Thursday, March 21, 2013

Interscholastic Coaches & Assessment Plans

As an aspiring teacher and coach, I believe that requiring interscholastic coaches to submit learning outcomes and assessment plans to their athletic director is a great tool to keep their athletic programs successful and continue their growth well into the future. The benefits of implementing this requirement for coaches could not only help keep them responsible and in sync with the athletic director, but it could also benefit the student-athletes by guiding them toward achieving the learning milestones in their athletic and personal careers. Schools already require core academic areas to implement learning outcomes and assessment plans so it makes sense for athletic programs to follow suit. With these requirements in place at the beginning of the season I think that they can improve the student-athlete’s academic grades as well as their performance in their sport. The growing trend of learning outcomes and assessment in athletic programs provides essential and reasonable expectations for student-athletes and coaches at the beginning of the season and can continue to prove useful throughout the season.

SLOs and Assessment Plans in Athletics?

What is the purpose for having a coach develop a formal written plan that is submitted to the athletic director? Coaches naturally make student learning outcomes (SLOs) and assessment plans for their programs --- they are called game plans! In my personal experience as an educator and coach, anyone can write up a glorified lesson plan or create top-notch learning outcomes. But for most educators, these are all just words on paper. Submitting SLOs to the athletic director does not indicate that a coach and/or team will have a successful season. It’s like planning for the National Championship, it is a great goal, but you will never get there if you are not executing the steps in all areas of your program. Coaches put a lot of hours and effort into developing the best game plan for their program. The results of a solid game plan can be seen in the win/loss column. Overall, the coach’s assessment plan in arbitrated through his/her athletes and how well their season unfolds.

Coaching by the Numbers

For the advancement, growth, and success of team sports at the collegiate and public school level, coaches should be required to provide academic standing reports as well as team record reports to the athletic director each season. Most coaches live by the numbers game and improved numbers equal added success.
 
It’s been known that success in the classroom equals success on the playing field and the academic standing of student-athletes reflects upon schools as a whole. Tracking an athlete’s progress throughout their academic career helps ensure their success and provides a positive image for the athletic program. Maintaining team records is another sure-fire method for keeping a team on the path to success.  Athletes are competitive by nature and strive to excel when challenged by goals such as ‘most tackles’, ‘bench press champion’, or ‘fastest 40’. Team records keep the program progressing in the right direction.
 
Providing academic standing reports and team records to the athletic director every season can and will help the athletic program, along with the image of the school. All coaches should be required to provide these reports.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Should interscholastic coaches be required to submit learning outcomes and an assessment plan to the athletic director at the beginning of season?  Yes, I think that they should because “failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Having an assessment plan is an excellent way to find strengths and weaknesses in not only the athletes but the program.
 
Planning and assessments are the best way to be successful and have accountability in any program or industry.  Kinesiology students at Tarleton must pass certain physical assessments to be in the program, personal trainers give their clients a plan to follow and then assess their progress regularly, sales professionals have a business plan for their year which  is assessed by their manager, and so on.
 
By providing learning outcomes and assessment plans to athletic directors, interscholastic coaches will be able to have a structured plan that can not only be measured but also help them be more successful with their students.

Strength & Conditioning Formal Assessments

Requiring Strength and Conditioning Coaches to submit learning outcomes and an assessment plan to the Athletic Director at the beginning of the season keeps everyone in-check and accountable.  It creates an environment where everyone is concerned with the development of the program and the student-athlete.  Winning takes on a whole new meaning.  Perhaps not only are the coaches concerned with winning games during the competitive season but winning year-round.  Having an assessment plan is like having an athletic development road map.  The program knows where it wants to go and how it will get there while assessing progress along the way.  In the field of Strength & Conditioning, assessment is crucial in getting the athlete where he or she wants to go.

Prior to beginning a Strength & Conditioning program, the athlete is pre-screened for movement deficiencies and overall health.  From these results, the Strength & Conditioning coach is able to place the athlete into their own correctional program.  The athlete is then able to improve weak areas and allowed to re-test later in the year to see these improvements.  This information provides the Athletic Director with a progress report that directly reflects the work of the Strength & Conditioning Coach.         

