Chuck Corbin of Ahwatukee

Chuck Corbin of Ahwatukee, right, with his good friend Dr. Ken Cooper have both written extensively about the necessity of human beings to engage in physical activity. At right is the cover of Corbin’s famous book.

In the early 1960s, several publishers rejected a book proposed by long-time Ahwatukee resident and author Dr. Chuck Corbin.  

He persisted and in 1968 his college fitness and wellness text was first published. Late last year, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of his book. He discussed the book.

AFN: Tell us a bit about your book and how you got started writing it.  

Corbin: The book was originally titled Concepts of Physical Education and was written for use in basic university physical education classes.  In the 1960s most colleges students were required to take 2 to 4 semesters of physical education—no matter what their major.

A “concepts” class was a new approach that used a text, classroom sessions, as well as physical activity sessions.  Since the book was first published in 1968, there have been several different versions including Concepts of Physical Fitness (a short version now in its 17th edition) and Concepts of Fitness and Wellness (a longer version now its 12th edition).  

AFN: We understand that your book was initially rejected by publishers.  

Corbin:  All university students were required to take PE in the 1950s and 1960s.  Traditionally, they selected from a variety of activities, but team sports were most commonly offered. 

Often schools taught what professors knew best rather than what students wanted to learn.  Also, the 1960s were a time of student unrest and students were questioning all requirements.

 I proposed a class that taught students important concepts and principles of exercise and taught them self-management skills to help them to be active throughout life. It was an alternative to the team sports approach. A text was necessary to offer this type of class.  

Publishers didn’t believe that a “concepts” class would succeed and that a text for the class would sell.  They were wrong, almost all universities now have a required or elective fitness and wellness class for their students. The book has made it 50 years and is still going.

AFN: Why do you think your book has been so successful?

Corbin: First, let me say that I have been the first author of the books since the beginning.  But I have had coauthors along the way. My first coauthors were colleagues when I was a professor at Texas A & M.  

They dropped out early on and I took Dr. Ruth Lindsey, a professor at Oklahoma State as my coauthor when I taught at Kansas State.  After I came to ASU, Ruth and I added Dr. Greg Welk, Professor at Iowa State and a former ASU doctoral student of mine to the author team. Ruth contributed through multiple editions until her death in 2005.  

Since then I have taken on other young coauthors to carry on when I can no longer contribute. Greg and I added Dr. Wiiliam Corbin, professor of psychology at ASU to the team.  Having him on the team is especially rewarding since he is my son. Will and his family are residents of Ahwatukee.  

Later we added Dr. Karen Welk, a physical therapist from Ames, Iowa to the author team. I think that having an innovative idea at an opportune time had much to do with the books success. But having a strong author team has been the key to success over the years.

AFN: Final thoughts?

Corbin: In 1968 we didn’t know as much about the health benefits of physical activity as we do now. But the science was emerging and I was able to come up with evidence to convince other colleges to implement a “concepts” class.  

Between 1970 and 1995, I keynoted 44 state physical education conventions promoting the idea.  I did professional development at dozens of colleges to help them implement programs. So, success didn’t just happen. It took hard work.

 It also took help from others including my wife Cathie who proof read, encouraged, and supported me for the nearly 57 years of our marriage.  

A longtime Texas friend of mine also published a book in 1968. Dr. Ken Cooper’s book was called Aerobics and did much to change American’s views about the importance of physical activity to good health.  

 In the 1970s I decided to write a similar book for high school students.  Like the college text, it was initially rejected by publishers for the same reasons as the college text.  The book, Fitness for Life, was published in 1979 and will soon be out in a seventh edition.  

The book has been used in high schools throughout the world.  It has been used at Mountain Pointe High School since the school opened in 1991. The program at Mountain Pointe has been highly successful.

Three studies of the Mountain Pointe Fitness for Life program have been published in research journals.  The most recent shows that students who took Fitness for Life as freshmen are more active than typical Americans 20 years after graduation from high school. It is very rewarding to know that what you do has long-term benefits for students.

 I would be remiss if I did not thank Dr. Harold Slemmer, the first principal, Karl Kieffer, the first PE Department Head, Phil Abbadessa, the original lead Fitness for Life teacher, Andreas Fazz and Jeff Decker current Fitness for Life teachers at Mountain Pointe for their efforts in the success of the program.

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