Featured from Athletics
COL Russ Holden 802-485-2114
Introduction: Recruiting academically, emotionally and physically fit cadets is not easy. Nearly 75 percent of young adults in the United States are unfit to serve in the military. Factors such as drug use, criminal records, and behavioral problems contribute to the challenge AMCSUS members encounter when recruiting a new class. Cadets who report overweight, injured, or in a poor mental or emotional state place an inordinate burden on professional staff and cadet leaders. Recent revisions of federal regulations have serious implications when deciding when a potentially self-harming student should be sent home. In 2013, Norwich University developed and implemented technical standards which identify and establish the essential functions and skills that students must master and perform in order to be accepted into, and remain active in, the Corps of Cadets. These technical standards inform prospective cadets about the requirements of garrison living, physical fitness, and emotional/psychological resiliency which they must demonstrate to be cadets. Prior to implementing technical standards, admission decisions into the Corps were made absent of information about applicants fitness which might prevent them from fulfilling the essential requirements of our program. We were unaware of impairments such as severe nearsightedness, diabetes requiring diabetic service dog, severe Tourette's syndrome, or psychological disabilities such as major depression which could prevent satisfactory performance of duty. Publishing technical standards has allowed us to establish requirements for matriculation, and continuation, in the Corps as well as to make personalized determinations for individuals with disabilities in compliance with the ADA.
Implementation: Under Title III of the ADA, a person with a disabling condition is otherwise qualified if he or she satisfies the requisite skill, experience, and education requirements of the position and can, with or without reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the job. These laws require that no otherwise qualified person with a disability shall be denied a benefit or opportunity or be excluded from participation solely on the basis of that disability. Individuals with a disability are qualified if they meet the same eligibility requirements and standards of behavior and performance demanded of anyone else, with or without reasonable accommodation. Establishing technical standards of behavior and performance is essential for determining whether an individual is otherwise qualified and if not he or she can legally be denied a benefit or opportunity, or be excluded from participation in a program such as the Corps. We appointed a committee to review Army Regulation 40-501 Standards of Medical Fitness. We asked the committee to establish the essential functions of the cadet's job, consider reasonable accommodations for performance limitations and determine what medical conditions would make a student not otherwise qualified to be a member of the Corps. We adopted many, but not all, of the Army standards of medical fitness. We accept applicants with learning disabilities, color blindness, asthma and other conditions which may disqualify them from being commissioned, but would not necessarily prevent them from being successful as a cadet. We also established a process for individualized review of applicants to determine whether they were otherwise qualified or not.
Without published technical standards, we had little or no legal grounds to deny enrollment or separate a cadet for inability or failure to meet standards of behavior and performance due to physical, mental or emotional limitations.
The individualized review of applicants, which we consider to be one of the most critical elements to ensure compliance
with the law, should include consultation with learning support, psychological, medical and other specialists.
In many cases, it is appropriate to contact students/families with regard to whether they can perform appropriately.
Data gleaned from the medical history review enables us to make informed admissions decisions, identify high risk students and develop retention strategies prior to matriculation. Conclusion: Determining if students are otherwise qualified is a key task at most educational institutions. Yet, AMCSUS schools are unique given the demands of their military lifestyle. The stakes are high; even small mistakes can result in big lawsuits. Complying with federal law is challenging; it raises difficult questions of essential program requirements and reasonable accommodations. Determining qualifications without violating student's civil rights will not get easier as we respond to the many dimensions of student diversity. Establishing technical standards and procedures for individual review are key elements of best practice for ADA compliance.
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Athletics as an Integral Component of a Military Academy Education - Mark P. Ryan, Ph.D.
North Valley Military Institute
Athletics is arguably an essential, non-negotiable component of a military academy education. Each of the Service Academies, all military colleges in the U.S., and nearly all military secondary schools have integrated athletics into the core components of a cadet's experiences and requirements. While all schools approach athletics in different ways, there are a number of very common characteristics, including quality physical education courses, intramural athletics, interscholastic athletics, fitness activities/challenges outside a cadet's physical education coursework, and a school-wide emphasis on personal wellness.