Assessing the Athletic Program


Assessment is critical for measuring the overall productivity of an athletic program. By submitting learning outcomes and assessment plans to the athletic director before the competition season, measures can be made during and after the season. These measures are essential for monitoring the student athlete’s progress throughout their athletic and academic term. Learning outcomes and assessments can measure critical elements such as, academic performance (grades), absences, productivity, work-ethic, and athletic results. The advantage to these assessments is that it allows for the athletic director to see the goals of each coach (and team) in an organized manner. Additionally, these assessments provide insight into areas which need improvement after a season. Because measuring the impact of a program is highly dependent on organization and planning, submitting learning outcomes and assessment plans is essential for keeping the coaches accountable for the progress of the student-athletes, the teams, and the athletic program as a whole. 

Achievement on the Court

I do not believe that interscholastic coaches should be required to submit a learning and assessment plan to their athletic director at the beginning of the season. If coached properly, an athlete will learn core life values while furthering their education. A coach is responsible for instilling the values of hard work, good sportsmanship, dedication and teamwork in their athletes; success is measured by their wins and losses each season. In the state of Texas, there are minimum grade requirements that must be met in order for athletes to participate in sporting competitions. If athletes do not achieve quality academic or attitude standards they should be disciplined with negative reinforcement (sprints or bench time). A coach should not only coach a sport, but also coach a student in academics and values.  However, if coaches are asked to write an assessment plan each season, this may take away time spent encouraging athletes to achieve their best on the court and in the classroom.

UIL Approach - College Ready Learning Outcomes

High school Athletic Directors and coaches have many responsibilities but the number one goal should be preparation of their student-athletes for college. Requiring coaches to provide learning outcomes would benefit the student-athletes academically by focusing on an awareness of student progress (PSAT, ACT, and SAT scores) and identifying areas that need improvement, as well as an attention to expanding cognitive and social horizons. This would put an emphasis on coaches making their athletes aware of college requirements in their freshman/sophomore years rather than waiting for their junior/senior years to begin testing for college requirements.
 
Being an NCAA certified college recruiter, I have had to ‘pass’ on many potential student-athletes because they do not have adequate test scores. Every high school athlete has (or should have) the dream of playing college sports or attending college. It is my beliefs that parents of high school athletes would rather have their child earn a college scholarship than win a State Championship. Many head coaches are judged by how many athletes they put into the college ranks.  By providing learning outcomes and other assessment tools, the entire athletic program (especially the athletes) benefits --- it’s a win/win!

Assessment & Dance

Interscholastic coaches should be required to submit learning outcomes and a formal assessment plan to the athletic director at the beginning of the season, just as any educator would to be expected to before the school year. As a high school dance coach, the skills that I teach my athletes should be just as important as what they learn in core classes. My goal is to make sure my student-athletes are getting as much out of my dance program as possible. I deliberately work to build respectful, self-motivated, successful individuals as well as great athletes.

While educators who teach core subjects are accountable for developing lesson plans, I am responsible for doing the same for my program.  If coaches were required to submit learning outcomes and assessment plans to the athletic director perhaps it would add to the credibility of those who clearly strive to teach their student-athletes more than just winning. The job of coaching is not “easier” than those of teachers who are in a classroom all day. By providing a formal means of assessment, it is my belief that many school personnel would better understand the vital role of coaches in education. 

Athletics & Assessment


The issue of whether coaches should be required to submit Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) has been a much debated topic. It is my opinion, as a future coach, that athletic departments should be held to the same high standards as the other departments. Coaches, especially at the high school level, are educators first and foremost. It is that the majority of a coach’s classroom time is spent on the field or court.
It is important for a coach to submit SLOs so that there is formal plan which outlines the goals of the athletic program. For example, the SLOs provide written documentation that the students are being guided to be productive members of society. Yes, students should be groomed for college; however, research suggests that most students will not go on to college and for many athletics will be the extracurricular activity that most shapes their lives. Coaches need to be able to demonstrate that developing athletes to become contributing members of society is a measurable outcome in sports. By assessing SLOs the athletic department will meet the same standards as others in the academic setting and the student-athletes will be recognized for more than “winning games”.
 
