Originally published by Knoxville News Sentinel
by John Shearer
at Dec 8th, 2015
OAK RIDGE — Spotting the 6-foot-2 Women’s National Basketball Association and former Tennessee Lady Vol basketball star Tamika Catchings doing some dribbling drills with first-graders in the Woodland Elementary School gym Tuesday morning was easy.
But figuring out whether she or the group of nearly 20 youngsters half her height was having more fun was a little more challenging.
“I can say without hesitation that physical activity and physical education have been tremendously important in my life,” she said after running around with the children in Jeremy Carringer’s class for nearly 30 minutes.
The longtime star of the Indiana Fever and member of the 1997-98 national championship team at Tennessee under coach Pat Summitt said sports helped her overcome self-consciousness over her hearing and speech problems as a child.
She also hoped her participation in Tuesday’s event announcing two major developments related to physical fitness would help people hear more clearly the call to have physical education a required part of school curriculums.
She was on hand along with retired UT athletics director Joan Cronan and other youth sports fitness advocates to announce the release of a youth fitness study and to say a state physical education bill will be introduced next year.
The bill, if passed, would require that every Tennessee student from kindergarten through fifth grade take at least two gym classes during a regular school week.
The bill, to be introduced by state Rep. Roger Kane, R-Karns, is being called the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act in honor of Cronan’s husband, who was an exercise physiology professor at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City.
“Like me, Tom was an advocate for living an active lifestyle and promoting fitness, particularly in children,” said Cronan, who said she played three competitive sports as a youth before her college coaching and sports administration career.
Catchings enthusiastically endorsed the bill.
“The bill could make a difference in our Tennessee youth,” she said, saying 60 percent of high school students in Tennessee don’t get any physical education during the school week.
Representatives of the Champions for America’s Future organization also released a study that concluded gym helps youngsters learn how to be active for life and that it can also help them compete better in the classroom.
Burton said Tennessee is one of only eight states in the country that does not require gym class in elementary school. Costanza noted studies show regular physical activity lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.