Quality Physical Education (PE) Courses - Physical education courses should align with the five National Physical Education Standards (see shapeamaerica.org):
Standard 1 - The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
Standard 2 - The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
Standard 3 - The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
Standard 4 - The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
Standard 5 - The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.
That means quality Physical Education classes should include explicit instruction in movement patterns/principles/concepts, motor skills, strategies, tactics, and teamwork skills AND provide frequent opportunities for students to be active and interact with others in individual, dual, team sports/activities, and a variety of health-promoting activities. Most quality PE programs perform assessments of student fitness levels, have students set and work toward goals of improving those fitness levels, and provide focused instruction and experiences to enhance the fitness test performance of their cadets.
Intramurals - Intramural athletics involves competition WITHIN THE SCHOOL in a variety of team sports. Since some team sports like basketball or soccer or volleyball are so common and students may have preconceived notions about their abilities or lack thereof in those sports, many schools use intramural athletics as way to expose students to less common sports where they are on a more level playing field with their peers. Sports such as archery, orienteering, bocce ball, bowling, speed badminton, table tennis and paddleball can augment more traditional intramural sports such as flag football, softball, kickball, and sockball. The typical military school intramural competition scenario involves companies competing against each other for some form of honors, whether those are honor unit points, or an intramurals banner or trophy, or some other public recognition for the achievements. Many schools have cadet intramurals NCOs who help schedule participation, organize matches, arrange logistics, and track results. Some schools use cadet leaders as officials for intramural contests, and many schools require all cadets to participate in intramurals as a mandatory element of their cadet experience.
Interscholastic Athletics - Similar to intramurals, interscholastic athletics involves competition OUTSIDE the school, usually against schools of similar size. Most military academies belong to a state or regional consortia of schools aligned within the larger National Federation of State High School Associations (see nfhs.org). Those schools follow standard rules for player eligibility, officiating, conduct of matches, uniforms, etc. Some military academies require all cadets to participate in interscholastic sports at some point during their high school or college careers. Almost all academies offer a wide range of interscholastic athletics, particularly those that appeal to the demographic and skillset of the Corps of Cadets.
Physical Fitness Activities Outside the PE Class - There is a definite culture at a military school. That culture includes a strong sense of esprit de corps, morale, discipline, etc. Part of the athletic dimension of military schools often involves cadets participating in physical fitness activities and challenges outside the regular Physical Education Classroom. West Point requires all cadets to successfully complete the Indoor Obstacle Course Test (IOCT) which tests agility, coordination, strength, aerobic capacity, flexibility, and adaptability. A number of other military schools and colleges have created similar obstacle course experiences for cadets. Many schools also have "physical challenges" that demand cadets hike, river raft, run long distance, backpack, or do other very demanding physical tasks. A number of schools have created special clubs for physical fitness and wellness. Still others have special military awards for successful participation and/or completion of those tasks. At NVMI, we have a grade level challenge for each grade: 6th grade cadets complete an in-cadence mile run; 7th graders complete a high ropes course, 8th graders a 5K run, 9th grades a 35 mile bike ride, 10th graders a Class IV River Rafting expedition, 11th graders a 25 mile hiking/backpacking weekend on the Pacific Crest Trail, and 12th graders run the Los Angeles Marathon. For successfully completing the task, they are awarded a fitness challenge "merit badge."
Wellness Programs - Military academies promote the broader concept of wellness by having healthy meal service, having fitness centers for cadets and staff, providing counseling and religious service supports, and providing both academic and non-academic instruction focused on such skills as decision-making, problem-solving, accessing reliable health information, goal-setting, communication, negotiation and refusal, assertiveness, and advocacy skills.
The United States Military Academy has a saying that "every cadet is an athlete." The military school model emphasizes athletics because they promote teamwork, communication, fitness and wellness, self-confidence, respect for self and others, put winning into perspective, and foster academic success.