Using the Olympics in Your PE Lessons


Olympic symbols made of ice in Russia

Do you ever wish your students cared about exercising as much as they cared about watching athletes on TV?

Even the most sedentary students will usually be excited by the prospect of watching the Olympics, so don’t miss the opportunity to channel this upcoming sporting event into your teaching. Let’s take a look at how PE lessons inspired by incredible athletics are sure to have your students going for the gold.

Meet the Mini-Olympics

Forget track and field day, and introduce your own mini-Olympics event before the end of the year. Rename your 50-meter dash, “ancient Greek races,” and call the high jump “heroic heights” instead. Simply rebranding popular track and field activities and accompanying them with a little storytelling and genuine excitement goes a long way in engaging your students. Extra points if you can incorporate the Winter Olympics theme.

You can also adapt your traditional PE lesson plans to extend your own Olympics-inspired event. Many popular PE activities are already part of the games – just look at gymnastics, volleyball, or tennis in the Summer Olympics. Even some of the sports that we’ll see in the upcoming Winter Olympics, like hockey or curling, can be adapted to the classroom by using different equipment and a little creative thinking.

Praise Participation

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,” said Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Games in 1896. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to a little friendly competition.

Try to balance encouragement and rewards for all levels of participation with a healthy degree of challenge. One way to do this is to reframe the competition; maybe it’s the students against themselves! Using Olympic training techniques, like timing activities and tracking performance over several days, can allow students to see how they are progressing in a particular activity. What’s more, they’re sure to feel motivated by their improvement.

Focus on the ongoing effort, not just the win. After all, Pierre de Coubertin also said, “The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Take It a Step Further

The Olympics are about more than just sports: they have huge cultural, social, and historical importance. See if you can work with other educators at your school to immerse your students in all aspects of this international sporting event.

Embrace the spirit of the games and have students pick countries to represent. They can make their flags in art class, learn where their country is located in geography class, and discover their country’s national anthem in music class. History class can be used to explore how the games came to be, and students can even complete athlete profiles, researching and reporting on the backgrounds of their favorite athletes. This will ensure the full Olympics experience, while enriching your students’ cultural awareness.

Have Training Days

The Olympics may take place over just a couple of weeks every four years, but ask any athlete, and they’ll tell you that training lasts a whole lot longer. Students may not realize just how much work goes into preparing for the Olympics, but once they do, it could drive them to train a little harder each class.

Stretch the Olympic spirit beyond the games themselves by using occasional “training days” to keep students motivated, on track, and entertained. Don’t forget to use some motivational music, so your students can feel like they’re in a real life training montage! You can also explore the Olympics Values Education Program for some creative ideas from the organization itself.

For more inspiration and easy-to-follow activities, check out SPARK’s wide range of fun and effective PE lesson plans now.

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