Physical Education Department makes new waves in the pool

Victor Dimitrov, Staff Writer

Members of the Physical Education (PE) Department recently received a full day of training in aquatic activities, including paddle-boarding and water yoga, to prepare for the new curriculum. PE Coordinator Amy Mojica invited two paddle-boarding experts from the Cornwall-based company Skye River Yoga to run the sessions.

“None of our in-house faculty had any pertinent experience in paddle-boarding or water aerobic activities,” Athletics Director Robert Annunziata said.

The instructors have professional yoga and paddle-boarding certifications from their respective governing bodies and were excited to “bring their activities into a high school environment,” Annunziata said.

The faculty received paddle-boarding and kayaking training in the morning and then did water yoga in the afternoon. The coaches entered the pool themselves to experiment with the activities, Aquatics Director Thatcher Woodley said.

“PE is all about experience learning. The best way for the teachers to learn how to teach it is to do it first and make sure it’s a safe activity. It’s almost like taking a PE class ourselves,” Woodley said.

In addition to the learning sessions, Mojica said that the faculty simulated aquatics classes in the pool.

The coaches determined the limit for the number of paddle-boards and other similar devices to be placed in the water, Woodley said.

“We took the paddle boards out and figured out how to modify the activities and determine safety features and techniques that the students need to know,” Mojica said. This allowed the coaches to determine how students can safely and effectively perform exercises like yoga, squats, and mountain climbers on the paddle board, Mojica said.

The school plans to add water aerobic activities like paddle boarding to the PE curriculum, Mojica said. Kayaking, snorkeling, longboard paddling, lifeguard training, and scuba are among the many activities that the PE Department hopes to integrate, Annunziata said.

“We’re just trying to find engaging activities for students. While we hope they will become better swimmers, we also hope they will come in and have a fun time trying new things and taking calculated risks,” Woodley said.

Matt Russo, the first PE coach to begin aquatics classes this year, said that some students are still hesitant to enter the water.

Annunziata believes the activities will make it easier for students lacking a background in aquatic sports to enter the water, he said.

Arden Chen (11), who struggled during the swim test, agrees with Annunziata, he said. “It’ll make me feel more comfortable and happy to do something fun instead of a workout,” he said.

Swimming activities are a priority for the department because they teach kids to be water-safe, Annunziata said.

Woodley believes aquatic skills are critical because “drowning is a leading cause of death,” he said. The Center for Disease Control ranks it fifth in the United States, and of those drowning victims, one in five are around the age of fourteen.

“Beyond that, knowing how to be safe while having fun in the water during spring, summer, or winter break is important,” Woodley said.

There will be four classes in this year’s aquatic curriculum, and the new activities have not yet been implemented. Russo said that they have yet to see how students will respond, but coaches are hopeful that they will be more responsive than in previous years.