AAHPERD: The Challenges Ahead
written by Steve
Jefferies, publisher pelinks4u
During fall 2011, I was invited to be a candidate for the
2012 AAHPERD President-elect position. In preparation, I decided
to contact individuals who had served, or were currently serving,
in the Alliance's national, district, or state associations.
Almost 50 sometimes hour-long phone conversations followed,
throughout which I took detailed notes. Intentionally, I initiated
conversations with individuals who I anticipated would have
differing opinions about the status of the Alliance and the
best way to move forward. I discovered that despite some key
differences there was substantial agreement about the urgent
need for change. Without exception there was a common and
clearly passionate concern about AAHPERD's future.
Collectively, these phone interviews provided a perspective
I decided was worth sharing. This essay is a compilation of
what I learned from my conversations. No claim is made as
to the objectivity. Nor do I plan to identify any of the interviewees.
I've attempted to compile information in a meaningful order.
I've tried to be accurate with any dates and data. Any errors
are my own. Differing opinions, especially on important topics
are identified and compared. I've tried to avoid inserting
my own opinion but have sometimes added background information.
At this critical crossroads in the future of AAHPERD, it's
my hope that this essay will help inform and contribute to
the discussion of the challenges ahead.
The Urgency for Change and Previous Efforts
While there's certainly no lack of desire about wanting the
Alliance to have a successful future, it's clear that changes
are urgently needed on many fronts. The organizational name
"AAHPERD" is poorly understood, and not only by
the public. Members are confused by its complicated structure.
Five national associations plus a Research Consortium, 6 district
associations, and then 50+ state associations, most of which
share the same name but are in fact entirely independent organizations,
are tough to explain and comprehend.
If current members were asked to design a new professional
association, tomorrow's Alliance would probably look very
different. The late and highly respected management writer
Drucker succinctly put it another way when he challenged
business leaders to ask themselves what they would choose
to look like if they hadn't inherited their existing structure.
For almost 20 years, AAHPERD leaders have deliberated organizational
restructuring. The most current changes proposed by the Board
of Governor's Organizational Planning Committee (OPC) were
based on the recommendations of two committees created by
recent AAHPERD Presidents Monica Mize and Vicki Worrell. Members
of the Alliance's Vision Committee I and Vision Committee
II examined close to 20 committee reports going back several
decades. Without exception, each of the previous committees
recommended organizational and structural changes to the Alliance.
The solutions proposed differed but were consistent in reporting
organizational inefficiencies and urging immediate change.
Reluctance to change is understandable due to the uncertainty
of outcomes. AAHPERD's complex structure has resulted in many
independently functioning entities, each of which has something
to gain or lose if the Alliance changes. Unfortunately, while
the Alliance deliberates structural change, members and nonmembers
working in the professions it strives to represent are losing
jobs. Unable to quickly respond to events impacting these
professions, the Alliance is missing opportunities to establish
partnerships and collaborate effectively with groups that
share similar missions. In little more than a decade, numerous
organizations have sprung up with goals that overlap those
of the Alliance.
For example, the "Let's Move" campaign headed by
the First Lady, created a unique opportunity not just for
highlighting efforts to increase physical activity among children,
but also for focusing public attention on the importance of
school physical education. NASPE was quick to respond with
its complementary "Let's Move in School" initiative,
but its efforts were compromised when the initiative (spurred
by what some have characterized as another well-intentioned
but misguided Alliance Assembly vote), was adopted as an Alliance-wide
program. As many have pointed out, AAHPERD is structured to
provide leadership for products, programs, and services through
its national associations. AAHPERD was not designed nor organized
to lead or conduct its own independent programs outside of
the national associations.
This compromised arrangement resulted in lost opportunities
for NASPE specifically, and the Alliance generally, to develop
closer relationships with Let's Move proponents and to simultaneously
highten public awareness of the need for increased support
for public school physical education. Many other examples
of lost opportunities for closer collaboration can be cited.
Groups such as Action
for Healthy Kids, the Alliance
for a Healthier Generation, the ASCD,
Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, the Academy
of Nutrition and Dietetics, the After
Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP) and others, have all
created programs targeting school-aged children. None of these
groups has an effective school-based delivery system for its
programs. This opportunity is unique within the professions
represented by the Alliance but to date this advantage has
not been fully leveraged.
