Parkour Can Spice Up Your Gymnastics Unit

Parkour (sometimes abbreviated to PK) is a sport in which participants use a variety of gymnastics, tumbling and balance moves to run quickly through an urban environment. Participants negotiate obstacles by jumping, vaulting, swinging, climbing and scaling walls.

While Parkour is not competitive, its close relative, “Freerunning,”  is a competition sport. Freerunning is similar to parkour but includes acrobatic trick moves such as aerial rotations and spins that aren’t efficient in terms of speed of movement through a course, but add drama to the sport.

Parkour and freerunning were developed in France, based on the originators’ experience with Vietnamese soldiers’ use of the techniques as a means of escaping pursuit. Parkour is now taught to the British and U.S. marines.

Parkour has received publicity from its inclusion in video games and popular movies such as Casino Royale, where it was employed in a famous chase scene.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJubOZLpp4A&NR=1

Because of the obvious risks, you should discourage your students from practicing parkour in real-life, outdoor situations. However, you can use the sport’s growing media-generated “buzz” to make it a popular addition to your gymnastics unit. Here’s a video that is a compilation of a 3-week parkour unit for elementary school students.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,parkour,freerunning,[/tags]

Sun and Mud and a Spring Day and Just Having Fun

At last! After long winter months of running in school hallways. After endless hurdle drills on linoleum and cement. After dreary, dark training runs on icy roads—Spring had sprung. We were finally the recipients of a beautiful, sunny Spring day, and, track coach that I am, it was time to rejoice. Although it was partly snow-covered, 200 meters of our outdoor track had melted.

With that familiar spring smell of fresh air and melting dog-doo in our nostrils, we were finally ready to do some serious damage in track practice. To begin the deadly serious business of winning city, regional and provincial championships… and who knows—maybe even qualifying for the Olympic trials later in the summer.

It was a Saturday sprinters’ practice and our racehorses were ready to tear up the track, unfettered by the threat of looming hallway walls and locker-door collisions.

But surprisingly, two of our distance runners also showed up for practice. I was surprised because their Saturday workout was just an optional, easy distance run. These two girls, 14 and 15 years old, were elite cross-country skiers who enjoy running in the summer time.

“We’ll just go for a run,” they said as they left the track at a slow jog. I assumed they would head down the road where the footing was safe.

Our stadium is in a beautiful setting: surrounded by rocky hills that are criss-crossed with skiing and jogging trails. Although these trails are popular in mid-winter and summer, in the Spring they’re a no-man’s land of mud, ice, partially melted snow and leafless trees. It was part way through our workout that I realized the girls had headed onto these trails. My first clue came 20 minutes before they actually jogged back into view—a fanfare of giggles and screams and laughter echoing sharp and clear off the hills.

One of my sprinters looked at me and asked, “Where in the heck are they—out on the trails? They’ve got to be nuts!”

Another fast 200m for our sprinters, then another. I kept peeking up into the hills, waiting for the source of the laughter to appear.  And then I saw them. Both girls, wearing only T-shirts, shorts and shoes, sliding down a snowy slope on their butts. And laughing like crazy. Landing at the bottom, they ran back up the hill and slid down standing up—cross country skiing without their skis.

Their “run” completed, they jogged back to the track, climbed our timers’ stand and lay on their backs,  their muddy feet flopped onto a handrail. Contented, they just lay there, soaking up the sun and the warmth and the fresh air.

For the girls, it had been a great afternoon. No video games, no high-tech toys, no television, no organized team competitions—just a muddy trail, a pair of shoes, a sunny day and a friend to enjoy them with.

One of my older girls remarked, “Teenagers really are annoying at that age. All they do is giggle.” I didn’t say anything, but I had to disagree—I left that practice feeling happy, and carefree, and very young.

It had occurred to me as I watched them sliding down that hill—and I can still hear their laughter echoing off the hills as I write this article—that this is what sports, and fitness, and the professions of coaching and physical education are really all about.

Winning and excellence and personal improvement are admirable goals. But in it’s essence, sport is really just play. Necessary play. And the joy that comes with movement, and being fit and interacting in a physical way with nature. And being young…and (for us older folks) realizing that by being able to play, we can experience the joy and innocence of youth all of our lives.

I hope the girls always remember that day. And I hope I will too. Especially on those occasions when I take the achievement aspect of sport a little too seriously. I hope the memory of their laughter ringing off those hills will give me a subtle slap on the face and the reminder, ”Hey, it’s only play after all. This is supposed to be fun!”

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,track,running,fitness fun,youth sports,youth fitness[/tags]

Some Team Nicknames Aren’t Intimidating

Ferocious, tenacious, aggressive, fierce, proud. These are the qualities we usually associate with our sports teams.

As coaches, we want the very mention of our team’s name to strike fear into the hearts of opponents. We want them sitting in their locker rooms the day before they play us, stomachs knotted in fear, thinking, “My gosh, tomorrow we play the Screaming Scarlet Eviscerators. Maybe my mom can write me a note so I don’t have to go.”

That’s why we give our teams nicknames that embody these traits: Lions, Hawks, Vikings, Wolves, Red-Eyed Panthers.

Keeping this in mind, it’s surprising how many teams are named for less than frightening things. A quick scan through a university directory reveals some interesting monikers.

For example, some team nicknames seem downright nice. I can’t imagine a friendlier contest than one between the Gentlemen of Centenary College and the Monks of Saint Joseph’s College. Or the Poets of Whittier College and the Missionaries of Whitman College. Heck, they probably don’t even hire referees for their games.

