On the heels of a Republican sweep into Congress with the election Nov. 5, the fitness and sporting good industry may experience both pluses and minuses. “It’s a glass-half-full, glass-half-empty deal,” said Tom Cove, who represents the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and lobbies for fitness, sports, and physical education interests in Washington, D.C. Cove told SNEWS that several champions of physical education and fitness were re-elected or newly elected to seats. They include: Ted Stevens (R-AK), who has always been a strong supporter of PE, Title IX, and fitness and who will now head the Senate Appropriations Committee; Tom Harkins, (D-IA), who unfortunately lost his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee in the Republican sweep; and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), both also strong supporters of youth sports. In addition, all supporters of the IHRSA-backed legislation to allow employers to deduct the cost of providing health club memberships to its employees were re-elected.
The downside, Cove said, is that “the Republican dominated agenda represents a singular problem in promoting physical activity.” That’s because unless you’re after tax cuts or discussing war and defense issues, there doesn’t seem to be any money left at the end of the day for the fitness issues. “The funding crisis is much worse,” he said.
SNEWS View: It’s time for the fitness industry to get involved. These issues of PE and sports may seem very far away from selling equipment, but they aren’t. If you get kids involved in physical activity, they grow up to be active adults who buy equipment, join clubs and get outdoors for walks. And the PE of today is not the PE most of us knew — It involves more than throwing a ball around. Instead, PE classes today try in most cases to teach lifetime skills and fitness and, with funding provided as much as possible under grant programs or through the PEP program, may even allow schools to purchase equipment. Getting involved is especially important to try to convince President Bush, who personally is one of the most fit presidents we have had who actively promotes his activity as a way of life, to actually loosen the purse strings to fund some local programming to promote fitness. Although he strongly believes in fitness, that belief hasn’t translated into funding. With a little extra push, maybe the funding will match the belief — or at least come closer.