A Refocused Mission
The union of five national professional associations and a
research entity explains the Alliance's current wide sweeping
professional mission statement. Although well intentioned,
there's broad agreement today that the Alliance can no longer
continue to strive to be "all things, to all people"
and in the future will need to become more focused to survive.
Focusing on "what" and "to whom" is where
opinions vary and debate intensifies.
A few critical facts are indisputable based on member data.
First, approximately 85% of the current AAHPERD membership
are affiliated with NASPE and identify themselves as teachers
of physical education. Second, the vast majority of Alliance
members work in some type of educational institution, mainly
trying to meet the needs of children, teens, and young adults.
However, even though most Alliance members teach physical
education, it's also true that many members are responsible
for teaching health, dance, various physical activities, and
often coach sports. This recognition led representatives on
both of the Alliance's Vision Committees to urge consideration
of the idea that physical education should be advocated (as
others have suggested in the past) as an educational process
rather than a class in school taught once or twice a week
in the gymnasium. In other words, in becoming physically educated
young people should experience all different types of physical
activity, including dance and sports as well as learning information
that will enable them to develop healthy lifestyle habits.
Moving forward this way, it's been suggested that the work
of all of the existing national associations could be integrated
into one body that is primarily focused on children, teens,
and young adults in educational settings.
Many AAHPERD members were perplexed by the Board of Governors'
decision this past year to urge Alliance voting delegates
to approve unification prior to drafting and agreeing upon
a new mission statement for the unified association. To them
it made little sense to make structural changes to the Alliance
prior to clarifying its mission. Critics pointed to the "structure
follows function" adage. Almost certainly complicating
resolution of the unified association's new mission has been
the urging by some members for the association to adopt a
"physical activity" focus, and the insistence by
others that "health" be part of any new mission
statement. As many have pointed out, if the mission expands
it will end up largely unchanged and add confusion rather
than clarity to the work of the new association.
Contrary to other organizations whose name reflects what they
do or who they are, the name "AAHPERD" reveals little
about its purpose or members. As an alliance of differently
named national associations each with its own mission, not
surprisingly the public rarely sees AAHPERD as the "go
to" organization for the professions it endeavors to
represent. In today's fast changing world, it's clear that
AAHPERD struggles to exert leadership in the areas it purports
to serve. In striving to represent a multiplicity of interests,
AAHPERD is not recognized as the national authority in anything
A historical perspective may be helpful. Today's Alliance
began in 1885 as the Association for the Advancement of Physical
Education (AAPE). The following year it became the American
Association for the Advancement of Physical Education (AAAPE).
In 1903 it transitioned into the American Physical Education
Association (APEA), then in 1937 "health" was added
and it renamed itself the American Association for Health
and Physical Education (AAHPE).
Adding the word "recreation" a year later created
the American Assocation for Health, Physical Education, and
Recreation (AAHPER). In 1974 the addition of "dance"
completed the AAHPERD acronym although in 1979 the word "Alliance"
replaced "Association." A few years ago, a belief
that the "AAHPERD" acronym needed updating spurred
the Board of Governors to propose another name revision. This
motion was defeated by Delegate Assembly members reportedly
due to the absence of the words "Physical Education"
in the new name proposal.
Much of the current discussion about an appropriate name
for the proposed unified one-national association has revealed
fears in some quarters about the potential for NASPE to "takeover"
the Alliance. Not so widely recognized is that as the largest
and most active of AAHPERD's national associations, many NASPE
leaders are equally nervous about unification and the potential
of losing their identity. As the only national professional
organization for physical education teachers, NASPE is already
a widely recognized name brand. The possibility of being forced
to rebrand under a different organizational name, primarily
to appease the reluctance of a minority of Alliance members
to unify as a new "NASPE," is disconcerting to many
in Reston and certainly active NASPE members.
Vision Committee members intentionally avoided deliberating
a new name for the Alliance. Aside from an unwillingness to
devote precious discussion time to a very uncertain outcome,
it was felt that this task demanded business skills beyond
the expertise of the committee. Many of those I interviewed
felt that renaming and rebranding were not questions best
directed to members of the Alliance.