In contrast, one of the yuckiest matchups would have to be the Banana Slugs of U. of Cal at Santa Cruz versus the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian. How’d you like to mop the gym floor after that one?

And another messy contest in which the feathers are sure to fly: the Fightin’ Blue Hens of Delaware against the Power Gulls of Endicott College.

Some nicknames conjure up powerful images: The Austin College Kangaroos slam-dunking the basketball. The Fighting Parsons of NYACK College telling their opponents, “Don’t elbow me again, or I’ll give you a good blessing.” The Florida Southern Moccasins getting stepped all over by their opponents. The Rhode Island College Anchormen doing their own play-by-play TV coverage. The Retrievers of U. of Maryland-Baltimore County going for the long ball. And the Vandals of Idaho U. spraying graffiti on locker room walls wherever they play.

And then there are the totally uncoachable Mules of Central Missouri, in contrast to the Diplomats of Franklin and Marshall College, who’ll do anything you ask. And, of course, the Chokers of Grays Harbor College, who, for some reason, always seem to miss that game-winning shot.

Some schools, realizing their men’s team nickname may not be popular with their female athletes, have a separate women’s nickname. The Weevils of U. of Arkansas-Monticello mercifully become the women’s Cotton Blossoms. The Student Princes of Heidelburg College become the Student Princesses. However, some teams are not so sensitive to the image of their women’s teams. Surely the Jumbos can’t be a popular nickname among women athletes at Tufts. Ditto for the Pittsburgh State Gorillas or the Trolls of Trinity Christian College.

Finally, there are some team nicknames that just leave you wondering what they are—a great strategy for keeping the opposition confused and unprepared. How do you match up against a Gee Gee from the U. of Ottawa, or an Ook from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology? And what exactly is an Washurn U. Icabod, or a St. Louis U. Billiken?

If nothing else, the research I’ve done for this article has given me some great words to use in my next Scrabble game. For example, do you know what a Saluki is? Or a Catamount? Let’s break out that Scrabble board!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

P.S. FYI:
Saluki: A hunting dog native to Asia and North Africa. Team nickname for Southern Illinois U.
Catamount: A wild cat such as a cougar or lynx. Team nickname for Vermont U.

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[tags]physical education,team nicknames[/tags]

You Don’t Need Innovative Equipment to Be Creative in Physical Education

Do you suffer from a lack of physical education equipment? Are your students always complaining that they can’t perform physical fitness activities because of that lack of equipment?

If so, show them this video. While innovative equipment can make classes more fun – and I wouldn’t advise your students to try these moves – here’s an amazing example of an incredible gymnastics-dance-tumbling-agility routine performed using nothing but a partner and some benches. Maybe it will inspire you to ask your students to create a fun (but safe) fitness routine using common equipment in your school, like chairs, benches, tables and mats.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,dance,agility,fitness,tumbling, routine/code>[/tags]

Free Cricket Equipment for U.S. Schools!

An Example of a Free Cricket Kit

Are you looking for a new sport to add variety to your physical education program? How about cricket!

While cricket has been played in the USA since the 1700’s, it hasn’t caught on the way it has in India and Pakistan where cricket fans are obsessed about the game the same way Americans are about football and baseball.

But it’s a fun game with some similarities to baseball, with pitching, catching and bat-swinging all part of the repertoire. Your students will love it once they try it!

The United States Youth Cricket Association has now partnered with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness to promote the sport of cricket to schools across the USA (sorry, non-American readers). The result is an offer that’s too good to refuse.

FREE EQUIPMENT
The USYCA Schools Program will now donate cricket equipment and instruction to any U.S. school without condition or requirements. That’s right. Free cricket equipment!!

All they ask is that the school or school system request that they be included in the program. They hope to place 500 cricket sets in 2011 and all you have to do is contact them to be a recipient of this largess – and, you’ll have to pay shipping. That’s only about $20 for a 30 pound case of four sets.

You can see more information at their website at:
http://usyca.org/

Here’s a video that shows students at Whitehall Elementary School playing cricket in a school gym. Looks like a blast! Whitehall School Cricket

And here are some cricket instruction videos from the USYCA.
http://www.youtube.com/user/USYCA#p/a/f/0/YdQrxVQKwww

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,cricket,free cricket equipment,cricket equipment,United States Youth Cricket Association[/tags]

The Fun Theory is a Physical Education Staple

The “Fun Theory” website is dedicated to the idea  that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” It’s an initiative of Volkswagen, as a marketing tool to develop the image that their vehicles are fun, but the ideas are all user-generated and the concept is an excellent one. Here’s how it works: there is a cash award for the best ideas – videos are submitted to the site showing each submitter’s theory in action – and an online vote is taken to determine the winner.

Some of the ideas are simple, some require complex engineering, but the results are a lot of fun to see – and many seem highly effective!

Here’s one idea with a fitness slant. You’ll often see an escalator beside a set of stairs – in subways, airports, malls, etc. Usually, the stairs are vacant while the escalator is highly used. In the situation shown on the video, 97% took the escalator while the stairs were typically used only 3% of the time. So a group of engineers got together to make the stairs more fun. They completely changed the user percentage – after their “fun” change, 66% of users took the stairs while the escalator percentage dropped from 97% to 34%!

“Fun” is a theory that physical education teachers have been practicing for decades. One of the main goals of good physical educators is to make fitness fun, because that’s the best way to motivate students into making physical activity part of their daily lifestyle.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,fun theory,fun activity,fun fitness[/tags]