Teachers are searching for ways to enhance their students’ learning experience, and coaches are looking for ways to improve their student-athletes’ development. The common denominator is the student. Both the teacher and the coach have resources they can pull from to benefit the student.
One of society’s common languages is “sport.” Regardless of background or geographic location, odds are in favor of sport being a part of your life. In most high school settings, student-athletes make up a large part of the student body. It is not uncommon to have more than 75% of the students participating in sport.
As a high school coach, it is likely you operate in a far from “optimal” environment, your coach-to-athlete ratio is well beyond “recommended practices,” and your budget is at the mercy of many moving parts. Having these challenges forces creativity. Creating a sport science program may seem like a luxury you can’t afford. Forging meaningful relationships with the larger school community, area universities, and sport science-related companies can lead to the development of an influential strength and conditioning and sport science program.One of the most important relationships high school coaches can form is with the teachers, and each academic subject area has the potential to assist you in building your sports program. Click To Tweet
However, some of the most important relationships are formed in school hallways—with the teachers. The saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” When twisting the words, you can think of it as: “One man’s problem is another man’s solution.” Each academic subject area has the potential to assist in building your program. The purpose of this article is to present opportunities to build a sport science program in the high school setting through cross-curricular collaboration.
Student A is a 16-year-old sophomore, and math is her toughest subject. As a student-athlete, sport holds a significant place in her life, and it is all she thinks about. Math is challenging, and she finds little value in learning “things I will never use again.”
Student B is completely engaged with the study of numbers. He enjoys solving mathematical equations and constantly looks for new problems. Math has become his passion.
If you are a high school teacher, you know both of these students. How do we engage them so they can learn the important concepts being taught to them? Sport science can be a tool that meets the attentional demands of both student A and student B. Student A now has something of interest she can use for context in her math class. The teacher can create sport-related concepts to engage her and create scenarios to help her understand how to apply the curriculum being taught.
Student B may have never found a place in sport, yet he has a desire to be involved. Introducing sport science to him may trigger a passion he otherwise would not have discovered. He has problems to solve and can find a place to belong. The incredible math teachers just down the hall are looking for ways to engage both of these students. By utilizing sport science, you can help cement the concepts they are teaching.The incredible math teachers just down the hall are looking for ways to engage all types of students. By utilizing sport science, you can help cement the concepts they teach, says @WeeksJeremy. Click To Tweet
Some anecdotal experience with integrating the math department in sport science has centered around statistics and algebra. From a statistical perspective, sports are full of data. Who helps you analyze the data? Chances are that you are training multiple teams over several class periods each day, perhaps coaching a sport and teaching. Where can you find the time to analyze the data you have collected?
For example, one of the most useful stats, beyond the traditional t-test, is utilizing the linear equation. When plotting data, a regression line can be very useful. Analyzing the slope of a line, and how far certain metrics deviate from this line, can be valuable information when training the adolescent athlete. Again, this creates context for a student who might not understand the value of math. The math teacher gains a powerful teaching resource, and you gain deeper insight through statistical analysis.
Science is naturally the proverbial “low-hanging fruit” and a great place to start cross-curricular collaboration. Two key concepts come to mind when integrating sport science into the classroom: The first is the utilization of the Scientific Method. What problem are you trying to solve and how can you use the scientific process to do so? The second is student education. Introducing training concepts as a science to your student-athletes is a great avenue to clearly describe the goals of your training program and how you plan, along with their involvement, to prepare them for sport.
Integrating your weight room into the science program can open many doors. As a former high school coach, I understand some of the budget constraints. You may not have the financial luxury to purchase equipment and technology; however, there are other avenues to increase your resources. Collaboration opens the door for purchasing power. When you join budgets, you have the ability to purchase mutually beneficial equipment. First-hand experience has led to shared purchases.