In recent years, two somewhat similar organizations to AAHPERD
underwent name changes. In 2010, the YMCA sought to revitalize
itself. It renamed itself as simply the "Y." What
began as a Bible study group founded in London in 1844 is
now focused on youth development, healthy living, and social
responsibility. Spurred on by circumstances similar to the
Alliance, the Canadian equivalent to AAHPERD has now renamed
itself "PHE Canada." In striving for a "more
visible and influential presence in the world" it changed
its name and rebranded itself to be "nimble, effective,
Today, some members are fearful of a loss of identity should
the new unified association simply be called "NASPE."
These fears are inspiring some to advocate for the inclusion
of "Physical Activity" in any new association name.
They suggest that physical education is one aspect of physical
activity. But others point to the profusion of "physical
activity" focused organizations. How would the new version
of the Alliance distinguish itself nationally if it became
one more among a plethora of national and state groups trying
to promote physical activity?
But advocates for a "physical activity" focus in
the new Alliance point to "physical activity" as
fast becoming widely recognized as a major public health concern.
"Physical education" they see as more of a liability
for advancing the Alliance. In the context of growing fears
about worsening obesity and its associated negative health
consequences, physical activity promotion is attracting increased
political interest and federal and foundation funding support.
Ironically, this is occurring at the same time that physical
education continues to struggle for public support, and programs
and positions are being cut in many school districts nationwide.
AAHPERD Board & President
The current AAHPERD Board of Governors (BOG) consists of 15
individuals: Three Presidents (elect, current, past), 6 District
representatives, 5 national association representatives, and
a Research Consortium representative. Governance of the Board
is primarily invested in its Executive Committee that consists
of the three Presidents plus the Alliance’s Executive
Director who serves as a non-voting member.
Revealed, in my conversations, was a lack of trust that some
members in leadership roles outside of the BOG have in the
Board’s decisions and decision-making authority. The
atmosphere and the antagonistic relationship these feelings
have fostered have clearly impeded the ability of the Board
to govern. Because BOG decisions have to be ratified by the
Alliance Assembly annually at the spring national AAHPERD
convention, it's easy to understand the slow pace of organizational
The recent OPC report recommended Board restructuring. A
recurring complaint by many Board members has been the frequently
differing and unclear understanding that Board members have
of their role. Because the members of districts or national
associations elect them, some BOG members see themselves as
representative of these groups. Consequently, they attempt
to bring the perspective of this group to Board discussion
and vote on what is best for their group. Frustrating to some
BOG members has been a perception that some individuals clearly
consult and sometimes share Board communications with others
in the group that elected them before committing to BOG decision-making.
A contrasting view of what should be the role of Board members
is that they should consider themselves representatives from
(not of) whatever group elected them, but vote on what is
best for the overall good of the Alliance. Because Board members
are better informed than most outsiders, there's a view that
if the Alliance is to move forwards BOG members need to be
willing to take personal responsibility for making the best
decisions in everyone's interests.
Just prior to the Boston Convention, the Board discussed
the OPC's recommendations for restructuring. Through presentations
and readings it was pointed out that a current trend in association
governance is to reduce the size of governing boards. Also,
rather than making it a priority to balance group or geographical
representation, many organizations today are recruiting Board
members to meet the organization's needs. A comparable analogy
using a sport example is to imagine the absurdity of trying
to select a successful athletic team based on equal representation
of the players' geographical location rather than their ability.
A prevailing view is that in association governance as in
sports, what's primarily needed are specific skills and that
where people live doesn't much matter. In many instances,
associations are now inviting Board members from outside professions
who would bring some highly valued expertise. Coupled with
this perspective is the need for Boards to recognize that
their role is to provide leadership and advice, but not to
get in the way. It is for the professionally paid staff of
the organization to be given the support and resources they
need to implement the Board's vision. The Board is responsible
for ensuring that work gets done, but not for doing the work.
What is or should be the role of the Alliance President?
According to one Past-President, the Alliance President has
"little power but a lot of influence." Through representing
the Alliance publicly and at many professional meetings around
the country, the President serves to connect the Board of
Governors with the membership. Sometimes not understood, is
that the Board of Governors typically only meets twice annually,
so the President's role most of the time is that of a communicator
rather than a meeting administrator.
