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Good Legs, Weak Upper Bodies: U.S. Students Take a Soviet Test

July 28, 1987|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

American students who took a Soviet physical fitness test two months ago proved to be good runners and swimmers but were poor at doing pullups, according to test results.

The tests, administered to 310 students in El Segundo by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, found that the American youngsters, who ranged in age from 7 to 17, "have good legs and quickness" but are weak in their upper bodies, veteran football coach George Allen said.

Allen, who is chairman of the council, said that four of the five 12-year-old boys taking the test could not even do four pullups. Among 15-year-old boys, none of the 10 tested could do the 10 pullups that the Soviets set as the measure of "outstanding" performance. Only one of the 15-year-olds reached the "acceptable" standard of eight pullups.

"If these kids had to hold onto a window ledge for 10 seconds until a net was put up to catch them, they couldn't do it, not even to save their lives," Allen said.

Allen said Monday that he has asked Soviet officials how their own children perform on the tests, but has not received any figures. In a physical fitness exchange program, Soviet children will take an American physical fitness test in the fall.

The El Segundo group recorded uniformly high results in running and swimming, Allen said. When 7-year-olds were asked to do a shuttle run--dashing back and forth 30 feet three times--90% of the boys and 86% of the girls recorded times that met the standard set by the Soviets as "outstanding."

In tests of endurance, all 33 of the 7- and 8-year-olds were able to run 1,000 meters, Allen said, and all but six of 70 students between the ages of 10 and 15 completed a 2,000-meter run.

In swimming, all of the students over the age of 12 were able to go 50 meters and only one failed to beat the times set as outstanding, ranging from 60 seconds for 12-year-old boys to 42 seconds for 16-year-olds.

The testing at El Segundo High School on May 14, involving 250 students from El Segundo and 60 from Compton, was the kickoff for a yearlong national program in which Allen plans to give the Soviet test to 20,000 American youngsters to promote fitness.

So far, he said, about 600 students have been tested in El Segundo, Whittier and Washington, D.C., with most of the testing to come when school reopens in the fall.

In February, Allen and Marat Gramov, chairman of the Committee for Physical Culture and Sports in the Soviet Union, signed an agreement to exchange national physical fitness tests. An equal number of children will be tested in each country.

Allen, former coach of the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins, said the program is not intended to be a competition between the two countries but to "motivate all youth to improve their physical fitness" and "to get PE back in the school curriculum, where it used to be."

James F. Cathey, physical education coordinator in the Compton Unified School District, said the testing will be valuable if it prompts "parents, school officials, politicians" to push for more money for physical education, which has been hurt by budget cuts.

Cathey said he was pleased by the results, although he believes that the schools need to help children in lower grades develop more upper-body strength.

Allen has complained that not enough American youths play body-building sports, such as football, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics, and that they have poor diets and watch too much television. By contrast, he said, the Soviet Union has compulsory exercise for youngsters six days a week.

Allen said the performance of the first students tested in the United States probably will be higher than the national average because most were from the El Segundo school district, which "has a good physical education program with a competent staff."

Results will be poorer, he predicted, in big-city schools where physical education has been cut back and is taught by people not trained in fitness, "maybe math teachers."

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