From a sport science perspective, we now have ways to objectively measure performance metrics; from an academic point of view, the science department is developing a working laboratory for them to run experiments and the ability for practical application of the concepts they teach. Some examples of areas to connect include Physics (Newton’s laws, classes of levers, and mechanical advantage/disadvantage), Biology (cell functions and adaptation), and Anatomy (muscle function, fiber types, energy systems, and nervous system), to name just a few. The two limiting factors to expanding into the sciences are relationship building and creativity. Fortunately, you can control both. Volunteer your time in the science wing of the school, and opportunities for collaboration with naturally rise.The creation of a “student sport scientist” opportunity can help build relationships and satisfy the needs of both the coach and student, says @WeeksJeremy. Click To Tweet
A last area of emphasis in relation to science is the potential for a student assistant. Utilize the term “sport scientist,” which can be intriguing to a young person. The creation of a “student sport scientist” opportunity can help build relationships and satisfy the needs of both the coach and student. Students volunteer time as sport managers and film crews—why not follow the same model for a sport scientist?
History and Social Studies
The direct relationship between sport science and particular subjects may not be recognizable on the surface. A lesson I learned during the process of developing a program is the value of indirect growth opportunities. These indirect relationships can be very powerful in developing a program of any kind.
Administrators view the school as a collaborative effort in the development of young people. Cross-curricular collaboration in areas not directly related to sport demonstrates your utility as an employee and, more importantly, shows your willingness to be involved. And—dare I say it?—maybe you will find an interest in something you didn’t know existed by simply learning and trying something new.
History is a great example of an indirect opportunity. A personal interest led to my integration of sport science into the History classroom. Collaboration with the History Department opened the eyes of school administrators. Falling back on creativity, engaging the History Department demonstrated our commitment to the larger school outside of the Athletic wing.
There are several areas where a sport scientist can integrate into the social sciences. The first is on the History of Sport, which can easily be customized to a specific history course. A few examples are “History of Sport in the United States” and “The Evolution of Ball Sports.” A simple search and a little reading can provide more than enough information for a coach to develop a lesson, not to mention the education you gain as a practitioner. The more you understand where you have been, the more you can plan where you are going.
The second area of sport science with a historical tone is the “Muscular Christianity Movement.” Early education centered on Christian principles, and it was once thought that a relationship existed between physical fitness and faith.
Lastly, you can make a clear connection by introducing the history of the fitness movement and strength and conditioning with the spark of physical fitness integration into schools stemming from the German turnen programs, an early form of gymnastics. Once you start down this path, you may be surprised by what you find.
Physical Education varies per state, with each having different requirements. Certain states require four years of P.E., while others, unfortunately, require none. It is common for schools to utilize athletics to fulfill state P.E. requirements, providing both pros and cons for the larger student population.
In larger schools, many programs are forced to hold tryouts to limit roster size. From a competitive perspective, the benefits are obvious; the adolescent athletes with the higher level of skill, or perhaps a faster path to maturation, will make the team. However, from a developmental point of view, not so much. Late bloomers get left behind and have their sport careers end early.
The pitfalls of cutting in youth sports is an important topic and warrants further examination by state athletic governing bodies. If your school is required to have a P.E. program and utilizes the athletic model, these students are filtered into a P.E. class designed as a “catch-all” of students, either those with no sport interest or those unable to make the teams. What a great spot to look for students with sport interest who simply want a place to belong!
Having the P.E. programs involved in the weight room allows for them to continue to develop. Our program used the P.E. program as a source to fill the powerlifting team roster, building one of the top programs in the region. Many of these students became state qualifiers and regional champions simply because we provided a place for them to belong. They needed someone to give them a chance, and then they did the rest.We used the P.E. program as a source to fill the powerlifting team roster, building one of the top programs in the region by providing students with a place to belong, says @WeeksJeremy. Click To Tweet
The P.E. students not involved with athletics often become your academic leaders, overseeing many aspects of the other subject areas listed in this article. Who do you think your biggest advocate for cross-curricular involvement can be? You guessed it—these students. Keeping them engaged allows for you to boost their experience, and, in turn, they can be the connectors for you on campus.
English and the Language Arts
Language Arts is possibly the most difficult subject area to integrate into sport science. Looking back at the previous statement of indirect subject areas, English was under this umbrella for me. There may be specifics to your school impacting the direction of collaboration, and each situation is different. Potential areas of mutual benefit can be found in school newspaper publications. Having your program featured in the school newspaper can bring awareness to your program and provide an avenue of exposure to your school’s wider community.
