Frustrating Day in Class?
Give Welsh Shin Kicking a Try

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Summer vacation is just beginning for teachers here in North America. As usual, I’ll post only a couple of blogs over the summer – because most of you won’t read them anyway! So, we’ll publish once at the end of July and then again at the end of August.

And with summer vacation comes the opportunity to try new activities for inclusion in next year’s physical education curriculum.

Here’s a beauty. For those days when your students are really getting on your nerves (the entire month of June, for example), how about Welsh shin kicking. You simply divide your students into pairs, have them lock arms as they face each other, then kick each other’s shins until someone gives up or falls down. It’s a truly cathartic activity for frustrated PE teachers .

Shin kicking has a long and storied past, beginning in the Welsh mines in the 1600’s. And it has been quite the spectacle through the ages. One account from 1843 describes a competition that lasted 45 minutes in which two men competed “in a state of nudity with the exception of each having on a pair of strong boots.”

While the sport died down in the late 1900’s, it was apparently revived in 1951., although modern-day competitors are now allowed to stuff straw down their pant-legs.

(While shin-kicking is a real “sport,” I am joking about using it in your PE classes….honest! I think).

Have a great summer!

P.S. You can learn more about Welsh Shin Kicking at:
Welsh Shin Kicking

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
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[tags]physical education,Welsh Shin Kicking[/tags]

Does Your Lobster Need Tuning?

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I spend many hours with my nose deep in scientific journals, ferreting out those tidbits of research that a physical educator might use.

This extensive reading has led me to an inescapable conclusion: there are a lot of people doing some very strange things in the name of scientific research.

Peruse, if you will, some titles I once discovered from a foray to the library. These experiments raise many questions about experimental method. Questions like: how do scientists conduct these experiments? And more pertinent, why do they conduct them? Take this study:

“Cardiac and skeletal muscle enzyme levels in hypertensive and aging rats.”

Where, exactly, does a person find a rat with hypertension? Do you advertise in the personal columns of rodent newspapers? Or do rat-snatchers lurk around the waiting rooms of animal hospitals or in steak-house dumpsters? Then there’s:

“Tuning of chemoreceptor cells of the second antenna of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) with a comparison of four of its other chemoreceptor organs.”

It’s just speculation, but was this study performed for its commercial possibilities? Automobile tuning is already big business in this country. Is lobster tuning the career of the future? I’m sure thousands of seafood restaurants would kill for better tuned lobsters. And, finally:

“Tetrachromatic color vision in goldfish: evidence from color mixture experiments.”

The question here is, what prompted this scientist to investigate color vision in goldfish? Was it because his own fishy pets were wearing brown socks with blue suits? Were they running stop lights because they couldn’t distinguish red from green? Or did they reveal their trauma, during psychotherapy, that because of their visual deficiency, they did not even realize they were gold!?

And it’s not just experiment titles that tell us the world of scientific research is strange. Take a quick gander at the products advertised in a respected physiology journal:

“Inexpensive four-lane electronically speed-controlled treadmill for rats and mice.”

What, no Stairmaster? Or how about:

“Grip Strength Meter for Rats & Mice”

Yup, put the little guys on a weight-training program and they’ll want to know how their handshake is improving.

And yet, it is pure research like this — as strange as these studies may seem — that can eventually produce information that applies to the lives of real people…including those of physical educators.

So, dear scientists, keep tuning your lobster antennae, keep checking the color vision of those neurotic goldfish. And when your next phys-ed breakthrough comes along, please give those muscle-bound rodents of yours a firm handshake on our behalf.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]physical education,scientific research,scientific studies[/tags]

European Soccer Leagues Explained

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If you are a European soccer fan, please forgive my ignorance. Last week, I watched the Champions Cup championships on television, and it inspired me to find out what it all means.

I understand the World Cup. The best players compete for their country with national teams advancing through qualifying tournaments in order to play in the big show. But what about all the other leagues and championships that take place between the World Cup. Why are there players from Brazil playing in Manchester, England? What are all these terms I keep hearing about: Premierships, First league, FA Cup?

So here’s a quick summary of the results of my research. Understanding how these leagues work has already made me into more of a soccer fan – I now understand what’s going on and what’s at stake. I’ll use the term “soccer” instead of “football” to avoid confusion with North American football.

National Professional Leagues

First of all, every major soccer country has it’s own professional league, all playing with the same FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association)rules. These national club leagues often have two or more divisions, with the top division getting the most attention, and hence making the most money. The top division in England, for example, is called the Premier League and usually includes teams such and Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. In Spain, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Valencia play in their Primera Liga, and in Italy, AC Milan and Inter Milan play in their top Serie A league.

The championship in these leagues is based on the best record over the course of the season, and the teams play each other twice or four times. The winner is the National Club Champion.

