The field of physical education has gone through many cycles over its long history. These cycles range from a strict authoritarianism to the liberal democracy of today. This transformation to the democracy has opened the field of physical education up to many new sciences, which are creating many new professional opportunities. If the cycles of physical education continue, these new professions will hopefully pave the way to future discoveries and studies of physical education.
The Spartans and Athenians were the first to have a type of physical education. Though very different, both systems served the people and their needs. The Spartan system was similar to a dictatorship. Male children were taken at the age of seven to learn basic military skills while living in barracks. When the children reached the age of fourteen, they began learning group fighting tactics which would allow them to succeed while in the military from the ages of twenty to thirty. Once thirty, the men could then marry a women who had been doing some training of her own in order to make strong babies. The philosophy of the Spartans was basically to allow them to invade other countries if desired, and to prevent other countries from invading them.
The philosophy of the Athenians was quite different compared to the Spartans. The Athenian culture was very democratic, and focused on training the mind and body. Reading and writing was a large part of society as well as physical activity which took place in the center of the city where the gymnasium was located. The physical education philosophy of the Athenians was the high point of physical education for many years.
Some other cycles in physical education that we have evolved from are that of the Romans, the dark ages, and the crusades. The Roman era is a bit disturbing, but is nonetheless a cycle of physical education. Physical education for the Romans was about athletics, which was primarily about entertainment. People were forced to fight to the death, and oftentimes fed to lions. During the dark ages, religion viewed physical education as a waste of time and a work of the devil. The dark ages were a very sedentary time for human civilization. Following the dark ages in approximately 1096, were the crusades. The crusades were a time of muscular Christianity, because of the Muslims conquering Jerusalem. Muscular Christianity is basically Christians believing that the more one trained to become good soldiers, the more Christian a person was. In 1270, the crusades ended and so did the thought of physical education being worthwhile until approximately 1400 when the renaissance period began. Physical education during the renaissance period is quite similar to physical education today. It is done to better oneself, not to be doing something for someone else. The development of physical education had another setback in the 1600's when it was very functional and not a priority. People believed that if it did not have a specific purpose, than it was a waste of time.
During the 1700's, there was a big change in physical education that can be largely attributed to three people: Rousseau, Johan Simon, and Guts Muths. Rousseau was the first person to promote education for the masses and he also thought of play as being educational. In 1712, Rousseau invented an activity that is still used by millions of children everyday, recess. Johan Simon was the first physical education teacher and believed physical education should be taught along with reading and writing. Simon believed physical education should include a lot of physical labor. Guts Muths developed a series of gymnastic apparatuses and believed physical education developed very important social skills. These people of the 1700's and the things they did began paving the road to where we are today.
During the 1800's, physical education programs were finding their way into universities which contributed to many things we have today. New sports were being invented, intramurals were being brought into schools, women began exercising, gymnasiums could be found in most colleges, and many recreational areas and parks were being built in order to decrease the crime rate. This continued on into the 1900's which brought on the creation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to regulate college athletics, and the golden age of sports during the 20' and 30's. During this golden age of sport, the number of people in sport increased dramatically, the number of teachers increased, and physical education began moving toward the involvement of sport. In 1941, World War II began which brought a big shock along with it. Of the first 2 million males drafted, 45% failed their physical. With this, physical education began to be very strongly pushed in schools in order to improve the health of the American people.
Since W.W. II, the United States has continued to press the importance of physical education, which brings it to where it is today, a highly complex field with many different sub-disciplines. The sub-disciplines are:
--"Exercise physiology, which is the study of bodily systems and their reactions to the stress of exercise.
--Kinesiology, which is the study of how the muscular system moves the bony structure of the body.
--Biomechanics, which is the study of the human body as a mechanical system, utilizing principles and applications from physics.
--Motor learning, which is the changes in motor performance related to experience and practice.
--Sport sociology, which is the social structure, social patterns, and social organization of groups engaged in sport.
--Sport Psychology, which is the stud of behavioral and psychological issues and problems in sport.
--Sport pedagogy, which is the study of the processes of teaching and coaching, the outcomes of such endeavors, and the content of fitness, physical-education, and sport-education programs." (Siedentop)
These sub-disciplines have created many new jobs for people in the field of education, and will surely branch off to form others in the future.
Physical education has definitely come a long way since the Spartans and Athenians. From an authoritarian type system to promoting lifespan physical education with many sciences studying the different intangibles of physical education in order to better the mind and body. These new sciences have obviously broadened the "umbrella of physical education", but when looking to the future, there really is no end in sight. The growing "umbrella" will continue getting larger as new thoughts and ideas come, and with them, new sciences also.