Usually I relish in my freedom to sleep late on Friday mornings, as I don’t have class. However, this past Friday, the 5th, I woke up earlier than usual and left for school an hour early. While I hope I never again have to leave my house at 6:20, the day was well worth the early morning.
After meeting with other members of Nassau’s Physical Education Majors Club, we boarded a school van and headed over to Adelphi University, exactly 4.2 miles down the road, for the Nassau Zone of the New York State Alliance of Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance. Or the NYS AHPERD.
I’m not quite sure how many people were in attendance, between the local professionals and students from the surrounding colleges, but i can tell you that it was a pretty large crowd. I saw students from Adelphi (obviously), Hofstra University, Queens College, and C.W.Post, including some that I knew.
Over the course of the day, there were 4 sessions, each with an assortment of presenters, as well as a time slot to visit vendors who were present. I happened to see my presentations in order of how much I liked them; Seven Qualities of a Highly Effective Teacher, Dollar Store Fitness, A presentation on circus arts, and lastly, Safe, Efficient, and Purposeful Training for Athletes. I started the day expecting to like the presentations on exercise the best, but I left feeling the opposite way.
The Seven Qualities of a Highly Effective teacher was a powerful seminar given by Tom Howard, a retired health teacher and current adjunct professor at Adelphi. He was energetic and enthusiastic through out the entire lecture. A major point of his presentation was that you must have fun with what you’re doing, for that energy will transfer to those around you. He played a short film about the workers at Pike Place Fish in Seattle, where the workers are known for their high energy levels. Seeing Tom’s high level of passion for teaching teachers (and future teachers) how to improve their teaching was certainly motivating. It was a great presentation.
Dollar Store Fitness was a great presentation by 2009 NASPE Elementary Teacher of the Year Jennifer Higgins. She demonstrated some fun, inexpensive activities that are possible with little to no equipment. Her creativity with the most simple materials was pretty awesome. In fact, my favorite activity that she presented involved writing the names of healthful or harmful foods on pieces of paper, crumpling them up, and playing a form of tag based on the different foods present. Maybe that’s a little corny for a 22 year old, but I bet the 3rd graders would have a blast with that.
I have only two comments about the circus arts presentation. I’m still completely unable to juggle, and spinning plates is not for me. But, after failing in my first 342 attempts, I can now use a Diablo, and I can throw it about 30 feet in the air. That’s one thing to cross off the list.
[Author’s note: Updated as of 1/26/11]
I had the most questions during Jamie LaBelle’s presentation, “Safe, Efficient, and Purposeful Training for Athletes”, which discussed safety concerns as far as high school strength and conditioning programs. Mr. LaBelle discussed the Olympic lifts and noted that they are highly technical and not the most efficient investment of training time, which I agree with. He also noted that too many Strength and Conditioning programs are based off of a powerlifting template, which is also true. It’s not safe or reliable to test 1RM strength of athletes in the bench press, deadlift, and squat. While these were valid points, but I don’t agree with a few of the things that he said.
While the Olympic lifts are questionable in the high school weight room due to their technical component, other staple barbell lifts should remain. I believe that the issue of technique was why Mr. Labelle said that the leg press is a better exercise for athletes than squats, but I don’t believe that to be true. The squat, in some form or another, should be part of every exercise program, and I’m sure that many top strength coaches that agree with that. It was also pointed out that lunges are easier to teach than squats, and this may be true or false based on a number of different factors. Some people have difficult with a lunge because of the coordination of asymmetrical movement, while others demonstrate poor bilateral coordination, and are unable to squat (deep). Sure, people are more likely to butcher squat technique than lunge technique, but both movements need to be taught to students, so that they maintain optimal form while loading the exercise. My last note of disagreement is in regards to a barbell bench press versus a parallel grip dumbbell bench press. Many students will fare better from learning proper technique for the barbell version, but those with distinct shoulder or wrist issues may benefit from the decreased gleno-humeral external rotation of the dumbbell variation. (This problem may be avoided by pressing with a Swiss Bar.)
At the end of the lecture, I asked Mr. LaBelle if he encouraged his athletes to work on their soft tissue quality, and mobility, as well as on uni-lateral lower body work. From his answer, I gathered that those aren’t as important as form. While form is absolutely important while training, I believe that mobility is the most important factor to keeping athletes healthy. Improving soft tissue quality, performing dedicated mobility work, and exercising through a full range of motion will best allow this to happen, especially with uni-lateral lower body work. The only comment that I was in total disagreement with was the notion that uni-lateral work is unsafe. When done correctly, unilateral work can provide more benefits than bilateral work for purposes of athletic performance. However, without maintaining strict form, everything is dangerous, and I think that dismissing split squats and single-leg deadlifts (and their variations) on the basis of safety prevents students the benefits of a well-rounded strength and conditioning program.
All in all, it was a fantastic day; I learned a ton, I saw lots of smart and cool people, and to top it all off, I got a pretty neat clip board.