LINCOLN, Neb. — New state physical education standards being drafted by the Nebraska Department of Education place more emphasis on teaching fitness and life skills over traditional team sports.

Members of the State Board of Education previewed a draft of the standards Thursday. The draft was crafted by a team of educators from public and private Nebraska schools, colleges and universities.

The standards stress fitness and healthy habits like the existing standards do, but state Department of Education physical education specialist Julane Hill said it also spells out specific skills students should learn in each grade and how that learning should progress from year to year.

In kindergarten, for instance, students are expected to learn to hop and throw underhand. Eighth grade students would be expected to strike a pitched ball, catch and dribble.

“You’ll notice a de-emphasis in these standards from team games,” Hill said. “It still has team-game strategies, but it’s all in small-sided games. So it isn’t 11 on 11 in football, it would be like 5 on 5. It wouldn’t be 5 on 5 in basketball. It would be 3 on 3, so every child gets the opportunity to participate, instead of just the skilled athlete or those who are naturally talented.”

The standards seek to promote “physical literacy,” which Hill compared to reading literacy.

Board member Pat McPherson questioned the impact of creating physical education standards instead issuing updated guidelines.

Cory Epler, the department’s senior administrator for teaching and learning, said the new standards are voluntary so school districts will not lose their accreditation if they do not have to adopt them.

“Our feedback from teachers and administrators is not that it will be a burden. They see it as a blessing, I think, because it really further substantiates physical education as a content area and provides stronger leadership for sound instruction in physical education.”

The State Board of Education is expected to vote on a final draft in October.