Kids get in shape with P.E. programs |

Kids get in shape with P.E. programs

Melanie WongVail CO, Colorado

AVON – “On your mark… get set… GO!”A pack of kindergarteners launched themselves off the start line, sprinting wildly around the field at Nottingham Park on Friday as parents and teachers cheered them on.The Vail Academy students were running the course as part of the Presidential Fitness Challenge, a national program that tests and recognizes students for participating in basic fitness tests.Elsewhere in the park, other kids were madly doing situps, some were tumbling on mats, and groups of middle schoolers were jogging around the lake.The challenge tests kids in five events, said Vail Academy athletic director Becky Schlegel – the flexibility test, the mile-run, sit-ups, pull-ups and a sprint-run.The results are compared to those of other students across the country, and the kids get certificates of acheivement. There are recognitions for kids scoring in the 85th percentile and above, 50 percentile and above, and also just for participating, she said.”We’ve started training since the beginning of school,” Schlegel said. “We’ve already had three kids beat the 100 percent mark.”The event was also a fundraiser for the school. Pre-K through 8th graders asked friends and families for pledges, raising at least $23,000 for the school, said Shannon O’Brien, president of the Academy’s Parent/Teacher Fellowship.Eighth grader Brendan Dalbow, 13, was throwing a football around while waiting for the next event, the mile-run. The mile will probably be his best event, he said.His younger brother Connor wants to beat his time, Brendan said, but it probably won’t happen.Second grader Scout McClinton, 7, had just done the sit-up test. She had done 36 sit-ups, narrowly missing her personal best, she said.”But I’m excited about the mile,” Scout said. “You get to run and get exercised.”Teaching P.E. in the valley is a bit different than elsewhere, Schlegel said, because so many families are fit and active.”All of them do some sport after school and many are in really good shape,” Schlegel said.Vail Academy’s physical education program covers most sports, she said, although kickball and dodgeball rank among the favorites. They also have an outdoor education program, that includes ski days, snowshoeing, and sledding, she said. This year they hope to incorporate hiking also.Focus on fitness and effortBut aside from simply trying to get students exercising, many P.E. teachers are also trying to teach long-term fitness and emphasize effort over heartrate.Schlegel said she tries to get her students out of the mindset of thinking they are not doing well just because someone else is beating them.”I try to emphasize that its about doing their best. They’re graded on effort,” she said.Battle Mountain High School’s program is more traditional, covering most sports, like basketball, football, tennis and running, said athletic director Cassie Desmone.But 60 percent of the grade is still based on participation and effort, she said. Even students who may not be athletic or in shape to begin with can make great strides, she said.”There are students who when they start out, they can’t run one lap, and now they can run four. Their attitudes get so much better and they participate better in class,” she said.Sometimes the challenge is keeping students participating and interested, despite large class sizes, said Gypsum Middle School P.E. coach Kevin Kottenstette.His classes range from 35 to 55 students, he said, so they usually stick with team sports like basketball and volleyball. Exposing the students to different sports can help them get interested in something they may not have tried on their own, he said.”It’s like that with our wrestling program,” he said. “Many would never have tried it if not for the wrestling unit in P.E. We’ve never lost a valley championship.”Life lessonsThe effects can go beyond the wrestling mat, Kottenstette said, and he believes that healthy bodies make healthy minds.”If you’re fit, or at least participating, you feel mentally better,” he said. Schlegel agreed, saying she believes that beyond fitness, many life lessons can be taught through sports.”You learn to handle adversity and challenges, deal with different personalities and work out personal differences,” she said. She has seen her students becoming more accepting and encouraging toward each other, she said.For example, the more athletic students are usually good about including the less-athletic. “Some will try to encourage the kid who is struggling and help them,” she said.Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or

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