Past-Presidents report that it's the President's role to
see the "big picture," to try to create "win-win"
situations, to move the association forward, and to avoid
attempting to implement any personal agenda. In the OPC unification
recommendations the idea was proposed to switch the election
of the President from a vote of the Alliance Assembly at the
convention to a member-wide postal or electronic vote. Advocates
point both to the acceptance of membership-wide voting common
in other associations, and also suggest it enfranchises the
entire membership to elect its leader rather than a small
group of selected delegates.
Supporters of sustaining the existing presidential-election
voting procedures believe it beneficial to have candidates
attend convention district caucuses and national association
meetings to answer questions. They argue that delegates at
the convention are better-informed member representatives.
Seeing candidates in person, and listening to their ideas
and responses to questions, allows voters to make more informed
decisions than would be possible from simply reading prepared
statements delivered online. The impact of the current presidential
selection process on the willingness of individuals to be
considered as presidential candidates has received little
attention. It should perhaps be noted that these individuals
are expected to be available to attend meetings for about
8-days of the convention week, face often repetitive questions
from about a dozen different groups, and fund the entire experience
Largely ignored in the ongoing organizational debate among
members has been the demoralizing impact the slow pace of
decision-making has had on the Alliance's Reston-based professional
staff. Uncertainty about the Alliance's future, and their
personal job security, has impacted staff morale and contributed
to staff turnover. Some Alliance staff members report feeling
both undervalued and underpaid; feelings counterproductive
to the needs of an organization that based on membership data
is clearly in decline.
Too often overlooked in the debate over restructuring has
been the ongoing and precipitous decline in Alliance membership.
In 1951, the Alliance had more than 51,000 members. In spring
2012, the total Alliance membership was around 17,000. Just
last year the Alliance lost approximately 11% or 1000 members.
It should be appreciated that membership declines have been
reported by most professional associations. But this decline
although not unique to AAHPERD, remains a worrying trend.
With an estimated 300,000 individuals teaching health and
physical education nationwide, there exists a huge potential
member base. For professional associations, size matters because
a group's size impacts its revenue-generating potential through
member purchases, advertising sponsorships, and the ability
to influence public policy through lobbying and advocacy.
Why are so many individuals choosing not to become professional
members? One belief is that in the prevailing atmosphere of
Alliance turmoil there's a hesitancy to join or rejoin. Who
wants to join an organization that appears to be in disarray?
Certainly the economic downturn, and its impact both on jobs
and disposable income, is another possible explanation. Some
have suggested strategies for reduced membership fees while
others point out that in comparison to many professional associations
joining the Alliance is relatively inexpensive. Cost, they
believe is not the problem.
It's been suggested that the Alliance has lost sight of focusing
on its members' (and potential members') needs. In all likelihood
few of the Alliance's existing 17,000 members care much about
how the Alliance is structured or its name. And yet over the
past few years, the BOG and the Delegate Assembly voters have
been almost totally preoccupied deliberating issues related
primarily to structure and function rather than significant
professional issues or member needs.
Were resolving the decline in membership easy it would have
already been accomplished. It hasn't, and in the eyes of many
the decline cannot be allowed to continue without a more serious
and concerted focus. If the Alliance is unable to establish
itself as a professional association, and if professionals
in the field continue to see the Alliance as irrelevant to
meeting their needs, it clearly faces a precarious future.
The Alliance's current budget is approximately $10 million.
Revenue has been declining for several years and AAHPERD has
been drawing on its reserves since about 2009. Four of the
main revenue streams for AAHPERD are Memberships, Joint Projects,
Grants and Investments, and Conventions. The decline in membership
has already been noted.
With Joint Projects, in 2008 the Alliance lost 1/5 of its
operating budget when the American Heart Association changed
its formula for sharing revenue from Jump Rope for Heart and
Hoops for Heart. The joint NASPE/AAPAR
Head Start Body Start grant provided additional revenue
for 4 years but expires shortly and the CDC grant to NASPE
has been reduced. The Alliance's investment revenue dropped
during the nation's economic decline. Only in the past couple
of years has investment income shown improvement. The impact
of the cancelled Boston convention on revenue is obvious,
and Charlotte (site of the 2013 convention) is not recognized
as a major convention location and unlikely to attract the
attendance typical in other destination cities.