 

Planning for Success in Athletics

Requiring coaches to submit learning outcomes and an assessment plan to the athletic director at the beginning of the season can help with organization, preparedness, and an awareness of the coach’s plan for the year. The assessment plan is useful for the coach as it casts a vision for the direction that they want to take the team in the upcoming season as well as adds a level of accountability that would demand better preparation.  Andy Stanley once said that “Direction not intention determines destination”. A coach cannot simply ‘intend’ to have a good season rather the coach must create a firm direction to enhance the likelihood of success. I believe the assessment plan as well as the learning outcomes provides a structure that puts the athletic program, the coach, and the student-athletes in the best position to succeed.

Assessment Plans for Athletic Programs?


Athletic directors have a very difficult job. They are responsible for every sport, coach, and athlete within an athletic program. Many times they must make tough decisions regarding budgets, discipline, and hiring/firing a coach. Assuming the ‘buck stops here’, I believe that athletic directors have every right to do what he/she thinks will make the athletic program successful. If that means making every coach submit student learning outcomes (SLOs) and a formal assessment plan for their team as well as athletes, then so be it.

However, on the flip side of this issue, coaches have enough on their hands without worry about developing useless SLOs. Many coaches might resent their athletic director for making them do busy work that is simply a ‘checkmark in the box’ exercise. If I was an athletic director, I would hold my coaches accountable for their team’s production. Ultimately, the wins/losses determine the success of an athletic program.  Do the fans, alumni, and administration really care about SLOs if the team fails to produce on the field?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pscyle Lab

A rare rehabilitation facility can be found in the Kinesiology Department at Tarleton State University. Established in 1994, the Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior has been providing paraplegics and quadriplegics with a workout facility which targets full body movement. The laboratory’s nickname, Psycle Lab, derives from an interesting piece of machinery. The Psycle is an innovative recumbent bicycle which allows those with paralysis to engage in cardiovascular exercise which targets the lower body. These Psycles are generated by a flywheel, which corresponds to the effort exerted by the rider. As astonishing as it sounds, paraplegics and quadriplegics can benefit from the Psycle.
 The Psycle allows paraplegics and quadriplegics to engage in aerobic activity to enhance their cardiovascular health. These clients propel their legs by using their arms to push and pull under the knee cap and thigh. The Psycle is also a great for preparing those who will be able to walk again by stimulating muscle cells. Benefits of using this Pscyle have shown improvements in flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, decrease in muscle spasms, and hypertrophy.
The neat thing about this laboratory is that it’s FREE. Anyone with a disability can take advantage of this facility and improve their overall health and even their chances of walking!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Indoor vs. Outdoor Track & Field Season

Not all NCAA affiliated schools compete in an Indoor Track & Field season. Indoor season begins at the end of December or beginning of January and finishes at the end of February. Outdoor season starts end of February and concludes in late May. For those colleges fortunate to have an Indoor season, it provides a jumpstart for the athletes and prepares them for competing in the upcoming Outdoor season.
 
Various track & field events are offered during the two seasons.  For athletes competing in throwing events, the Indoor season incudes the weight throw and shot put. While the Outdoor events are shot put, discus, javelin, and hammer throw.
 
Just as the events are different during the two seasons, there are also significant differences in the environment and implements. An indoor shot put is a metal ball wrapped in a plastic cover; it has a completely different texture than the metal ball used in outdoor competitions. Athletes also tend to use chalk for their shot put while throwing indoor which allows them to have a better grip on the shot making it less likely to slip out of the hand.  The weight throw is performed by imitating the same technique as the hammer but the implement is shorter, has a bigger ball, and weighs more. The throwing rings are also different; indoor the rings are usually a type of polished wood, while outdoor rings are made from various types of concrete. Spinning or gliding in the shot put event while on a polished wooden ring for the first time can be an experience worth watching. The wood rings are considered “faster” rings providing for a better execution of technique. The smoother the surface is in the ring, the “faster”.  These factors alone can affect a throwers outcome.
 
