By Julian Brenman ’20

On the evening of Tuesday, February 20th, a group of FCS parents joined Athletics and Wellness Director Michelle Crowley, Strength and Conditioning Trainer Victor “Vic” Swanki, ATC, and Athletic Trainer Kevin Bolton, ATC, for a casual discussion regarding the state of affairs in the Athletics and Wellness department. The discussion also served as an opportunity for parents to voice concerns about their children’s’ well-being in the realm of sports. FOCUS decided to sit in on the meeting to bring some of the concerns and joys expressed to the attention of the student body.

Michelle kicked off the evening by boasting about the recently revamped fitness room. She shared, “We’re really happy with some of the progress we’ve made this year. The revamped weight room has been a terrific resource for students and staff to utilize. I hope even more folks, especially parents, will get to come use it.” Kevin added, “The old weight room was your classic ‘70s weight room with big, old machines and stuff like that. I’m really happy that we now have this really great space.” When asked about some of the details of weight room use, Vic reported, “Every day after school, there are between 30 and 40 individuals who come down for training in the weight room. Some of those people are in the weight room with their teams, while others are there individually for private coaching. When working with teams, I tailor the training that I’m doing with them to help with specific aspects of their sports. For example, I’m working a lot with the baseball team on shoulder exercises, because there have been some shoulder problems among the players. Even if the players aren’t able to warm-up for too long for whatever reason, I always make sure they get their shoulder warm-ups in before they get on the field. My main goal when I’m training athletes is injury prevention.”

One mother asked the athletic staff about the proper way students should warm up before they go to a practice or game. Vic responded, “I find that an active warm-up is most beneficial. After all, why would we have somebody who’s about to run track sit down and stretch her hamstrings?” Kevin explained, “Stretching is really key, whether it’s static or dynamic stretching. Muscle exercises and band warm-ups are also great ways to warm-up.” When a father inquired about “how much time the average teenager should be spending on real exercise per week,” Vic replied, “ideally, about 30 minutes four times per week.”

A major theme that was discussed was mindfulness. Many parents feel that further integrating mindfulness into the athletics and wellness curriculum would be beneficial. One mother expressed, “Every kid could benefit from mindfulness. That’s worth pursuing. I want that to be more interwoven into what we do here. Just like Meeting for Worship, mindfulness serves a real function, whether the kids realize it in the moment or not. Mindfulness takes the experience to a whole new level. You have to take mindfulness on as an intentional practice. Mindfulness has to be taught.” She continued, “Yes, taking deep breaths is important, but that’s just skimming the surface. How do you get beyond that?” Michelle answered, “I would love to see some sort of mindfulness curriculum implemented here. Each student has their competition, so teaching them strategies and taking time out to help each of them so they can reset themselves is really helpful. It’s a great idea.”

In addition to enhancing the body with sports, and the brain with mindfulness, the Athletics and Wellness department hopes to nurture the digestive system with more of a focus on nutrition education throughout all of the grades. While nutrition has been taught across all divisions of the school for years, the athletics and wellness team is looking into how they can enhance the curriculum to make it even more relevant. Kevin stated, “It’s important to start to develop positive habits when they’re young, so they’re equipped for a lifetime of wellness.” He observed, “A lot of people don’t know how to eat properly. That’s what we’re trying to teach them. Actually in the tenth grade health class, the kids learn how to cook a healthy meal.” In terms of keeping a healthy diet, Vic advised, “Moderation, moderation, moderation. Let’s not focus on specific diets, like the caveman diet or similar things. The students just need to learn everything in moderation. Many people become vegetarians for various reasons. Yet some people don’t know that when you do go vegetarian or vegan, you lose a lot of essential proteins. If you do decide to go vegetarian or vegan, you have to supplement meat with other proteins. Don’t hurt yourself. Really make sure you know what you’re doing.” A mother suggested, “just read the labels and do simple things. Sometimes, if you knew what was in the thing you were about to eat, you wouldn’t have eaten it!”

The idea of a community-wide exercise initiative was also discussed. One mother proposed a “community 5K, where kids, teachers, staff, and parents could all participate. It would be a great way to get everyone active.”

The gathering was concluded with wise words from Kevin and Michelle. Kevin declared, “Trying to get confidence up is part of what we’re trying to do.” Michelle stated, “If our kids learn now, hopefully going forward, they will have these skills for life. The big thing for me is having a place where the kids can feel that they are happy, that they can be healthy, that it’s an environment that is nurturing for them, wherever they are in their wellness going forward. Holistic approach is the way to go! I have these ideas about having a mandatory wellness class. I have many other big ideas, that I hope to implement bit by bit. Stay tuned!”

The photo below shows Trainers Kevin Bolton (left) and Vic Swanski (right) with Athletic Director Michelle Crowley at the conclusion of the evening.

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