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5 Fitness Training and Conditioning Tips [Video]

Posted 1 week ago - by Peter Boucher

fitness training pull-upOne question that always seems to pop up is, “What’s the best way for me to get back into shape?” or “How do I get in shape for my sport?”

I have always tried to keep it simple and succinct when giving advice on how to get into shape or maintain conditioning levels. I’ve compiled a list of Training Tips that are absolutely pertinent to training. 

Here’s what competing at the high school and collegiate level cross-country/track & field and then coaching/directing high level fitness programs have taught me when encouraging myself or others to develop or maintain conditioning levels:

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Change your Clothes

I know, this sounds very odd. However, my high school coach used to preach this to us and it actually works! I can still hear him now. He would say that when you’re supposed to work out and you’re procrastinating or wavering, “simply change your clothes and put on your running sneakers, shorts, etc. and you will feel compelled to go work out.”

We call it “flipping the switch!”, and as odd as it sounds, he was 100% correct. Every single time I do this, it works! I find myself walking around in my workout gear and feeling lazy or silly for not actually working out, so then I go work out. Try it, I bet it works for you too!

Gather Guidance

It’s extremely important to check in with some sort of expert before you begin a new conditioning program so that you are starting off safely and appropriately. Everyone has different goals and therefore you really want to generate a program that is tailored to your goals, body type, and current fitness/conditioning level.

If you are able to view our attached video clips, our Strength and Conditioning Coach talks about how important it is to have a program designed specifically for you. It is also critical to be able to utilize assessments (generally each week) to determine how far you are advancing related to your goals and workout prescriptions.

Having a conditioning expert or coach to check in with can also generate some much needed motivation and can usually help prevent over-use and injuries.

Routines and Schedules

This can be a “make-it or break-it” type of organizer for those wanting to begin or improve their fitness level. It is very important to set up a routine or scheduled time to work out for the upcoming week. A schedule will really encourage you to carve out the time needed to get a comprehensive workout in.

I typically tell students and adults that you can get a workout in from anywhere to 30-60 minutes if you plan properly. Setting up a time and day to workout is paramount for forward progress.

For example, I would typically schedule my workouts similar to: Tuesday 4-5pm, Thursday 5-6pm, Saturday 9am-10am, and Sunday 9am-10am. If someone were to simply schedule those 4 days to work out and not assign a specific time I have noticed that the workout typically gets bumped when more “important” or fun things pop up. Try specific scheduling for two weeks and see if it helps you to garner better results.

Workout Partners and Workout Groups

Workout Partners

These might seem very similar but they are different enough to receive their own mention. A workout partner or buddy is a specific person who you commit to work out with a certain number of times a week. 

This can be so helpful as it links you to a schedule time and a particular person who is counting on you to show up so you both can work out together.  I have a friend at work, we try to work out 3 times a week, and I can honestly say that if we didn’t commit to those times, I probably would miss many sessions due to being tired, too busy, etc.

Workout Groups

Regarding workout groups, these can be lifesavers too. See what two of our football players have to say about workout groups and partners in the video.

Often times, you’re joining a club or form a club of your own and commit to meeting a few times per week to get the heart pumping. This is a great motivator as you feel connected to this “team” and you typically feel obligated to attend the session. It’s also nice to have multiple people different levels all working out at the same time so you have friends all around you during workouts. Workout partners and workout Groups can be a valuable tool to keeping you on the fitness continuum.

Goals, Recording Keeping and Rewards

As our Conditioning Coach mentions in the short video clip, goals are extremely important to everyone who is looking to get into or stay in shape. They are a fantastic way to monitor your progress and ideally inspire you to keep moving forward. Whether it’s losing weight, gaining muscle mass, improving your fitness capacity, etc., it is imperative to have short-term goals (weekly) and long-term goals to help you assess where you are currently and how much progress you are making.

Who doesn’t get excited when they’ve lost that pound, gained that indicated bench press weight, or reached an intended fitness heart rate or running time? Rewarding yourself every now and again for achieving some of these goals is encouraged too! No matter how you choose to do it, setting goals and recording them can be helpful and inspiring to achieving your intended fitness level.

