Introduction / History
In 1987, the children in Len Saunders' physical education classes made history in the momentous youth fitness exchange between the former Soviet Union (the U.S.S.R, now Russia) and the United States (Read New York Times Article).
The late George Allen, legendary football coach and current chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports had just come back from a trip to the Soviet Union. He was impressed with the physical fitness skills of the Soviet children. He stated in numerous newspaper articles how the American children could not meet the high fitness standards set in the Soviet Union. He claimed that the Soviet children were more physically fit than their American counterparts. Every time Saunders opened up a newspaper, he would read article after article related to this topic. Something had to be done!
All the aforementioned articles spoke of a historic fitness exchange between the Soviet and American Children. A small, predetermined numbers of schools from each country were going to exchange fitness tests. The Soviet children were going to acquire the fitness test administered to children in the United States, created by The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The American children were going to take the Soviet interpretation of their fitness test given to children in the USSR. Len Saunders wanted to be part of this in the worst way. He did not know how he could get his school selected for this meaningful exchange. He really wanted to make Mr. Allen eat his words, so he decided to personally call up The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports to find out how he could get involved. He was fortunate enough to speak to Mr. Allen directly on the phone, and the rest is history. Mr. Allen agreed to send Saunders the Soviet test, as the two men began to communicate on a frequent basis over the next few months.
George Allen became so proud of Saunders' students, he fired off a letter to his good friend, President Ronald Reagan. This letter was forwarded to Saunders and his students, and became a great motivational tool for the school to perform at a higher level. Shortly after, Mr. Allen received a positive response back from the White House on the great accomplishments of Saunders' students. Before Saunders knew it, local, national, and international media (TV & Print) started to show up at his school to watch the children train. It began to turn into a major media event. After months of hard training, the moment of truth arrived. It was time to take the Soviet test, the "real deal". When all was said and done, 90% of Saunders' students passed the entire Soviet test (including the dreaded pull-ups). The American public was very proud of the children at Saunders' school for meeting the challenge. Taking a test from another country actually motivated the students to train harder with a higher degree of success!
Now, the opportunity is there for you to participate in a youth fitness exchange with another country. Click the information link above to find out how your school or organization can join in on the fun!