Originally published Jan. 28, 2018 in the Des Moines Register.
By Jenny Fee, Special to the Record-Herald
It takes a village to raise a physically-fit child.
That isn’t exactly how the saying goes, but it is the thought behind three recent donations to the physical education program at Indianola Middle School.
A $10,000 donation from the Indianola Community Youth Foundation covered two-thirds the cost of 90 fitness bands. Meanwhile, archery equipment was purchased with $2,500 from the Ahquabi chapter of Whitetails Unlimited and $500 from Mid-Iowa Archers.
Students were able to start studying archery in late September, while the bands were rolled out just after Thanksgiving. According to Clint Manny, P.E. teacher, both have been popular with the youths.
“These programs allow students to self-monitor their own health and open their minds and bodies up to completely new opportunities to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy physical activity,” Manny said. “I cannot think of any better gift.”
It was a gift on display one recent morning at the middle school. A seventh-grade P.E. class rushed into the Blake Fieldhouse and, without prompting from their teachers, began strapping fitness bands onto their wrists.
“ICYF liked the idea that the fitness bands were being used by all grades, so the entire student body would benefit from them, not just a subsection,” said Kim Seberg, ICYF executive director. “We want the fieldhouse and open gym to be a welcoming place for all of the Indianola students and residents.”
Students wear the bands for more than calisthenics, too. Whether their current unit is archery or badminton, they’re conscious of how their activity level may translate into fitness. It’s been an education, according to Celia Tiedemann, 13, daughter of Cheri and Bill Tiedemann,
“I think they help you to know why you need to be working harder,” she said. “Some of the stuff that you don’t think gets your heart rate up actually does.”
Ray Liventals, son of Heidi and Chad Liventals, believes it’s knowledge that can improve his life outside of school, especially as the 12-year-old competes in football and baseball.
“I want to be fit for life because I do sports,” he said.
Giving youths another option for fitness was important for Mid-Iowa Archers, according to Jim Nelson, the group’s vice president. The 14 bows, 200 arrows and six targets purchased with funds from Mid-Iowa as well as Whitetails Unlimited may speak to kids who haven’t found their athletic niche.
“Archery doesn’t have physical limitations,” Nelson explained. “The equipment that they gave us — you don’t have to be a big, burly kid or anything like that to do it. But I think it does teach them to concentrate. There’s self-discipline in it.”
Tiffany Scovel of Whitetails Unlimited agreed. At a recent shoot, she was impressed by a man who used his toes to pull back the bow because he was missing an arm. Archery helps develop mental skills as well as physical ones, she added.
“It’s just that concentration, the focus, the peripheral vision,” she said. “Physically, it’s hand-eye coordination, just the strength to be able to pull back the bow. … It gets them outdoors. It gets them off the couch and off the phone.”
The bows are Matthews Genesis bows, which are recommended by the National Archery in Schools Program for in-school and competitive use. An extracurricular program isn’t in place yet, but now that’s a possibility. Scovel noted that her own son, a senior in high school, is interested in coaching.
For now, the bands and archery equipment remain anew but integral part of the P.E. curriculum — and a constant reminder of the community’s support.
“As far as the generosity of these programs, I cannot speak highly enough of our local programs like the ICYF, Whitetails Unlimited and Mid-Iowa Archers,” Manny said. “If you step into the Blake Fieldhouse, you can see firsthand the generosity that the community has in support of Indianola’s youth.”