Page 8,The Institute Report,April 2013
Rising to the Challenge
Concerted Effort Results in Increasing Fitness Scores
A three-year-old initiative to increase the passing rate for the VMI
Fitness Test has paid off, with a steadily rising percentage of cadets
passing the test each year.
The VMI Fitness Test, which is now administered by the commandant’s
staff, has three components: pull-ups, sit-ups, and a 2,400-meter run.
The VFT is given twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring.
Thanks to the efforts of Col. Tom Trumps, commandant, and his staff,
the overall passing rate for the Corps has risen from 71 percent in the
fall of 2010 to 82 percent in the fall of 2012. For women, the passing
rate has increased from 45 percent in the spring of 2011 to 62 percent
in the spring of 2012.
The test has been gender-normed since 2008, with passing scores
set differently for men and women. The revision of the VTF brings the
Institute’s fitness test more closely into line with tests of the military
services, which have been gender-normed since the 1980s.
Trumps explained that in the fall of 2010, responsibility for
administering the VFT passed from the physical education department
to the commandant’s office. Under the old system, a cadet’s score
on the VFT counted for 25 percent of his or her physical education
grade, but since P.E. courses are only one credit hour each, there
wasn’t much incentive to do well on the VFT, Trumps acknowledged.
Moreover, there was always a sizable number of cadets who weren’t
taking a P.E. class each semester, forcing a last-minute effort to find
and test those cadets.
“I just have a better accountability for the cadets,” said Trumps of his
office’s responsibility for the VFT. He’s assigned a member of his staff to
mentor each company within the Corps, so staff can better keep track
of which cadets need additional motivation and support.
Preparing for a fitness test, of course, requires both time and practice.
To help cadets increase their fitness, the Institute has two specific
blocks of time set aside for physical activity, one on Mondays at 4 p.m.
and another on Fridays at 11 a.m. In addition, ROTC groups do a lot of
physical exercise, and club sports provide an enjoyable reason to be
active, explained Maj. Larry Mangino, assistant commandant.
Access to the proper equipment is also vital to achieving fitness goals,
and with that end in mind, VMI has installed seven sets of pull-up bars at
the North Post Training Area. There is also a fitness roomwithin barracks,
with treadmills, exercise bikes, weights, and more, said Trumps.
Trumps acknowledged that women in particular tend to have trouble
with the pull-up requirement of the VFT. Women must do one pull-up,
with palms facing outward, to pass the VFT.
“For a young lady to go from zero to one pull up is a major
achievement,” the commandant noted. “But studies have shown that if
you put forth the effort, you can get there.”
That personal effort is at the root of all success on the VFT, said Trumps.
“In the end, all you can do is make the time available to the young man
or woman to do the training,” he observed. “I can’t do the push-ups for
Passing the VFT is not a requirement for graduation from VMI. But
because Trumps and his staff want cadets to take the test seriously,
and strive for their very best effort, the commandant’s office has taken
several steps to provide incentives for passage. A chart on the walls inside
Jackson Arch shows the passing rates for male and female cadets over
the past several semesters, and inside the commandant’s office there is
another chart with the names and photos of VMI record holders for all
three events on the VFT.
The Commandant’s Cup, which is awarded each spring to the company
with the highest fitness and marksmanship scores, provides additional
incentive to strive for one’s best effort.
On a personal level, cadets can now earn either a silver or gold pin
for superior performance on the VFT. That pin, which was the brainchild
of Col. L.E. Hurlbut, deputy commandant, was first awarded to cadets
in the spring of 2012. That spring, 119 cadets earned either the silver
or gold pin.
“Now they have something visible, they’re putting a lot more effort
into increasing their scores,” Hurlbut noted.
Cadets do sit-ups in the VMI Fitness Test last
– VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.