It is a testament to the visionary thinking and leadership
of former and current Alliance leaders and staff that creating
significant financial reserves was a focus during earlier
and better economic times. Without this reserve fund, the
Alliance would today be in perilous financial straits. Presently,
the reserves of most of the national associations have fallen
below targeted levels. The presence of the reserves has given
the Alliance a small window of time to resolve its organization
and to reestablish a sound financial footing.
One promise of unification is that it will reduce expenses
most immediately through eliminating the duplication of efforts
by five separate national associations, many of which have
for years been competing with one another for support from
the same sources outside the Alliance. Also likely to be targeted
for cost saving reductions are the Alliance's approximately
118 awards, 17 magazines, and 10 journals.
Elimination of the "check" system through which
a portion of membership dues is allocated to the budgets of
the Alliance's separate national associations might also have
positive outcomes. For years, members joining the Alliance
have had the opportunity to affiliate with two of the five
national associations. Because most members work in physical
education, NASPE is often the first selection and therefore
receives the bulk of membership revenue. This means that the
remaining four national associations are in effect competing
for a member's second affiliate choice. Members who might
be interested in supporting more than two national associations
only have two choices. Consequently, despite member interest,
some national associations don't qualify to receive membership
income. Should the Alliance unify, competition between national
associations for membership revenue would presumably no longer
One of the most interesting aspects of the relationship between
the state professional associations (AHPERDs) and the Alliance
is state participation in the Alliance Assembly. Representatives
appointed by the state associations make up the majority of
the Alliance Assembly, the primary decision-making body of
AAHPERD. It is this Assembly that meets annually on the final
day of the national convention to ratify Board of Governor
decisions or propose and act upon alternatives.
Critics of the Assembly are puzzled at the extent of distrust
many delegates display toward the Board of Governors. They
point out that 6 of the BOG representative positions are,
after al,l both nominated and elected by the district associations.
But perhaps of greater concern is the way in which the Assembly
provides the independently operating state associations the
power to dictate what the Alliance can and cannot do, an authority
that history shows they have not been shy to demonstrate.
While true that each of the representatives is also required
to be an Alliance member, the fact that they are nominated
to serve by their state associations concerns Assembly critics.
The seating of delegates at the Assembly meeting, based on
state affiliation, serves to reinforce a "state representation"
rather than "member representation" mentality. Rather
than being member representatives of the Alliance, critics
argue that these individuals see themselves as state representatives
and look to their state leaders for decision-making guidance
when voting. Should the Assembly be preserved in the future,
some has suggested that one improvement that might encourage
"doing what's best for the Alliance" would be to
eliminate all seating assignments.
Advocates for maintaining the Alliance Assembly see its relationship
with the Board as similar to Congress and the Executive Branch:
An important system of checks and balances. Reflecting upon
decisions made by the BOG in recent years, Assembly proponents
believe it has served to prevent several ill-conceived BOG
proposals. They suggest that most individuals appointed to
the Assembly are well informed and knowledgeable on the issues
to be discussed. This is a point of contention.
Critics point out that, in many instances, delegates are
appointed mostly because of their willingness to attend the
Assembly on the last day of the Convention. Often they are
very uninformed and tend to follow the advice of other state
leaders. It's suggested that in the past the delegate role
provided informed representation otherwise unavailable from
the general membership. Today however, rapidly changing technology
has opened numerous communication channels with the entire
membership. Conversely, an argument against decision-making
based on member wide voting is the typical low voter participation.
Assembly critics point to what they consider have been several
unwise decisions in recent years following motions created
and passed on the floor of the Assembly without full consideration,
especially of the financial or organizational implications.
For example, in 2011 following passionate presentations by
a small number of Alliance members, the Assembly voted to
overturn the Board proposal to restructure the NAGWS. In doing
so it failed to consider the dire financial status of NAGWS
and precluded the operational changes that NAGWS leaders had
planned to implement. Rather than enabling the transition
of NAGWS to a new supportive and workable structure, the Assembly
vote in complete contrast to its intent, in effect handicapped
the immediate way forward for the NAGWS.