 If your school doesn't have an indoor facility to practice in then the first time an athlete is in the new ring can be interesting. The good news is that as throwers we are used to adjusting to different surfaces (rings), so it shouldn't affect the athlete too much once they get in a few glides or spins. Tarleton State University Track & Field just recently received the great news that next year they will be competing in both Indoor and Outdoor seasons for the Lone Star Conference. Wish us luck; come out and support our teams in both Indoor and Outdoor venues!
Indoor Shot Put

 
Indoor Weight Throw



SEC- Recruiting Too Young


On February 23 in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban, the head football coach for Alabama, extended a scholarship offer to current 8th grader Dylan Moses. The 6-1 215 lb. 14- year old impressed Alabama’s coaching staff at their annual Junior Day. Although this is not the first time BCS schools have offered an athlete prior to their junior year, it is the first time for an 8th grader. Many would assume that this would be illegal under the NCAA regulations however it is not deemed an official contact (which can’t start until the junior year of high school) because the offer was extended at a sports camp.
There is no doubt that Alabama’s coaching staff is one of the best evaluators of talent. Yes, this 8th grader has the potential to be at the top of the 2017 signing class, but what is this verbal offer accomplishing? Alabama has given themselves the best opportunity to recruit this athlete once Moses’ junior year arrives. Other colleges across the nation have little hope to woo and recruit Moses now that this verbal offer has been made. In today’s social media and news soaked culture, this young man has made headlines as the most talked about 8th grade football player in America. One can only imagine what emotions this 14-year old must feel ---excitement, fulfillment, super star, and a sense of arrival..
Alabama has nothing to lose in providing a verbal offer to Dylan Moses. But, on the other hand, Moses has everything to lose. What is going to happen when other kids his age catch up to his athleticism and strength? What would happen if he gets hurt or fails classes and becomes ineligible? Moses already has an offer from the best college football program in the nation; what would happen if he feels a sense of entitlement and loses his drive to become the best football player and young man that he is capable of becoming? This is a lot to put on the shoulders of a 14-year old--- no one wants to be known as the one that lost it all.
 
I believe the NCAA should regulate verbal offers prior to the junior year for the overall benefit of the young athlete.  What do you think?

The Diet Craze

People’s hunger for nutrition and diet knowledge is at an all time high!  Diet books are best sellers and many magazines are now offering and featuring advice on diet and nutrition.  Much of the information out there is for the purpose of making a profit rather than improving the public’s overall long-term health.  With so much information available, some of it contradictory or utterly false, it’s no wonder people feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to believe or where to start. 
For those who want to lose weight, it should be noted that obsessively controlling the consumption of one nutrient, such as carbohydrates or fat, will not result in optimal long-term health benefits.  Yes, weight loss may occur but the loss is typically temporary as it is a lifestyle diet that can be sustained without experiencing negative side effects.  To debunk the many diet myths that are prevalent in society today, I will address some of the hot topics related to nutrition in a blog series.  Topics will include things like:  Organic vs. Non-Organic, High Protein vs. Vegetarian or Vegan, Soy- is it good for you?, Do carbohydrates make you fat, The Fat Debate:  Saturated, Unsaturated, Trans?, Vitamins and Supplements?
As a health professional, I have been researching these nutrition topics for some time and promise to keep information fact-based and un-biased.  Check back soon for the first blog of the nutrition series as I discuss the pros and cons of the debate concerning Organic vs. Non-Organic.


Athletes Utilize Compensatory Acceleration

The term compensatory acceleration means to lift a submaximal weight with maximal force or simply an individual’s intent to move a weight as fast as possible (Hatfield, 1982).  Compensatory acceleration is used to develop explosive power and has been around for quite some time.  Dr. Fred Hatfield aka “Dr. Squat” is credited with the discovery of compensatory acceleration.  Compensatory acceleration is incredibly important when training with free weights, especially to the competitive athlete.  By moving a weight as fast as possible, the athlete works to improve neuro-muscular efficiency.  A neuro-muscular efficient athlete is one who can recruit a large number of high threshold motor units simultaneously in order to complete a task such as moving a barbell in the gym or unleashing a big hit on the football field. 

