I wasn’t really breaking any new ground in my first blog post on this subject last month, where I lament the purpose and effectiveness of a sport-centered PE curriculum. 30 years of socio-critical research on the topic has come to the same determination as my qualitative perception. I am not a research guy. I read a lot of research, but I’m not so much of the investigate, collect data, submit a paper, wait for it be be peer-reviewed and published kind of researcher. For now, I’m happy to leave the collection and sharing of evidence to those admirable and worthwhile academics. Thanks to them I don’t have to defend my view too staunchly with mere opinion. That’s why I blog, opinion pieces have value. Not every valid piece of data has to be quantitative.

Post last post (sorry about that), I received an overwhelming number of messages from teachers that found resonance and parallels between my personal experiences and their own. That was the point. It wasn’t purely for catharsis, our own journey is inextricably wound into our pedagogy and reflecting on that may confront and enable us to take some sacred cows to the abattoir. I also (politely) engaged in some cognitive conflict with one or two that called out my ‘sport-bashing’ and my alleged call for a total kinesiological approach to teaching Physical Education.

Firstly, competitive sport has provided me with moments and transcendental experiences that have  played a significant role in the positive development of who I am and how I view the world. It’s just that those experiences didn’t happen in PE class. I am huge advocate for Athletics/ Sports Departments in schools, those and other sporting organisations provide opportunities for all that wish to experience the joys that sport can bring. I’ve played sport at provincial and international level, don’t worry, I get it.

Secondly, it is now apparent to me that there is an ongoing battle between Kinesiologists and some PE pedagogists for the same curricular space. The battlefield in between these foes could be possibly described as the middle ground and I’m planting myself there. Knowledge and practice of movement principles are pointless without actual application and sports specific skills that cannot be broadly applied to other movement areas send us on a path of curriculum that, as Lynne Erickson suggests is ‘inch deep and mile wide’. It seemed too obvious to make explicit but I’m now aware of this ‘head-butting’ between academics, but also wiser for it.

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Back to business. If sport-centered is why not, then there has to be a why for. Brian MacKenzie’s tweet above got it right for me within the 140 characters that Twitter permit. I think if you substitute ‘beneficial physical development’ for ‘exercise’ it works better from my standpoint, but that would take it well beyond the Twitter 140. Position is important for two main reasons, it decreases pain and increases performance.

Kelly Starrett, Doctor of Physical Therapy and NYT Best Selling author of Becoming a Supple Leopard, Ready to Run and Deskbound, explains that pain (or physical injury) caused by movement dysfunction fits in to four categories.

  1. Pathological – systemic problems that lay in the realm of traditional medicine. A doctor making sure your knee pain is not knee cancer. You cannot out train these factors and they are better dealt with by traditional medicine.
  2. Catastrophic – getting hit by a car, falling off the balcony etc. Go straight to the hospital, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Dr Starrett claims these two categories account for only 2% of typical movement dysfunction. So what is the cause of the other 98%.

  1. Overtension (missing range) – When there is a restriction in the joints or tissues immediately below or above the affected site of dysfunction. If you are missing key ranges of motion you can’t get into optimal position. If you can’t get in good position you will create tension in the system (i.e pain). Mobilising these areas creates the ‘slack’ reducing pain and increasing efficiency.
  2. Open-circuit faults (moving in a bad position). Most of the serious athletic trauma that happens from repeated movement in bad position falls in to this category. Examples include rounded back, shoulders rolled forward, elbows flared out, valgus knee, feet turned out etc. Moving repeatedly, adding speed, load or fatigue to incorrect position is, at some point, going to fail you. You might get away with it for years but like the Sword of Damocles it is precarious and hanging over you by a hair’s breadth.

So there it is, the answer to your (insert body part here) pain. It is that simple, you are suffering from a preventable disease. Moreover, you are allowing your students in PE classes to develop these dysfunctions. Pay attention, look at everything and what everyone does through this lens. Work on these aspects, add some basic maintenance and development to your program and you will increase students’ all-round competence in movement. Increased competence leads to increased confidence leading to increased enjoyment and increased performance. Easy as. #winning

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I will be presenting a one-day pre-conference workshop at the ECIS PE Conference in April 2017 in Vienna, Austria. The $150 fee goes towards the costs for running the conference. This conference is about ‘Teachers Teaching Teachers’ and I can highly recommend it.

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