Campus: San Diego State University -- June 06, 2003

San Diego State Professor Receives International Award For Contributions to Sport Pedagogy

Thomas McKenzie Credited with Developing National PE Curricula

Thomas L. McKenzie, a professor in San Diego State University’s Department of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, has received a top international award for his significant contribution to sport pedagogy.

McKenzie was awarded the International Olympic Committee President’s Prize, the highest honor bestowed by the Association Internationale des Ecoles Superieures d’Education Physique (AIESEP). He is only the third American to win this honor since former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch established the $10,000 prize in 1978.

The award honors McKenzie’s research, scholarship and program development in the field of sport and exercise pedagogy for more than two decades. It will be presented on July 30 at the opening of the AISEP World Congress in Boston.

McKenzie is co-founder and intervention director of the Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) program, which has been adopted by more than 2,000 schools in 25 states. SPARK was only the second elementary physical education (PE) program to be recognized as “exemplary” by the National Diffusion Network of the U.S. Department of Education. It provides teachers and schools with curricula and training that improve standard PE by increasing the physical activity, fitness and movement skills involved. SPARK also promotes health-related activity during after-school hours.

McKenzie said he appreciates the peer recognition of his work, but is especially gratified that greater numbers of scientists and health practitioners have sought to understand the importance of physical activity and fitness in young people.

"I've been in this field more than 30 years,” he said. “Only in the last decade has overwhelming evidence emerged to show the impact that physical activity has in reducing young people’s risk for serious public health problems that show up much later, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Finding ways to increase the physical activity of children should enable future generations of adults to be healthier and enjoy a better quality of life as it helps society to handle health care demands and costs."

In addition to SPARK, McKenzie has been a major investigator on five other long-term, multidisciplinary projects funded by the National Institutes of Health. He is currently involved in a five-year obesity prevention study in Latino communities, and has worked on two separate intervention studies of physical activity promotion in middle schools. He was also the intervention chair of physical education for the multi-site Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health (CATCH).

McKenzie’s projects paired him with SDSU colleagues in other disciplines, notably James Sallis in the Psychology Department and John Elder in the Graduate School of Public Health. Together, McKenzie and Sallis have gained international recognition for their research on child and adolescent physical activity.

Sallis, who first collaborated with McKenzie in 1985, praised his associate’s skill and research methodology. “I’ve come to rely on Thom for having one of a kind expertise,” Sallis said. “He trained as a behavioral psychologist, which is rare in the PE field. Thom’s studies rely on direct observation, which is a much better way to collect information than asking people about their habits.”

McKenzie has authored more than 110 articles and book chapters on physical activity, physical education, teacher preparation and applied psychology. In the late 1980s, he was a sports psychology consultant for the U.S. women’s volleyball team at the Seoul Olympic Games, the Pan American Games and the World Championships. Born in Canada, he was a PE teacher, coach and an assistant principal before joining San Diego State in 1980. He holds a Ph.D. in pedagogy and applied behavior analysis from Ohio State University.

CONTACT: Coleen Geraghty, SDSU Marketing & Communications, (619) 594-1477,

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