Debbie Holcombe has been recognized by SHAPE, the national physical education association.

Holcombe receives National
Recognition for FIGHT Club

Debbie Holcombe, a physical education teacher to more than 1,800 students to James F. Byrnes High School’s FIGHT Club Program, and founder of the school’s FIGHT Club, has been recognized by SHAPE, the national physical education association.

The FIGHT (Friends Into Getting Healthy Together) club was formed and is led by Holcombe, who has been awarded several grants from the Greater Greer Education Foundation to help keep her FIGHT going.

“We immediately recognized the importance of this program,” David Dolge, chairman of the grants committee, said, “and it is such a pleasure to lend support to Debbie.”

“Schools rarely provide help for students dealing with weight issues,” Holcombe said. “If high school students want to be active after school, their only choice is usually athletics — but many simply aren’t comfortable participating in sports with their highly skilled peers,

“Overweight students may have had particularly bad experiences in PE and grapple with a variety of emotional, social and physical issues. Many want social opportunities to make new friends and a place to interact with others their own age.”

In the fall of 2010, Holcombe approached her school’s principal, Dr. Jeff Rogers, with an idea: create a non-threatening, inclusive, after-school program for students who want to get fit and lose weight. With the backing of the administration, they created a cool name — The FIGHT Club — and received permission to use an older weight room that was no longer needed for athletes. A local vocational school agreed to rehabilitate and paint the slightly aging fitness equipment at no cost. Hoping to recruit 12 students that first year, Holcombe was astonished when 29 students, along with a few teachers, signed up for the new club. “Now I get 35 to 40 students and six or seven teachers, which is all I can handle,” she says.

Each February, the group makes a trip to Charleston for the Lifepoint Organ and Tissue Donation 5K, which necessitates an overnight stay. Although there is no school budget for the FIGHT Club or the field trip, Holcombe secures grant money from the Foundation and teacher donations, which the students augment by selling flowers at Christmas.

“We have 30 to 35 students participate and they generate about $2,500 to participate in the 5k race and support organ and tissue donation,” Holcombe says. “It motivates the students even more to help make a difference in people’s lives.” After the race they celebrate at a local bowling alley. Any additional money raised from grants and sales goes to incentivize the members with FIGHT Club T-shirts, she says, adding,

“It’s amazing what a T-shirt will do.”