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UC Davis Physical Education Program

Hickey gym photo

While organized physical activities and sports arose on University Farm (the precursor to the Davis campus) as early as its inception in 1909, the UC Davis Department of Physical Education (PHE) was founded in 1947 under the leadership of Irving “Crip” Toomey, who had served as Athletic Director, Head Football Coach, and Head Basketball Coach since 1928, and offered classes for men and, largely as a result of the efforts of Marya Welch, who had been hired at that time as the first female member of the PHE faculty, also for women. PHE occupied Verne Hickey Gymnasium which had been built in 1938 under the auspices of the WPA program as “a modern concrete gymnasium structure” and has been the home of PHE since that date.

The heart of the program is its curriculum of activities classes. Formerly offered separately as PHE 1- Physical Education for Men and PHE 26 – Physical Education for Women, the classes were organized in 1969 as PHE 1 – Physical Education for Men and Women. The former PHE major has become Exercise Biology (EXB) and is offered by the College of Biological Sciences. PHE activities and lecture courses continue to be very popular offerings enrolling over 8000 students annually.

PHE classes are largely taught by instructors who hold academic appointments as lecturers in the PHE program. The fact that Aggie coaches teach regular, credit-bearing classes in the undergraduate curriculum as members of the faculty is widely supported by the campus and is the cornerstone of the Teacher – Coach Philosophy at UC Davis.

Students in PHE 1 classes are introduced through an activity specific formal presentation to 1) basic exercise and sport safety, 2) the historical and/or cultural relevance of the activity or sport, and, because the theory of the sport or activity and its application to practice are intrinsic to the specific activity itself, to 3) the rules, basic strategies, and tactics of the activity. A short examination based on the information provided in the presentation is required in order to receive a P in these P/NP graded classes. Activity specific syllabi are provided in each class which detail grading policy, the weekly class assignments and activities, and the methods to be utilized in assessment of skill improvement.

These academic classes are instructional by design, rather than recreational. Instruction is sequential and planned to develop and improve performance skills utilizing modern concepts taken from exercise biology and sport science, and to impart knowledge of these concepts in order to promote an understanding of the health benefits of regular exercise as an important basis for lifetime fitness. Students are assessed and evaluated in order to measure fitness and skill improvement. These courses also provide opportunities for multi-cultural learning and socialization.