One suggestion made by the OPC was to consider eliminating
the Alliance Assembly and substituting in its place some type
of member forum. This would provide members the opportunity
to publicly express their views. It would not however be a
decision-making group. Opposition to this proposed change
is not surprisingly focused on the removal of a "check
and balance" system of association governance. But advocates
have pointed to the numerous (although still contentious)
legal interpretations of the Alliance's constitution that
view the decision-making authority of the Alliance to belong
solely to the Board of Governors.
Interpreted this way, the Alliance Assembly has no authority
to reverse the Board's decisions. Change advocates support
quick compliance to this new decision-making relationship
for reasons both legal and practical. They point out that
requiring Alliance Assembly approval prevents AAHPERD from
responding quickly to opportunities and events in a rapidly
changing world. It slows down organizational functioning and
The impact of a unified national association, and possible
adjustments to the existing Alliance district structure, is
one of the most divisive points of contention. There is a
palpable suspicion among some members that unification as
proposed by AAHPERD's Organization Planning Committee (OPC)
would lead to the demise of district associations. Feelings
of distrust have been amplified in recent years through the
Alliance's imposed restructuring of district financial record
keeping. Although justified by Alliance leaders as a legal
necessity, it nonetheless was perceived negatively and actively
resisted by many district leaders.
Not surprisingly, perspectives about districts often vary
depending on an individual's past and current district connection
and district size. Some districts have much more to lose than
others. It's no secret that among AAHPERD's 6-district organizational
structure there is a huge size disparity. Due to the population
base, Eastern District and Southern District dominate in size
and available resources. In contrast to the other four districts,
Eastern and Southern have full time Executive Directors, numerous
committees, and have the capacity to organize a myriad of
programs for their members.
Those who have played active roles in these two districts
attest to the positive professional impact the districts have
had and continue to have on district members, and more specifically
on their own professional development. District activities,
they point out, have provided the stepping-stones for the
emergence of generations of professional leaders. Districts
they argue are also more attuned to responding to regional
issues and have the local knowledge needed to effectively
implement nationally developed programs.
It's worth appreciating that some districts have longer histories
than the Alliance's national associations and began life as
entirely separate, independent organizations. For example,
beginning in 1912 as the Middle West Society of Physical Education
and Hygiene, in 2012 the Midwest District celebrated its centennial
anniversary. Significantly, its creation was reportedly motivated
by concerns among Midwesterners about the dominance of people
from east coast states in the American Physical Education
Association (APEA) - the group later to become AAHPERD. Legendary
national professional leaders such as Clark Hetherington,
Thomas Wood, J. B. Nash, Jesse Feiring Williams and others
emerged through initial involvement in this district.
Despite this historical legacy, others see the situation
today differently. As part of the Alliance's organizational
structure, they believe that the primary purpose of districts
should be to support, promote, and disseminate the products,
programs, and services created by AAHPERD's national associations.
In practice, the extent to which this occurs varies widely
in practice, sometimes due to financial limitations and sometimes
due to choice. There appears disagreement as to the extent
to which districts see themselves as arms of the Alliance
or independent organizations. Of course in reality there is
a symbiotic relationship. Districts do not have separate membership
enrollment. Individuals automatically become members of districts
as part of their Alliance membership.
Importantly then, the success of tomorrow's Alliance is critical
to the future of every AAHPERD district. The argument is made
that the Alliance's focus today must be on what is good for
all members and that inequities need to be addressed. Today
the disparate size of the 6 districts has created a "have's"
and "have-nots" situation. Eastern and Southern
districts are financially strong and don't worry about the
consequences on their organizations of changes to the Alliance's
organizational structure. Smaller districts, currently operating
with limited budgets and part-time management, might stand
to benefit from organizational change. Among the urgings of
the OPC report was the recommendation that the Alliance reexamine
Advocates for examining potential changes to districts emphasize
the need to adapt to changing times. They argue that the local
connections and communication advantages enjoyed by districts
in the past can be met through today's technological advances.
They suggest that Alliance expenses can be significantly reduced
through a more streamlined organizational structure. And they
also point out that our profession is in many ways only as
strong as its weakest link. News today is no longer local.
It doesn't matter where members' programs and positions are
cut around the nation.