As a Strength & Conditioning coach, it is important to make sure the athlete understands the importance of compensatory acceleration.  The Tendo unit can be used to provide instant feedback that lets the athlete know how fast they are moving a weight in the gym.  The Tendo unit measures an athlete’s power output in watts and m/s.  The higher the number the better!  The Tendo unit is an incredibly valuable piece of equipment in strength and conditioning and can be used to stimulate competition.  Even though two athletes may have a different weight on the bar, they can compete with each other to produce a greater power output.  For example, athlete A can have 400 lbs. on the bar while athlete B has only 300 lbs. on the bar, however athlete B may produce more power than athlete A.  Now not only are they competing on how much weight they are moving but how fast they are moving it which has even more carry over to the playing field.  

    

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dancing My Way to Better Health

From the years of 2004-2011, I danced year round, making it easy for me to stay in shape. However, after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in May 2011, I put my dance career on hold while I focused on making the transition from college student to full time teacher/coach. After finding a job, in June 2011, my life became extremely hectic as I tried to learn everything about becoming the best coach possible. My high school students became more important to me than my own health which in turn caused me to gain about 20 pounds. It was hard to stay confident, with such negative changes in my appearance, so I decided it was time to focus on me and get back to the gym.

Shortly after joining a gym, I heard about an audition for a dance team. I missed dancing and knew that this audition would motivate me to get back in shape. For a period of eight weeks I engaged in a vigorous exercise routine; I completed a cardio workout five days a week for 45-60 minutes  and incorporated strength training into my daily routine. Audition day came, and although I had lost over half the weight, I was not as fit as the other dancers. Luckily, the director still invited me to join her team. During the season, I watch the extra weight fall off as I danced daily and incorporated more strength training into my weekly regimen.

During the next audition season, I was selected for a semi-professional dance team.  After working hard for two years, and completely changing my lifestyle, I am proud to say that I am back to my college size. I am in better shape than I ever thought possible which has prompted me to consider attending my biggest audition yet --- a try-out for the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blues Dancers!  I truly feel that I have danced my way to a healthier, more confident me.

Pictures are from auditions in 2011, 2012, and me currently.

Kick up the Intensity = Faster Results!

Too many people go to the gym with a ‘do whatever’ mentality and these are the people who never see positive changes in their bodies. You’ve probably seen them talking on their phones, texting, conversing with others for an extended period of time. Typically these people go to the gym for the camaraderie or the atmosphere. But you aren’t one of these people! You go to the gym with a ‘get it done’ attitude. You get in and get out once your workout is complete. However, you have reached a plateau and are no longer seeing results. Are you really giving it your all in the gym? Give these easy to follow tips a try and watch your results kick into overdrive.
 
1.       Pick up heavier weights – You can’t use the same weight all the time. Schedule heavy days that focus on strength and light days that focus on speed.
2.       Take shorter rest periods – Taking shorter breaks can help keep your heart rate up and burn more calories. The shorter rest periods can also help build more muscle.
3.       Superset – This is a simple technique used to increase intensity by combining two exercises that are performed back-to-back with no rest in between. Opposite muscle groups are usually supersetted together, such as chest/back or biceps/triceps, etc.
4.       Try circuit training – Circuit training is a great way to up the intensity in a routine. Simply perform a series of exercises consecutively with no breaks at all. This works best with a full body routine. Pick an exercise for each muscle group…choose a weight you can perform for 10-12 repetitions… work your way through all the exercises with no break in between them. Take a 2-3 minute rest then repeat the circuit. Perform 2-3 rounds to work up a great sweat and burn a lot of calories.
These are simple yet effective tips that can be applied to any routine. Just remember that you can always push yourself a little bit harder, ride a little bit farther, and sweat a little bit more.

