Climbing ropes well is about fitness, true, but it is also about techniqe and practice. In my little school (250 kids) many of use reached the highest level of the Presidents Council for Physical Fitneess. When I was in 8th grade, we practiced climing ropes twice a week and 3 people in my class of about 30, alone, could go up the 20-foot rope in less than 8 seconds - the requirement for full point on the list. I know I did it several times in about 6 seconds. Of course, if you saw how we did it, you'd understand that technique was important. We also used our legs a lot to slither up the rope.
To back up what Jack said, we had p.e. 50 minutes per day, 5 days per week from the time I was in 1st grade until I was a senior in high school. I loved P.E. so much that during my senior year in high school I took two P.E. classes per day (I received permission to take two classes from the guidance counselor in lieu of one study hall). I ran 3-4 miles during that class dring the fall and spring, but during the winter I played badmitton or basketball in both classes. You wouldn't believe how much of a workout badmitton can be! I would sweat like a pig and race around with violent effort to win. It was the code of the time - hard work and honor in victory. I didn't do it, nor any of my friends, for prizes or pay. We did it because America was all about working hard, being competitive, and being proud of simply winning something through effort.
I took a couple p.e. classes two years ago in graduate school with some 22-24 year olds who were recent graduates of that same university (Oregon State) P.E. program. I could not believe how little p.e. they had during their lifetimes. Most had p.e. once per week during elementary school but only had two semesters of it during high school. I was floored. How is that possible? By time I was a 5th grader, I had more p.e. than they did by time they were seniors in high school.
My wife, who teaches p.e., at age 44 says that she is fitter than the vast majority of high schoolers. I believe it because I see how them in malls walking around - most are very overwight. But, I wonder, is it their fault? I suggest it is not. It is society's fault! Cutting p.e. was a common theme in the last 15 years and the result has been disastrous. The Surgeon General's office has recommended a double increase in the time youth should be "active." The Surgeon's recommendations are based upon increases in obesity, reduction of physical activity in the daily lives of kids, and the minimization of p.e. classes students take during their fundamental years.
What is the future going to hold for our youth?
Will there be further erosion of overall health and fitness?
What changes can be made, realistically?