When the Franklin Pierce School District in Washington State
eliminated it's middle school PE program and replaced it with
physical activity offered by the Y, or when a Florida legislator
proposed eliminating the state's middle school PE mandate,
PE proponents and critics heard about it regardless of where
they lived. Today's technology makes this type of information
immediately available to everyone and potentially negatively
affects all of us nationwide. Regional thinking, they argue,
is out of touch with today's world and the Alliance needs
to adopt a more coordinated national approach to supporting
the professions we choose to represent.
State AHPERD Organization and the SAM Group
As previously noted, few people (members and non-members)
comprehend the relationship between state associations and
the national AAHPERD. Currently, many individuals mistakenly
believe that membership in one or other of these organizations
provides a common membership. Certainly, naming similarities
can partly explain this confusion. Most state organizations
refer to themselves as state "Alliances of Health, Physical
Education, Recreation, and Dance." But additionally,
the professional activities embraced by state organizations
are mostly based on the products, programs, and services developed
by the national associations of AAHPERD. Only a small number
of states, that similar to the two large AAHPERD districts
have a higher population base, are able to fully fund leadership
positions and conduct unique state-focused professional activities.
The independence of state AHPERDs does however create an
obvious conflict: The Alliance and state AHPERDs both compete
for the same members. Those individuals who do recognize the
state-national distinction must choose between memberships
or be willing to pay two separate membership fees. It is widely
acknowledged today that today's young professionals are growing
increasingly reluctant to join groups and pay for benefits.
Consequently, this dual membership conflict almost certainly
undermines member recruitment efforts for both groups. Membership
data reveals that a relatively small proportion of state members
choose to simultaneously become AAHPERD members, yet the products,
programs, and services they benefit from are primarily created
at the national level albeit without their membership support.
Many state leaders would like to see a closer relationship
with the national association, and yet emphasize that state
associations are vital and uniquely qualified to meet statewide
needs. In contrast to Alliance districts, state associations
have a distinct geographical connection with their members.
One area of special concern to the Alliance and to every state
is Joint Projects (Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart).
Income generated through Joint Projects provides approximately
20% of the Alliance's budget and an even higher proportion
of annual revenue for many states.
Interestingly, public school teachers who are neither members
of national nor state professional associations raise much
of this revenue. It's likely that in addition to helping to
prevent heart disease, better coordination of promotional
efforts between national and state associations for Joint
Projects could likely significantly increase revenue. Conversely,
if unification efforts fail to attend to sustaining AAHPERD's
relationship with the AHA in jointly promoting JRFH and HFH,
both the national and state associations would quickly face
a huge financial crisis.
Fears about excessive state influence on Alliance decisions
are from some perspectives targeted at the Society for Association
Managers (SAM) group. SAM members include the Executive Directors
of each of the state and district AHPERDs. Those inside this
group point to the many benefits enjoyed by state and district
organizations through opportunities for SAM members to share
information and expertise. Many state Executive Directors
have years of experience and can provide a historical perspective
that would otherwise be missing. Others fear the political
power of the relatively small number of Alliance members within
SAMs because of their ability to impact voting in the Alliance
Assembly through controlling the selection of the majority
Should the Alliance unify, many members hope it would lead
to clearer communication, better collaboration, and an overall
improved relationship with states. Closer coordination of
advocacy to counter threats to cut members' programs and positions,
and the creation of a single fee joint memberships are two
primary areas frequently cited as worth exploring. In contrast
to districts, it would be up to each state to consider implementing
similar structural reforms or remain unchanged.
Already, there are differences between states. A small number
mimic the national structure and are named "alliances."
They maintain separate groups for health, physical education,
recreation, and dance. Others call themselves "associations"
and have one integrated structure responsible for all areas
of professional interest. Perhaps significant, in view of
the direction that national unification appears currently
headed, at least one state, Wyoming, has renamed itself as
"Wyoming Health & Physical Education."
This essay was completed prior to the recent July announcement
that the 2012 Alliance Assembly voted to unify the five national
associations and the Research Consortium into one as yet unnamed
association. The additional recommendations of the Organizational
Planning Committee (OPC) to the Alliance BOG remain to be
July 28, 2012
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