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:
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!
Without question the most controversial subject in sports today is concussion risk and awareness. This is particularly true for youth sports. Lots of information is already in the mainstream regarding the effects of concussions, its direct sports related causes, and the preventive measures that are already in use and in development. For readers who are physical educators or coaches I imagine that you are already very familiar with this topic and knowledgeable about the effects and causes of sports related concussions. My commentary here will focus on my experiences and current opinions regarding the measures we are now seeing in sports.
Over my fifty plus years in sports, from my playing days and throughout my coaching and administrative years, I’ve witnessed concussions in several sports. As a high school basketball player I saw one of my teammates get undercut while rebounding and hitting the back of his head on the floor with a such huge boom that the packed crowd went deathly silent. When I was young basketball coach, one of my players collided with another player while going for a loose ball. Our player was immediately knocked out and suffered a short burst of convulsions while on the floor. As a soccer coach I witnessed the worst concussion incident in my entire career. One of our players, while going up into the air to head a ball backwards, collided heads with an opposing player trying to head the ball forward. Our player immediately went to the ground and began convulsing. It was a most horrible site indeed, but happily the player recovered nicely.
I coached football for more than twenty years and we likely had players receive concussions, but I really can’t recall one of our players experiencing a serious concussion. I strongly believe that the reason for this is that we taught both tackling and blocking with the shoulder and strongly urged players to keep their head up when tackling or making any kind of contact with opponents.
The complicated life of sports’ coaches is well documented in biographies and the media. Additionally, it plays out every day across America, on college campuses, in high school athletics, and in the club sport system. Coaches who dedicate themselves to leading a team and developing student-athletes are repeatedly forced to walk a fine line between family and work commitments. To balance this dynamic, coaches frequently integrate family life into team functions. Children will attend practice sessions, teams come to the coach’s house for pre-game meals, and family members are recruited to assist with fundraising events such as off-season sport camps or tournaments.
(photo courtesy of Dan Pambianco)
Done successfully, student-athletes and coaching staffs become extended families, creating a support system for all those involved. Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s daughter described her family’s involvement in the Blue Devil basketball program as follows:
Watch Free Livestream Keynote Video Now! This year we were fortunate to hear five talented individuals share how they view physical education as a part of the whole. Each keynoter shared different ways of thinking that were uplifting, transformational, funny, and inspirational. I have provided a few of my thoughts below on each keynoter with a link to their talks.