While the extra money gives the teams in the top league the best chance of remaining in the top league, that position is performance-based. Teams from the bottom of the First League (often the bottom three) are “relegated” or “dropped” to the second division in the next season, and the top three teams from the second division are promoted to the top division. The same exchange occurs between the second and third division, if there is one.

Beneath these teams are the amateur leagues comprised of regional or local teams, with players playing only for a small stipend. Amateur teams can be promoted into the professional ranks and the worst pro teams and be dropped to amateurs. Because of this, every game holds great significance, both financially and in terms of prestige.

The Premier League Homepage Link

The National Cup Championships (i.e. FA Cup)

Since the placement in leagues is based on play from the previous year, it’s possible that a team from the second, third or even amateur division might actually be the best in the country. So, there are opportunities for all of the professional and amateur clubs to play each other. While not every team is invited (usually it’s the less successful Division 1 teams and the top from each lower division and amateur leagues).

These National Cup competitions are single elimination and take place throughout the season, usually in the amateur club’s venues – which can create quite a stir. No advancement through divisions occurs from the results of this league, and the top teams often play their second string. And the prestige of these competitions varies from country to country. In England, the chance of seeing a huge upset makes the matches very popular and its FA Cup Final is a major event. In Germany, however, cup competitions get little attention.

The FA Cup Homepage Link

International Play

While these national league and cup competitions are taking place, the professional league champion from each country (based on last year’s results), and a few second-place finishers, are simultaneously competing in the UEFA Champions League. The UEFA stands for the “Union of European Football Associations.”

These teams play mid-week (most national club games are on weekends), through four phases of play which eventually qualifies only two teams for the championship game. This year, it was Barcelona versus Manchester United, with the underdog Barcelona coming out on top. This game receives huge international attention.

UEFA Champions League Link

Players

Like the NHL or NBA, teams are allowed to field the best team they can afford, and they sign players from around the world to multi-million dollar contracts if they think they can help them to win. That’s why a player like Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo played for England’s Manchester United this year, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi played for Barcelona. The best of the top division clubs have multi-million dollar budgets that rival North American professionals sports. A 2006 BBC survey showed that the average wage per year for players in England’s Premier league was 676,000 pounds sterling, or about $1.1 million dollars per year.

BBC Soccer Wage Survey Link

More Information

For more information, see an excellent description at the following website: “How to Follow Soccer in Europe”

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]soccer,football,European soccer leagues explanation,European football leagues[/tags]

True Character Shows Itself on the Softball Diamond

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Sara Tucholsky, a 5’2″ part-time starter on the University of Western Oregon’s softball  team, had never hit a home run in her entire career – not until she pounded one over the fence in a conference championship game against Central Washington University this year.

However, Sara tore an ACL in her knee as she rounded first base. She collapsed onto the field, unable to complete the circuit she needed to make her homer official. Her teammates were unable to help, because the umpire explained that any assistance they offered would automatically disqualify the hit. It was a frustrating situation because Sara had, after all, hit an obvious home run.

And that’s when a remarkable example of sportsmanship occurred. Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, Sara’s opponents on the Central Washington squad picked her up and carried her around the bases, touching her foot on each base and making her home run official. Holtman is Central Washington record holder in almost every category. And this was not a throw-away game – it was the conference championship!

Sports often provides a stage that shows the true character of people.  The Central Washington players knew that Sara deserved the home run and the circuit around the bases was a mere formality. So they did what was right, instead of taking advantage of the rulebook.

Bravo to the Mallory and Liz and the Central Washington players, their coach and all those who obviously instilled the correct values in these young women. In fact, this demonstration of sportsmanship will affect more people in a positive way than a simple victory ever could.
To sum it up, in Sarah’s words “My whole team was crying. It touched a lot of people.”

The game was covered in an ESPN video piece. You can see it at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jocw-oD2pgo

P.S. Central Washington lost the game 4-2. Western Oregon went on to attend the NCAA Division II Championships for the first time in their history.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]sportsmanship,softball,character,physical education[/tags]

Where Are All the Soapbox Cars?

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My most memorable childhood playthings weren’t factory-made. When I think back, I had the most fun swordfighting with poplar saplings, sliding down snowy slopes on cardboard boxes and playing battleships with homemade graph paper.

I‘ll never forget our day-long sod fights up in the woods—protecting  forts hammered together from old crates and using ammunition made from clumps of grass with dried soil still attached—or the satisfying puff of dirt that signified a direct hit on an opponent’s clean shirt.

But when was the last time you saw a child playing with a soapbox racer made from scrap lumber or a crystal radio set that they had assembled themselves?

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve noticed any kid in my neighborhood using homemade playthings—such relics have all been replaced by space-age technology from the toy factory.

