"What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet," may have been true for Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet, but some members of the health and physical education teachers’ professional association are not so sure. After decades of internal squabbling and dialogue, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) members have voted themselves a new labelundefinedthe Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE).
AAHPERD’s roots go back to 1885, when an ardent group of physical trainers gathered in New York to discuss their profession. These sixty-some leaders of the nascent physical movement formed the Association for the Advancement of Physical Education (AAPE). As the years passed, the name was adjusted to reflect additional specialists. In 1937, Health was included with Recreation and Dance added in 1938 and 1974, respectively.
As the association grew in size, the acronym, AAHPERD, took on an identity all its own. Because of the length and difficult pronunciation of the name, the association struggled to infiltrate society with any noticeable allegiance or enthusiasm. Members knew what the name stood for, but the public, parents, lawmakers, and school administrators never embraced the categorical name or acronym.
Today, with a shrinking membership of 18,000, the Society of Health and Physical Educators will do business as SHAPE America, with a new and equally succinct mission and vision statement. SHAPE’s rejuvenated mission is to advance professional practices and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance, and sport. Their vision is just as crisp, Healthy People–Physically Educated and Physically Active.
Here in the islands, we have a vibrant affiliate of SHAPE America in the Hawaii Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (HAHPERD). In 1952, an equally passionate group of physical educators elected Edward F. Chui from the University of Hawaii as president, and a year later, they voted in Donald Gustuson from University High School as their second president.
Today, with a steadfast membership of 350, HAHPERD leaders continue to come from UH as well as our public and private schools. Like SHAPE America, HAHPERD is a non-profit association with parallel missions focused on promoting how to live a healthy, active lifestyle. The focus of HAHPERD’s efforts on all islands is directed to our school-age population. Concerns related to smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, diet and obesity, and sexually transmitted diseases are frequent topics at HAHPERD conferences and workshops.
The organization’s name is getting mixed reviews from health and physical educators across the country who are worried about how the new name will be received. The lockerroom wireless is picking up some skepticism. Perception run wild when one hears that too many think the new name sounds like a fitness magazine or a weight prevention program, and rightly so.
The vibes locally are much different. Lynn Tagami, a former HAHPERD president who teaches physical education at Kamehameha Schools, likes the name because “it is easier to say, remember, and pronounce.”
The name game battles are now a part of the association’s historical growing pains. These internal skirmishes were a result of members trying to protect their name’s elimination from the acronym. Concerns will linger, but Tagami hopes SHAPE America will help unite the profession.
Another sport and physical education stalwart and two-time HAHPERD president, Shelley Kahuanui Fey from Punahou School, gives the new moniker two thumbs up. She says, “I like the way SHAPE is presentedundefinedas a verb as opposed to the noun describing physical aspects of the body.” She intends to begin using it in HAHPERD literature and messages. For example, Shape a future where healthy is the norm, Shape a standard of excellence in physical education and health education, and Shape the lifelong habits of young people. “How about this,” Fey adds, “SHAPE America with A.L.O.H.A.”
Time will tell if the SHAPE acronym can help make the rebranded association more recognizable? While there was never a greater need for a physically educated society, SHAPE America’s ultimate success will depend upon the performance of the professionals themselves.
Let’s hope Juliet Capulet was right.