Originally published Nov. 2, 2018 in the Sedalia Democrat
By Hope Lecchi
It’s a concern of many: the health and physical well-being of the generation of school-aged children. With so many children finding reasons not to focus on their health, many schools are trying to turn the focus back on getting children to become more active.
Sacred Heart is among those schools. This year the school has reevaluated its physical education classes in an effort to improve the health and conditioning of its students.
“Our physical education was previously very ‘game and play’ based,” Dean of Students Sam Jones said. “We felt we had a more structured recess time and wanted to really track improvements in conditioning, flexibility, endurance, and coordination. Recess is the ideal time for structured play activities, not PE.”
Jones, who is also the head soccer coach, and Caleb Crooker, who serves as the Gremlins varsity girls basketball coach and junior high football coach, would often condition and lift weights together when time permitted after school or practice. It was during those workouts Jones said he realized the valuable in-house resource the school had in Crooker.
“It was after lifting weights with Coach that I realized what a tremendous resource we have,” Jones said. “For me as an administrator I saw we really weren’t using his talents to the best of our ability.”
It became a priority for Jones to change Crooker’s schedule from teaching in the classroom to allowing Crooker to work with the students in the physical education program at Sacred Heart.
“Coach Crooker has radically changed our physical education program at Sacred Heart,” Jones said. “He has spent a large amount of time developing our own unique standards for physical fitness assessments.”
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade have PE two to three days a week depending on their rotation.
Prior to this year, a focus for the classes tended to be the goals established by the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness, something both men felt was outdated and difficult to obtain.
Hoping to mimic a fitness training routine found at many professional gyms and fitness centers for his students, Crooker developed a set of standards for physical fitness assessments using box jumps, speed ladders, plyometrics, and Crossfit exercises to achieve the desired results.
“At first, I don’t think the students really knew what to make of the changes we were implementing,” Crooker said. “Now each day they are really eager to get better — it’s fun to see the work they put into it.”
Based in part on a concept Crooker has labeled as “be safe,” students are evaluated on their skills using boxes, education, strength, agility, flexibility and endurance. Junior high students also spend time in the weight room as a way to develop their strength conditioning.
“There is a misperception that kids lifting weights can be harmful, but when it is done correctly it actually strengthens their bones and helps to make them more confident,” Crooker explained. “It’s something that we feel strongly that every student should take part. If kids are active they perform at a higher level and overall are in better shape.”