Nope—a poplar sapling doesn’t stand a chance against a battery-operated Jeddi sword with sound effects and luminous plastic blade. Why rely on gravity to move your soapbox car when a mere $500 will buy you a fully operational miniaturized electrical sports vehicle.  Graph-paper Battleship games are now computerized, and air-powered splatter guns with washable die pellets have replaced our hand-tossed dirt sods. Crystal radio sets have been supplanted by 400 pound boom-boxes with enough power to stuff the Toronto Skydome with thumping, stereophonic sound.

Let’s face it, this is not the decade of do-it-yourself kids.  And while I must confess that I had my share of high-tech gizmos as a kid, including a T-V ping-pong game and a slot car racing track, none of them occupied much of my play-time.

Today, many kids have the attitude that if it isn’t store-bought and doesn’t have a peer-accepted designer label, it isn’t worth using.  And that’s a shame.  Our children are missing the great satisfaction of playing with one’s own creations. And with this, they’re losing the ability to improvise, to innovate, and to create something usable, if not perfect, out of nothing.

Perhaps as physical educators, we should provide more encouragement for creative improvisation. Check the “Equipment” section of the PE Update website and you’ll find dozens of ideas for home-made sports and PE equipment: everything from tin can walkers and 2”x4” balance boards, to garden-hose quoits and  pizza box hurdles. Here are some other ideas—some tongue in cheek and some not— that might improve our childrens’ dearth of plaything creativity:

  • Make MacGyver re-runs required television viewing for all school-age children.  Although our students may never need to know how to make an atomic bomb out of a comb and a lipstick tube, the program’s emphasis on creativity and improvisation is valuable.
  • Allow each student one hour a week in the school dumpster to find materials to build their own game or sports implement.  This “dumpster time” will also reduce the school’s waste output.
  • Provide an extra classification for school waste materials included in blue-box programs.  One box for glass and metals, one for paper products, one for organic material…and one for kids.
  • Use P.E. class as a “market” for your students’ creative efforts.  Sometimes all it takes to get a child’s creative juices flowing is an expressed need for it.  Scoops made from bleach containers, tin-can walkers, home-made hoola hoops, broomhandle aerobics implements—these are all examples of phys-ed equipment your students can make and use in class.

Perhaps our growing awareness of the environment and the trend towards recycling will make home-made playthings more acceptable to young people.  And as teachers, we can use this new attitude to develop our students’ ability to improvise and innovate.

P.S. In case I’ve given you the impression that I was a combination Huck Finn/Thomas Edison as a child, I have a confession to make…I never was able to  get my crystal radio set to work, and I’d personally like a light-saber.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]physical education,children's play,games,sports equipment[/tags]

Frequency of Physical Education Affects Adult Obesity Levels

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( I don’t normally do this, but here’s an article directly from the pages of the PE Update.com website).

“As public health officials wring their hands about the obesity epidemic, there’s a solution that is relatively low-cost, ready to implement and obvious to anyone involved in school health and physical education. Implement quality daily physical education in every school!

Our schools have the ability to ensure that every student receives physical activity on a daily basis…and to provide these students with the tools needed to maintain an active lifestyle into adulthood.

The effectiveness of physical education isn’t conjecture. A study at the John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has quantified the effects of physical education classes on students’ adult body weight.

The John Hopkins Study

The researchers studied 3,345 teens in grades eight through 12, tracking their participation in physical education and extracurricular sports, then measuring their height and weight five years after graduating from school.

It was found that the more days of physical education participation per week, the greater the chance that students would maintain a healthy body weight into adulthood.

To put the statistical results into layman’s terms, the chances of becoming overweight adults decreased by 5% for every additional day of weekly PE or sport participation. Students who participated in daily physical education and/or extracurricular sport were 28% less likely to become overweight adults!

A Solution to the Obesity Problem

While both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Department Of Health and Human Services recommend physical education at all grade levels, less than half of high school students participate in physical education classes. Less than 6% of junior high and senior high schools offer daily physical education.

If our society truly wants to reduce health care costs, productivity losses to business and the human suffering involved with an overweight, unhealthy population, they should be adding physical education classes, not eliminating them! We must make daily physical education a requirement at all grade levels, and it should be taught by qualified physical educators using a curriculum aimed at providing the skills and knowledge necessary to participate in a lifelong fitness regimen.

Physical education isn’t a frill. It’s a necessity!

References:
1. Robert Wm. Blum (MD, MPH, PhD), David Menschik (MD, MPH) Saifuddin Ahmed (PhD) Miriam H. Alexander (MD, MP), “Adolescent Physical Activities As Predictors of Young Adult Weight.” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, January 2008.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]Quality Daily Physical Education,QDPE,adult obesity[/tags]