Similarities And Differences Between Sport And Fitness Physical Education Essay

Throughout this essay I will identify the definition for both sport and physical education, implementing my own interpretation. I will also explain the differences and similarities between them. My research will be based largely on the affect physical activity has on school children. I aim to concentrate my research on the method of teaching PE and sports, introducing both linear and non-linear pedagogy. Finally, I will conclude with my own understanding of my findings and where I feel research should be continued in order to ensure both PE and sports is an active part of every child’s life, especially after leaving school.

Sport v PE

Classifying the definition of ‘sport’ is not as simple as it seems. Research states, “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” ( This is true, however, there is a lot more to it that just skill and competition. Although rules are a major part of sport, making it sound more serious, it can also be fun and entertaining. Physical skill is a key advantage in playing sport, however lets not forget that most sports also require mental skill for strategic planning. The most important aspect of sport is having fun with the added bonus of maintaining a good fitness level. The term ‘sport’ comes from the old French desport which means ‘leisure’.

Physical Education is “Training in the development of and care for the human body; stresses athletics; includes hygiene.” “It is a taught course taken during primary and secondary education that encourages psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting.” In the UK, Physical Education classes are compulsory in school until approximately age 16. As well as learning basic sporting skills, the curriculum also pays attention to health and fitness. My first recollection of PE at School was playing pirates in the school gym which involved running around on sporting apparatus being chased. PE is not always being taught the obvious sporting game such as football, hockey, etc. Its aim is to enhance an individual’s progress through a variety of activities, which will boost their confidence level; hence my pirate game vastly improved my agility skills. As the student progresses, leadership skills are incorporated into the programme as well as being encouraged to be player independent in their decision-making.

The most obvious similarity between sport and PE is that they both involve physical activity. Physical health benefits are gained by taking part in regular physical activity, whether that is during school hours (PE lessons), an extra-curriculum activity, or playing for a local club. Research shows that children who participate frequently in physical activity will reduce their chances of acquiring certain ailments such as diabetes and obesity, therefore improving their quality of life. However, other benefits such as affective and social are also gained. Research suggests that affective development is now evident with children. One of the main signs of this is a child’s self-esteem that grows stronger when partaking in physical activity. Research show that stress, anxiety and depression, can also be significantly reduced with regular exercise. Probably the most important aspect of both sport and PE is social benefit. Whether you are playing football with a few friends or in a controlled PE lesson, it is evident that this is a major part of a child’s social learning skills. Anti-social behaviour is frowned upon and, to fit in, children tend to conform to the norm. Also, for an introvert child, communication though activity can help dramatically improve their interaction with other children outside of sports and PE and this has a knock-on affect with their affective skills also (Bailey, 2006). However, there may be implications. For example, we are assuming that pupils are enjoying the physical activity and are good at it. What if a child suffers with ability and/or may be teased by other school children for their lack of coordination? This may cause the child to become introvert and depression and anxiety could occur. Although PE has a positive effect for most, this concern needs to be considered carefully when planning PE lessons at school.

However, sport is more about being competitive and winning medals and trophies. Although PE can be competitive, teachers introduce fair play; ensuring teams are equally balanced, whether that is by age, sex, and/or ability. However, in sports, the best players are selected for the club’s first team and those with less skill will be placed in a lower performing side. Sport is voluntary and the number of participants can vary from club to club, but the size of group/team can be adapted to suit the requirements of a match. However, PE is compulsory in schools and classes can be vast, this can cause problems for the teacher when applying rules and instructions, especially given that a proportion of children do not want to partake and may be unruly.

Within sports there are leagues and competitions, involving officials and a fixture secretary and each club concentrates on one particular sport. However, the chosen activity for a particular PE lesson is usually decided by the teacher and can vary from lesson to lesson. This decision can also depend on the environmental conditions and equipment available to that school. For example, it is difficult for a school in the centre of London to partake in an outdoor adventure activity, as there are no local amenities to support this and some inner city schools don’t have the funds to purchase expensive equipment.

Linear and non-linear pedagogy

The basic skills of PE are learned during a child’s school years. This is normally taught using linear pedagogy, a more traditional method. Once the basics are learnt, a pupil may wish to expand on this skill and join a particular sport they excel in. This is where further, more advanced coaching, takes place and in my experience, a more non-linear pedagogy approach is implemented.

Linear pedagogy is teacher centred, instructional, technique-based and practiced method. This style is more advantageous in schools than clubs, where, due to enormous class sizes, it is easier for the teacher to maintain control of the class. However, there are problems with this approach. For example, in my school-day experience, in order for skills to be learned, the teacher would use drills to demonstrate a technique and it was a luxury to play a game. This was a disappointment to my peers and me. Tactics were rarely mentioned therefore my decision-making was poor.

Non-linear pedagogy leans more towards the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) way of teaching where it is player centred, involving engaging an individual in being encouraged to think for themselves in both tactical and technical aspects (Thorpe and Bunker 1989). Its major advantage it that it is designed to guide players to become independent in their decision-making. For example, a typical training session may involve a short modified game to identify the team’s failings. Drill sessions would then take place to strengthen these weaknesses. After the drills, another game would be played to implement the new skill, using their own thoughts. The coach encourages player independence by applying strategies to match an individual player’s game, therefore improving their decision-making throughout a game (Light, 2006).

The main problem with linear pedagogy is that it can be strict and disciplined, almost military style, therefore enjoyment, which should be a major factor, is low on the list of achievements and participating in both PE and sport should definitely achieve this. Lessons become predictable and children tend to pay less attention due to boredom, therefore not much ‘learning’ will take place. Also, too much structure won’t allow those with less ability to achieve the aimed outcome and, instead, may become stressed at their inability to master the skill. This could also damage their confidence. By not allowing children to think for themselves, it reduces their scope of learning and their tactical skills will be limited.

Non-linear pedagogy is not without its faults. At school level, it may lack adequate theoretical teaching from a motors learning perspective. Receiving little instruction from the teacher can result in the child not being able to make the correct decision. It is very difficult to measure whether or not the children are learning anything and it can look a lot like “chaos” (Mack, et al, 2000).


Taking into consideration the research and my own interpretation, it is encouraging to see that both PE and sports has a positive affect on majority of children. However, my findings highlight the need for school’s to reconsider their method of teaching PE. Other less traditional styles should be implemented to enhance the enjoyment of the lesson, which may encourage children to continue their interest in extra-curriculum sporting activities and perhaps join sporting clubs upon leaving school. This will then increase the number of potential elite athletes.

Further research needs to be undertaken to investigate the effects of social behaviour in children. For example, how does participating in PE and sports help reduce crime rate? What can the government do to ensure people from deprived areas are given more opportunities to partake in sport?

Overall, any type of physical activity should be a part of everyone’s lifestyle. Although playing sport is more of an individual choice, it is vital that PE remains a compulsory part of the curriculum at schools as this is the grass roots encouragement they require to continue in their enjoyment and progress to playing sport after leaving school.

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