert “some”, or whether he pulled his approach from his military training, being a WWII veteran. Either way, the source, the inspiration is the same and can be traced further past the existence of these two individuals.
Ron Jones wrote me this: “LeProtti was really the last guy to figure out how to unlock the movement code nationally at an elite level. Many have come and gone since—even Pavel, et al, but none have come close to LeProtti. His methods were classical. He was a form guy—from the WWII generation so still had some good training out there with classical quality controls, etc. 4,000 American schools copied LaSierra and it was copied globally. It was a really big deal hence the cover of Life Magazine, The Tonight Show, and many other coverages. He presented in all 50 states to tens of thousands on physical fitness and the LaSierra system when he was involved with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He was personal friends with Vince Lombardi, Stan Musial, Bonnie Prudden, Jack LaLanne, and many others most have not heard of but who were huge players in fitness during his era. He was one of the top three fitness experts in America in the mid sixties.”
After the slideshow, several trainers and myself delved deeper into the current situation our nations find themselves in. The obesity pandemic that is crippling people as well as the economy, whatever the root cause may be (parents afraid of their kids being made to feel inadequate, something I will tap into in a bit, or current funding issues where PE and arts are dropped from school curriculums), the discussion then turned into how do we begin the winds of change, how do we promote the message?
In my humble opinion, just like training revolves around the martial, medical and pedagogical, spreading the word through whatever social media or other current technological means we have at our disposal ought to revolve around three elements as well:
Aspirational: simply put, seeing what others can do and telling oneself “Some day I want to be able to do that”.
Inspirational: “I will do that”.
Approachable: “what are the steps, where do I start so I can achieve that goal?”
We have to show the elite, the top moves, even if most of us may not realistically get there. But we need to be inspired, as well as inspire others that the journey is more important than the destination, without of course laying a path for excuses, rather accountability. Just like the comment I made earlier about kids not being made to feel bad by parents afraid of disrupting their progeny’s sensibilities. That does a disservice to the children as they grow up entitled and insecure at once, never having built any competitive backbone. We have to cultivate a spirit of strength, resilience and competitiveness, even if with oneself, to build mentally and physical equipped and ready adults.
Lastly, we cannot scare people into thinking “I’ll never be as good” and present a scalable, approachable method that makes one want to take the journey, a way that’s conducive to positive reception. Scolding or making people feel bad will yield no results, but giving them a simple starting point will more likely invite them to join the group rather than fear its judgment. Students were accountable for their performance and would see others perform at higher levels, which in turn would stimulate them to improve, while all students were encouraged to teach, coach and assist their peers as a means of support and education as well. That’s the true rule of “no student left behind”, just like you don’t leave your troops behind.