Personal Basketball Trainers



Personal Basketball Trainers can help to improve a player’s basketball skills through drills, sets, conditioning, and working on specific problem areas of the individual or team. These trainers actually break down the game into specific focus areas such as footwork, ball handling, defense, shooting, passing, and making moves to beat the defender to the basket. Personal Trainers provide basketball players with one-on-one lessons which leads to improved skills and court awareness. One of the players that I trained improved to become one of the top players in the state her freshman year and was recruited by a variety of college basketball teams. Her main problem areas were footwork, blocking out, rebounding, shooting, ball handling and post moves. We would start off with ball handling drills and moves to the basket.  Speedwork was also important so that she could blow past defenders. I had her work on post moves on both sides of the basket allowing her to first go through the movements in order to get footwork right to avoid traveling or double dribbling. We would then pick up the speed and perform the moves while I played defense. The end of each session would end with shooting on the gun or a quick workout in the weight room.

Personal Trainers for basketball provide an opportunity for young athletes to improve their game. They are encouraged to go home and work on what they’ve learned on their own time so that the next session, if that problem area is mastered, they can move on to learning something different. Personal Basketball Trainers can be a wonderful career opportunity for former players and students of the game, but, we have to get the word out.  Market your skills and find your dream job today!

Athletes are Role Models



Pro sports are extremely popular in America; however, nothing can compare to the popularity of many of the top professional athletes.  These athletes are put on a pedestal and admired by many people especially young children. This unquestioning adoration can be both good and bad as  some athletes are great role models while others serve as examples of all that is wrong in American society. The question for debate: Are pro athletes role models?
 
Not my job!  Some athletes would argue that their job is on the field or court; they are not paid to be a role model. Charles Barkley, retired NBA All-Star, has said repeatedly that he is not a role model. He believes that being a role model is for parents, priest, and teachers. Michael Vick, former NFL quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was considered by many in the league to be a selfish player. Yet, kids idolized his swagger and his #7 jersey became very popular. It turns out that he was a poor role model as he served time in prison for his dog fighting ring.
 
Admiration & respect comes with the territory!  A role model is someone that people look up to and want to emulate. As an athlete, serving as a good role model is simply part of the job. Playing sports does not give an athlete the right to act like an idiot on (or off) the field of play. If anything, athletes must be on-point in their actions and words at all times. The youth of today need positive male and female athletes to hold in the highest regard.  Athletes need to understand it is a privilege to play sports. Thousands of people pay to watch them play and the least they can do is have great character and display solid sportsmanship. It takes everyone to build a positive society and athletes are role models whether they want to be or not. Michael Vick realized this during his in prison and changed his image. He is now a great teammate and leader both on and off the field. But most importantly, kids respect him for his accomplishments and are still wearing his #7 jersey.

Collegiate Student-Athlete

The transition from high school to college can be a difficult for most young adults. The college experience provides an opportunity to living on your own, do your own laundry, cook for yourself, and manage academic life all at the same time. Add the role of an athlete to college life and the transition becomes even more difficult. In collegiate sports, you are expected to be a student first followed by your role as an athlete. Student-athletes have additional daily responsibilities including athletic practices, travel to and from competitions, and study hall. Life as a student-athlete can be hectic and at times overwhelming.
As a student-athlete, there will be days that you will be absent from classes due to the travel schedule of the team. Advice that was been passed to me from upper classmen as well as my coach is that “missing one day of class is like missing two.” Without a solid time management plan and proactive study habits, the academic rigor can become more intense. Student-athletes must miss class for travel and competitions, yet they are still held responsible for keeping up with assignments and tests. If you don’t pass, you don’t play.
The life of a student-athlete is tough and requires hard work, but can be very rewarding. As student-athletes, we are fortunate to receive scholarships (full or partial), be able to represent our school, and have unique, fulfilling experiences that will never be forgotten.   To be a champion, you must practice and play hard in both the classroom and the playing field.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Phit or Phail