The article may potentially find its way into the hands of a parent passionate about the crossroads of sport and academics. Simply making internal and external constituents aware of your program can have tremendous return. Another potential benefit of collaborating with your Language Arts program is to assist in grant writing. If you are not seeking grant funding, you are missing a great opportunity to fund your program while improving your student-athletes’ experience. Having a skilled wordsmith examine your application prior to submission may be the difference between receiving the award and being passed over.
One of the best ways to create internal credibility with your school’s leadership team is for your department to emphasize external credibility. A great example is being recognized by the NSCA through their “Strength of America” program—recognition gained by demonstrating certain competencies outlined by the NSCA. Schools look for ways to highlight the achievements of the faculty, which are often used to attract potential parents and students to the school.
If you are employed by a private school, you likely understand the competitive nature of education as a business. As difficult as it may be to believe, education IS a business, and we would all be better equipped if we understand and accept this. Businesses thrive on marketing and recognition, so providing yourself and your department with the appropriate recognition can be influential when developing a program.
With approval from your school’s leadership, you can highlight the great accomplishments of your student-athletes through various forms of media—such as writing for forward-thinking websites like SimpliFaster.com. Working with your Language Arts program can help you to express your program in words to be shared with your fellow colleagues, as well as highlight your program and the great accomplishments of your student-athletes. Chances are that you didn’t choose the coaching profession because you are a great writer, and being able to put your program into words can increase the exposure of your hard work.
Fine and Performing Arts
On the surface level, Fine and Performing Arts may seem difficult to integrate into sport science. When working in the high school setting, you understand the dynamic interactions you have each day. A regular day may involve interacting with a group of 14-year-olds for an hour, followed by an administrative meeting, and then getting called in by the Athletic Director for a parent meeting. Being able to switch your level of interaction is a skill.
As a coach, if you cannot effectively make these switches, it can influence your job performance. This skill set includes aspects of speech, improvisation, acting, and debate: in a nutshell, the art of communication. Seeking assistance in these areas can start the conversation for collaboration. Fortunately, this is a skill set you can improve upon if you seek and utilize the resources.
It is becoming more common for Fine and Performing Arts programs to include Filmmaking. The technology associated with Filmmaking can be incredibly beneficial for a sport science program. Technology in Filmmaking includes high-speed cameras and equipment, advanced video editing software, and green screens, to name a few. Cameras used during filmmaking are incredibly advanced; even the common smartphone has a camera that Hollywood only dreamt of a decade ago. Imagine the power of the latest cameras designed for filmmaking. Logistically organizing and operating the cameras is something your Filmmaking team can do, leaving you able to give your full attention to the training at hand.
Providing your athletes with movement analysis is possible by integrating camera technology into your training program, even at the most basic level of video feedback. A simple video replay doesn’t require you to be there if you give the student operating the camera the autonomy to show the student-athlete a quick video replay of a movement. With short filmmaking becoming a growing area of interest among high school students, a coach is likely to find a willing volunteer to film and edit a few short clips. Giving students the experience in filming and editing allows them to perfect their craft while creating extensive video options for sport science involvement.
Add Sport Science to Your High School
Becoming a high school coach allows for an incredible learning experience not afforded in other settings. If strategically utilized, the resources available can allow you to develop a sport science program those in the college ranks can only dream of. As a coach, you must identify your ultimate goal. For me, it is simply creating avenues to connect with my student-athletes, which leads to the sharing of information to better inform our decisions in the training process.If strategically utilized, the resources available in high school can allow you to develop a sport science program those in the college ranks can only dream of, says @WeeksJeremy. Click To Tweet
Sport science allows for me to integrate the scientific process into the sport setting, but it is only one means of solving a problem. I cannot think of a better means than having a conversation with my athletes. Being present in the classroom allows you, as the coach, to be seen in a different environment—their environment. Students appreciate a willingness to be vulnerable. Investing in your relationships with the students, administration, teachers, and parents can yield incredible results. As stated before, “One man’s problem is another man’s solution.”
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