Monday, March 28, 2011

Strength Training at North Fayette

The following article also will appear in the April district newsletter:

Since the start of the school year, the coaching staff at North Fayette High School has engaged in conversation and research into strength and conditioning programs with the goal of improving those areas for the student-athletes they work with. College and private strength and conditioning coaches have visited with us at North Fayette, and others have also been consulted. Our belief is that we need to do a better job of preparing our student-athletes physically and in turn mentally to compete at their highest levels. High school athletics have changed a great deal in the past ten years to the point that strength training, flexibility, core work, and agility work are no longer considered supplemental. They cannot be extras. In order for our athletes to compete at their highest level, and to compete at the level of expectations for our coaching staff and community, this training must be part of all of our athletic programs. This also will result in lifelong health benefits.

Four of the head coaches, along with Activities Directors Todd Wolverton, met with the female athletes in early March to talk to them about the program and to dispel myths about females and strength training. A meeting with all of the male athletes is forthcoming. At the meeting with the girls, a general overview of the program was provided as well as the expectations. At this point, all of our students are lifting weights in PE. Once that unit is over, it is our expectation that our student-athletes will engage in the program either before or after school. Those currently out for a sport will take time during practice. Those who are in their “off-season” are expected to come in three mornings or afternoons a week. A new cycle will begin during the summer that is much more comprehensive in nature.

Since that meeting, a number of things have emerged that have been distorted from what was actually said. The most common question has been “Is it mandatory?” The word “mandatory” was not used. Coach Hanson stated to the girls “You’re participation will not decide where you play or start, but it will help determine whether you do.” Coach Lape shared that if someone is so much better of an athlete than everyone else and doesn’t have to lift weights and do the other things, then they will probably still play. But there are two things to consider with that. First, even if they are that much better, those who choose not to improve themselves are not helping the team because they could get even better. And, Coach Lape even said that in a school our size, there are very, very few of those kinds of kids. Stronger, more flexibility, more agile athletes will contribute to better play for a team. That is indisputable. There are also the benefits of working together with fellow athletes in the off-season, such as camaraderie, confidence, and a share sense of purpose that we hope develops.

Our goal is not to build college athletes. Our mission is to do every thing in our power to help all our student-athletes reach their potential on the floor, mat, field, and track. Very rarely in the past few years has North Fayette had the best athletes on the field. Success has come because of hard work at practice, skill development, and mental toughness. Think of what is possible when stronger, faster, and more agile young people can harness that same work ethic and skills that are already being taught?

The commitment being asked is a realignment of priorities, not more time. We know how teens allocate their time. Coaches are willing to take time during practice to get into the weight room and add other types of exercises to build bodies. So there is compromise. For those that want to see our students and teams excel, your support is appreciated. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact Todd Wolverton or Ron Imoehl at the high school.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pre-School for All

This is the entry that I have pondered for well over six months. Back then, it was becoming more evident that should Terry Branstad be elected governor of the Great State of Iowa, there was a very good chance that the best change in public education since the ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was going to be changed, and not for the better. At least that is my opinion. At first my intent was to write a scathing indictment of Mr. Branstad, but I thought better of it and not knowing how the election would turn out, figured I would just wait. Why waste time and energy, and work myself all up, when it was not necessarily a reality.

Once elected, I thought once more about ripping into the ridiculous idea of chopping up the very positive step that has been taken to help ALL kids in our state and to give them a solid start to their education. But then I thought, you know what, the Democrats are still in control of the Senate and with Mr. Gronstal in charge there, it won’t be a rubber stamp that any of these drastic cuts to education will take place.

As we sit waiting for something to happen, it appears that nothing will happen. If the Senate does not act, things stay the same, which is okay as far as I am concerned, though it is quite troubling to think what the future will bring. The pre-school program is in my opinion, the best thing that has happened in public education in at least the last twenty-five years. There is no question that youngsters will be better prepared for elementary school if they have access to quality pre-school. Those who can afford top-quality private pre-school can still send their children to those facilities, just like they can send them to private schools when they are older. Everyone else can send their children to quality pre-schools that have oversight by the Department of Education and higher standards for teachers and the curriculum that is taught.

Why is this so important? To put it bluntly, because of the current structure of the American family. Many young families are not raising children the same as we were raised. We have far too many young children being born to unwed mothers who have little education and little means to provide for their child. We see four and five year olds showing up at our schoolhouse doors having never been read to and not potty trained. Some cannot count to ten or have any idea what the first three letters of the alphabet are. We also have youngsters in two parent homes where both parents work. They don’t have that contact with a mom during the day when so much of that important nurturing happens. The bottom line is that we have a generation of children that need pre-school if they are going to have a chance. And, more important, the bar is being raised so that our nation can compete, making this a critical situation.

Another reason it is so important, and I am not singling out anyone with this, some of our private pre-schools are not very good. They just aren’t. In many respects they are no more than childcare. I have been to Head Start programs where I wonder who is in charge of the circus. The great thing about our voluntary program in Iowa right now is that those communities that have them have quality, regulated programs for their children. We cannot lose this.