Last week’s blog (http://tinyurl.com/bnl6h85) focused on Tarleton State University’s emphasis on physically active Kinesiology majors. Tarleton Kinesiology majors must meet the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) health-related fitness standards at the 40th percentile or above for age and gender in order to graduate. But what happens when a student has difficulty passing one of the required tests? To address this issue, Tarleton’s Clinical Exercise Research Facility (CERF) has come up with a solution. Phit or Phail (Fit or Fail) is a learning series taught by senior-level Kinesiology majors during their internship in CERF. These interns are focused on assisting Kinesiology students who are struggling to achieve the appropriate fitness standards on the health-related tests that include a 1.5 mile run, bench press, leg press, sit-ups, and flexibility.  Each semester four sessions are provided to help meet the fitness needs of students below the 40th percentile.
  1.  Phirm or Phlab --- focuses on developing muscular strength.
  2. Phast or Phail --- emphasizes boosts in cardiovascular health.
  3. Phit or Phlab --- concentrates on improving muscular endurance and reducing body fat percentage.
  4. Phloat or Phlop --- aims to help students to improve their swimming skills.

Students who attend these meetings will learn helpful tips on how to advance their current fitness levels. One of the main focuses of these sessions is the creation of a workout calendar.  The calendar allows the students to make a commitment to exercise on certain days each week.  After the students choose the dates and times they will exercise, CERF interns will help create a customized exercise plan.  With these Phun informative sessions, students can hopefully pass the minimum health-related fitness standards required for graduation.  But most importantly, they can learn to how to live a physically active life!


Energy Drinks Pack-A-Punch: A Personal Reflection

Recently, I was rushed to the ER for chest pains, swelling of the throat, and shortness of breath. Prior to this emergency trip to the hospital, I had been cramming all day and night studying for school. During this study session, I had also consumed a couple of Mountain Dews, a Red Bull energy drink, and a 5-Hour Energy shot.

The ER Visit: Chest pains, swelling of the throat, and shortness of breath --- all classic symptoms of a heart attack. Although I am a healthy and fit young man, I was so worried about my physical condition that I telephoned an on-call physician at 1 A.M. to see what I should do about my situation. I was to the point that I was afraid if I fell asleep that I wouldn’t wake up due to heart attack. The doctor highly recommended that I go to the ER. As soon as I arrived at the ER, the nurses hooked me up to all of their machines and checked my vitals.  The doctors conducted blood tests, EKGs, and X-rays to help determine my medical situation.

The Diagnosis: I was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia as well as acute viral pharyngitis. The symptoms of the arrhythmia and virus combined to give me signs similar to that of a heart attack: increased/pounding heart rate, weakness, fatigue, clammy skin, and panic. And with my throat being so swollen from the virus, breathing was a difficult process that caused my chest to hurt as well. The doctor stated that my high intake of caffeine was most likely the contributing factor of the heart arrhythmia.

The Moral to the Story: The moral of this story is that energy drinks and caffeinated drinks should be consumed in moderation. There are some health benefits to energy drinks when it comes to consuming the taurine, ginseng, and other supplements. Italian researchers found that “Energy drinks containing caffeine and taurine boost heart function in healthy people. Function in the left and right ventricles, which pump blood to the body, increased one hour after consuming an energy drink, according to the researchers, who used echocardiography on 35 healthy people with an average age of 25.” (Connolly, 2012). Though this may be just one study out of many, people need to moderate their intake of energy drinks and other energy supplements.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NFL: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

In a recent ESPN radio show, Nick Kasa, a tight end with the University of Colorado, was asked about his sexual orientation by scouts at the NFL Combine. Although it is illegal to ask an athlete if they are gay, the NFL scouts did make their intentions clear by asking indirect questions regarding Kasa’s sexuality such as “Do you have a girlfriend?”, “Are you married?”, and “Do you like girls?”.

