Balance is often an overlooked skill to practice unless teaching or coaching gymnastics, the very young, or students who have disabilities that effect mobility. But maintaining and improving balance is essential for all students and should be a regular part of any PE, Adapted PE, or sports program. Adding a few balance skills during warmup takes little time and benefits other activities. For students with balance deficits, more time, emphasis, and practice can be allocated to improve balance. Some of these suggested activities and techniques will not only help improve balance but also athletic performance.
Balance Defined and Explained
Balance can be defined as an even distribution of weight that enables someone or something to remain upright while remaining stable and achieving equilibrium. In general, there are three main elements that help in achieving balance:
I admit it. I’m disappointed, confused, and more than a little bit frustrated. It’s now two-plus years since SHAPE America announced 50 Million Strong by 2029 (50MS) and some people still say they don’t know what 50MS is. Well, okay, “some people” (as in, those outside our profession) I can understand. But physical education and health education professionals, really? I don’t get it. So, let me give it another try with a teaching example:
In your mind, think about a school location you are familiar with. You are the elementary physical education teacher and teach 400 different students annually. Now imagine a world in which each and every one of your students is regularly physically active and doing their best to make healthy lifestyle choices. What are your students doing to live this lifestyle? What does the school day look like that supports this vision? What are you doing in your classes and outside of your classes to help your students succeed? What are your students choosing to do before and after school that keeps them physically active and healthy? What is happening in their homes, with their families, on weekends, and during holidays that supports this vision? Close your eyes and take a moment to visualize what this new and very different world looks like.
Welcome to the world of 50 Million Strong. It’s not hard to imagine. It’s not hard to understand. And it’s not hard to commit oneself to creating a classroom, a school, a state, and a country in which all school-aged students are choosing and doing their very best to live physically active and healthy lives. And isn’t this new world precisely what most physical educators and health educators would agree is the best measure of teaching success? Why else do we do what we do? If getting our students to be active and healthy is not our purpose what is? Surely this is our reason for being?
Three years ago, I had the pleasure to invite some of my favorite elementary physical education friends to share the center stage at the 2014 National Physical Education Institute. Included were three of the biggest names in our business – Dr. George Graham, Dr. Bob Pangrazi, and Jean Blaydes. Rounding out this trio were three younger professionals – Dr. Guy Le Masurier, Baker Harrell, and a young third year physical education teacher from Canada – Joey Feith (pronounced “fight”).
Each of the keynotes were web-streamed live for the broader physical education community to watch. Bob Pangrazi ended up with a huge number of off-site viewers (5,900+), Jean was next (5,200+), and George and Guy each had 1,500+ views. Baker, our lone non-PE person had less than 500 views. However, Baker’s keynote was probably the most insightful and provided us (in my humble opinion) with what really needs to happen to make physical education a “cause-to-action” in the United States.
The top view-getter turned out to be the youngest person there – third year teacher Joey Feith (now at 6,400+ views). Think about this for a moment, 6,400+ views is more than the total number of attendees at this year’s SHAPE America Convention in Boston. Even if there wasn’t any snow! So what does this mean? To me, this means that we have entered an entirely new way to be connected to our craft – the Internet!
Don’t Just be a Future Professional, Be the Future of the Profession
-A letter to future professionals-
To whom it may concern
When will “New PE” simply become PE? That’s a question I think about from time to time. It speaks not only to the direction of the profession, but also the stereotypical lens that outsiders view us through. It’s a question that pops in and out of my head, typically without too much consideration, and usually in a moment of reflection, or frustration. At last summer’s National PE Institute in North Carolina, presenter Naomi Hartl mentioned how she and Sarah Gietschier-Hartman had been discussing this same question. And Naomi had an answer.
Schools across the country now have step-by-step guidance and evidence-based strategies to support school recess for all K-12 students and enhance active school environments. Two new guidance documents, Strategies for Recess in Schools and Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice, were just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, and can be downloaded free of charge here.
According to SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert:
This is a milestone in our quest to increase children’s physical activity levels. Daily recess, monitored by well-trained staff or volunteers, can optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Recess contributes to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students and helps them apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an effective health and physical education program. In addition, recess supports 50 Million Strong, SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all kids to lead active and healthy lives.