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Middle school ‘Running Revolution’ spreads to Berkeley County

July 22, 2016
Mark Cucuzzella , Shepherdstown Chronicle

It is a myth that today's children who have access to "sports nutrition," personal trainers and a plethora of fitness equipment and programs are more fit than past generations. The reality is today's youth are a minute per mile slower than 30 years ago in the mile run and a third are obese. In West Virginia the obesity is 40 percent. The culture of elite youth sports is also a house of cards. Many sports cut children and channel a select few into specializing in a single sport, often in order to chase the elusive goal of a college scholarship.

Middle school years show the sharpest decline in physical activity for boys and girls and in today's technology culture. This is likely not going to get better unless we take an active role. So it is with great joy that for the first time ever Berkeley County Middle Schools will offer cross country for all schools. Jefferson County has a thriving middle school cross country program which feeds the High Schools with a robust team and future state champions like Abby Colbert and Brandon Doughty. Fifty students showed up at the pre-season meeting for Jefferson High this year. Berkeley County high schools with more students struggle to field a scoring team of five runners. Much of it is exposure and opportunity. If no middle school opportunity then the odds of a student running in high school is slim.

In the late 1950s a warning sounded. Almost 58 percent of American children were unable to pass a basic fitness test, while only 8.7 percent of Europeans failed. President Eisenhower and later John F. Kennedy saw the problem at hand, had a vision and took action.

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"Our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security. We do not want in the United States a nation of spectators. We want a nation of participants in the vigorous life. This is not a matter which can be settled, of course, from Washington. It is really a matter which starts with each individual family" President John F. Kennedy, Conference on Physical Fitness of Youth, 1961

"For the physical vigor of our citizens is one of America's most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges which confront our people. We will be unable to realize our full potential as a nation." JFK in Sports Illustrated The Soft American 1960.

In a follow on Sports Illustrated Article The Vigor We Need 1962 Kennedy reported on some of the initial policy and outcomes. He wrote this ". But fitness is vital for a still more basic reason. It is vital because it is the basis of the health and vitality of the individual citizen. And these are qualities which are essential if each American is to be free to realize fully the potential value of his own capabilities and the pursuit of his individual goals."

The CDC outlines the following fact and strategies to combat the decline in activity for youth. Cross Country as an activity accessible to all fills the void. [www.cdc.gov/ healthyschools/physical activity/facts.htm}

In 2013, 27.1 percent of high school students surveyed had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on all seven days before the survey and only 29 percent attended physical education class daily.

By nature, most children are motivated by a love of play, and they should be allowed and encouraged to define their own level of involvement in sports. Parents can offer support and a place to play, and this in turn leads to the best results for the mind and body of the child. Running without boundaries or limits has always been natural for children and it helps their mind as well as their body.

Chemicals that calm the brain, focus attention, aid sleep and control appetite are in many ways regulated by movement. Exercise is also miracle grow for the brain and research shows improved academic performance with daily movement.

This should be no surprise to adults. Think of your concentration and ability to absorb anything new after a day of sitting chained to a desk.

So if you have a child in Berkeley County Middle Schools here is how it will work. Step 1: get your child to run around this summer in play. Step 2: Sign up after school starts. Practices will commence at the start of the school year. Best part- no cuts! Everyone who shows up gets to run.

A few simple tips for starting a youth in running.

We also have a great camp opportunity for middle school runners this coming week July 25-28. Whether new to running or a cross country super star, this camp is for all levels. Only $25.

For more contact Paul at pkoczera@wvumedicine.org sign up today registration forms downloadable from here: http://tworiverstreads. com/training-programs/ tworiverstreads.com/training-programs/

 
 
 

 

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