The issue of an openly gay player in pro sports has been a media hot topic since San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver made anti-gay remarks before Super Bowl XLVII.  Katie Couric also delved into the topic of sexual preference during an interview about the Manti Te’o “catfish” scandal. Couric point blank asked Manti Te’o if he was gay. The curiosity surrounding Te’o continued to dog the Heisman finalist as Mike Florio, NBC Sports and ProFootballTalk, explained to radio host Dan Patrick that NFL teams were extremely inquisitive about the sexual orientation of Te'o. "Here's the elephant in the room for the teams and it shouldn't matter, but we have to step aside from the rest of reality and walk into the unique industry that is the NFL." Florio said to Patrick. "Teams want to know whether Manti Te'o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it's a different world. It shouldn't be that way."
It would be na├»ve to think that there are no gay players currently in pro sports. The question is ‘How long it will be before the culture in pro sports changes to allow the players to be open about their sexual orientation?’.    
 

Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 NFL Combine- Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana is the site where over 300 of the best college football players around the nation will display their athletic prowess in hopes of making it to the next level – the NFL. The Indianapolis Combine is an invitation-only event involving the most NFL-ready college athletes; these athletes will be judged on physical performance as well as mental toughness and stability.

Coaches and Scouts from all 32 NFL teams will be in attendance at the Indy Combine and they will administer very precise evaluation process to determine those who will be drafted on April 25th in New York. This evaluation process is more than measuring size and strength numbers. The athletes’ mental capacity will be measured through the Wonderlick Test (www.wonderlic.com) which is a timed 12-minute exam which consists of an array of 50 questions over cognitive learning and problem solving skills. Throughout the duration of the Combine there will be an interview phase that extracts personal information evaluating the character and maturity of each athlete. Considering the large amounts of money that will be invested in the draft picks, it is essential that the NFL owners and GM’s intricately learn about every aspect of the athlete’s life.    How these athletes carry themselves throughout the NFL Combine could make a difference in thousands to millions of dollars. These athletes are put under a microscope in every aspect as the coaches evaluate demeanor, character, leadership and competitive nature as well as investigate an athlete’s postings on social media sites.

Less than 1 percent of college football players make it to the NFL. The average career lasts only 3 seasons. The NFL Indy Combine is the biggest job interview of these players’ lives; this is where all of the training, hard work, film studies, and dedication shows up. There should be little doubt as to why the Indianapolis Combine houses the top medical, coaching, and scout evaluation staffs from around the nation in order to precisely evaluate the NFL future of these elite athletes.  

Energy Drinks Pack-a-Punch

With the hectic lifestyles most of us lead, we tend to need a pick-me-up every now and then so that we have enough energy to make it through the day. Energy drinks and energy shots have been around for years but have grown more and more popular with people of all ages, particularly teenagers and young adults. Companies such as Redbull, Monster, and AMP have built empires based off of the quick-fix energy drink supplements.

While many people consume energy drinks daily with no adverse effects, critics argue that there are too many supplements in the drinks and that they they pose a severe health risk. Most energy drinks contain various amounts of caffeine, taurine, guarana, ginseng, B-vitamins, and L-carnitine. The International Food Information Council Foundation (2013) states that “A 250 milliliter (mL) energy drink (about 8.5 ounces) can have anywhere from 50-160 mg of caffeine. Comparatively, an average 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 mg caffeine, and a 12-ounce soft drink has about 40 mg caffeine.” While opponents state that an energy drink is worse than a cup of coffee it should be noted that most people don’t have just one cup of coffee. Also, coffee does not contain near as much of a health benefit as energy drinks do. 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to consuming energy drinks, shots, or any kind of caffeine-rich substance is moderation. Energy drinks have been scientifically linked to improved performance in certain athletes and other sports enthusiasts. But the problem with the energy drinks is how often people consume the drinks. According to the IFICF, the safest amount of caffeine consumption is 300 mg per day. If someone has one energy drink per day and doesn’t consume any other caffeinated products then they are not putting themselves in harms way. However, someone who consumes large amounts of caffeine daily and also drinks energy drinks may be creating a dangerous situation that could potentially cause heart arrhythmia or worse.

So if you’re feeling down and need a boost in your day, an energy drink could be just the right supplement for you. But always remember, too much of a good thing may be dangerous; moderation is the key!