The game was soccer. But, this being Skip Lee's Chesapeake High School gym class, no one kept score.
Teams weren't chosen, so no one had the dishonor of being chosen last. Instead, students segregated themselves into three groups according to intensity of play. One group played in a languid, backyard style, another more briskly, the third at a nearly intramural pace.
The game halted abruptly every few minutes so everyone could pause to check their pulse.
Gym class has changed in Anne Arundel County, and one of the reasons is Walter R. "Skip" Lee III.
Anne Arundel's Teacher of the Year, Lee is known for his lead role in designing "Fitness for Life," the one physical education course required of all county high school students.
An earlier version of the Fitness for Life class served to acquaint students with the basics of several competitive sports: football, basketball, soccer and others. In the redesigned course, the goal is personal fitness, and sports are merely a means of attaining it.
"We're working eye-foot coordination. Eye-foot. There's no hands," Lee told the class at the Pasadena school on a recent morning, reminding the students why they were kicking soccer balls.
Lee, a 1987 graduate of the University of Maryland, comes from a new generation of gym teachers who are moving physical education away from competitive play and toward personal fitness goals, essentially the same mission as the modern health club. Attention has shifted away from the more athletic students, who thrived in traditional physical education classes, in an effort to make the class equally relevant to all.
"That's the hardest thing at the beginning of the year, explaining to them it's not about scoring points," Lee said. "Nobody here gets credit for scoring points."
The share of high school students nationwide taking daily gym classes declined from 42 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2003, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Anne Arundel County now requires just one-half credit of high school physical education, the equivalent of a semester's study, although the requirement will be doubled for incoming freshmen this fall.
For a physical education department to thrive, it must draw students into elective courses. Lee and his colleagues have succeeded at that by offering courses such as Fitness for Life, weight training, sports medicine and dance for athletes, all of which stress personal fitness over team play.
The sheer size of Chesapeake's 11-person physical education staff, one of the largest in the county schools, illustrates its success. All but 48 seniors in the class of 2004 had taken one or more P.E. electives when they graduated.
"I see a lot of people [in those classes] who don't play sports or anything. They just do it for fun," said Erin Kodis, 16, a sophomore at Chesapeake High.
Erin did not consider herself an athlete when she started at Chesapeake High; she ran a 16-minute mile. But under Lee's tutelage, she has lost 30 pounds and joined the track team. Lee is the school's track coach.
"I was never really like a fast runner or anything, but he inspired me," she said. "Every day he would give you so much encouragement. In his class, you never have to feel left out or not feel good about yourself."
Lee bounces around the Chesapeake High School campus, waving or saying "Boo!" to students he knows. He has the social skills of a principal, a job that may lie in his future after 15 years of teaching.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Severn, Lee attended Old Mill High School, where he was a member of the track team. He also played baseball, football and basketball at the Severn Athletic Club.
Ron Evans, his track coach at Old Mill, was instrumental in steering Lee toward teaching.
"He embodied a lot of the qualities I desired as an adult," Lee recalled. "Lead by example, and have high expectations. He was very successful in what he did, and I wanted to be like him."
By the time Lee was a senior, he was Evans's apprentice, helping to coach the underclassmen and learning the techniques he would later use in his own gym class.
The day after his graduation from high school, Lee drove to Ocean City to join the beach patrol. He still works there during the summer and has risen to second in command.
Lee earned a degree in physical education at Maryland. Then he got on a two-year waiting list for a full-time teaching job in Anne Arundel schools. His first assignment was part-time work teaching disabled and sick children. He took a full-time position at Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie in 1989 and taught there for eight years.
Toward the end of his time at the middle school, Lee was approached about overseeing a rewrite of the physical education curriculum to move from team sports toward individual fitness. His new Fitness for Life course began seven years ago as a pilot program at Chesapeake High. The class became a countywide requirement two years ago.
"He took an incredible lead in the initiative," said Rick Wiles, coordinator of health, physical education and dance for the county schools.
Students now set personal goals for the end of the course. They monitor their weight and heart rates. Lee "is really a personal trainer to every student in his class," Wiles said. "About 20 percent of our kids are going to be interscholastic athletes. We need to make sure we are meeting the needs of the majority."
Lee assigns homework in Fitness for Life, a course split between classroom work and exercise. In the classroom on a recent morning, Lee asked several students to don weighted vests to illustrate the training concept of "overload," or asking the body to do more than it is used to. In the gym, the daily routine begins with stretches, and there is always a water break. Activities are simple: three-on-three basketball, badminton, volleyball -- the stuff of weekend barbecues.
"I want these kids to know some of the things they can do to get started, to get into fitness," Lee said.