So, here is what I have compiled as a high school and college athlete and a Head Coach/Director for almost 25 years. As you can see from the attached videos, our student-athletes here at Milford High School utilize and believe in these 5 fitness tips as they feel that these specific tips help them get into and stay in top shape.  We try to offer as much specificity, organization, and professional support as we can during the school year and summers to help our students, student-athletes, and staff/community to embrace maintaining a fitness level that works for them.

How about you and your community? What works for you, your team, or your school? Thanks for checking in and let us know what you think…


Tips for Starting a Fitness Club at Your School

Posted 5 months ago - by Peter Boucher

Reach and teach the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle to more students at your school by starting a fitness club. Continue reading to learn helpful tips and strategies for launching a fitness club at your school!

For at least the past decade or more, K-12 Physical Education teachers have been encouraged to focus on fitness and activity in our classrooms to help combat the rising obesity rates in the U.S. The vast majority of P.E. and Wellness teachers are incredibly dedicated in their commitment to “reach and teach” all of their students from a fitness perspective. One of the biggest challenges to this commitment or goal is that students typically only have Physical Education classes once or twice a week due to budget and schedule restraints. Others have it for one quarter or semester and then not at all for the remainder of the school year. As fitness professionals, we all would likely agree that challenged scheduling is not going to help our students achieve any long-term fitness goals during school hours.  So if these schedules appear to not be changing (and most will not unfortunately), what is the next step or potential genesis of helping students achieve some authentic fitness goals?

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Many schools are now looking at Fitness Clubs either before or after school to help augment the PE staff’s and curriculum’s fitness pursuits.  Establishing a fitness club is a tremendous opportunity to build school spirit, galvanize staff and students, and make fitness and activity a healthy focus at your school.  Here’s what we did at my school and what I would recommend as the critical steps to getting a Fitness Club up and running, literally! 

Obtain approval

I always recommend seeking approval from the Principal, Athletic Director, or staff member in charge of clubs and activities before doing anything else.  Being certain you have followed all of the district’s protocols for starting anew club is significant and can help you avoid unnecessary hurdles, speed bumps, and potholes down the road.


Seek “People Power”

Approach staff and/or parents that you have connected with who share your desire for fitness.  Plant the seed about your idea and see who would be willing to help.  Once you have some committed staff and parents, you’ll probably need both, you can then begin to forge a game plan.  Committed adults will be critical to your successful club launch.


Build a Plan

This part is tri-fold and important, as your infrastructure will be paramount to your success.  You will want to complete the following three initiatives before you seek out students:

  • Determine whether your club will be pre- or post-school and what days you will meet
  • Build a “curriculum” of fun activities for your club sessions
  • Secure space outside of your school for good weather days and explore space inside your school for the inclement or cold weather days


Put the Word Out

Begin to announce to the student body, staff, and your families that you have limited space and are launching a fun fitness club.  Morning announcements, flyers around school, social media, and newsletters proved very helpful when we launched our fitness club.  I recommend the “limited space” verbiage because it is probably true that you can only host a certain number of kids (safe supervision) and it also adds a little positive pressure to sign-up quickly so as not to be left out of the limited number of spaces in the club.


Launch with Energy & Enthusiasm!

Kick off the Fitness Club with all the energy, enthusiasm, and excitement that you can muster! We had a blast!  Everything was meticulously planned for maximum activity and movement. We had the music pumping, actions planned for almost zero transition time, and the very best fun and active games that we could design so that the morning session (we chose mornings twice a week for our Fitness Club) was active and awesome for the students and staff.  Everyone couldn’t wait for day two!


Additional components you can explore and expand with once your club is up and running:

  • Have fun formulating a cool and fun name for your fitness club
  • Consider finding financial support for club t-shirts for students and staff
  • Healthy snacks for after the club is fun, too.  Our parents were so supportive that they worked with our cafeteria staff to provide a modest healthy breakfast for all of our fitness club members.
  • Determine a culminating goal for each season (fall, winter, spring); our fitness club started with a 1-mile, then a 2-mile fun run in our community, and now (4+ years into existence) evolved into attending an annual 5K that all of the fitness club student and staff members run and walk.

So these are the tips and strategies that we used to start a small club that has become a beloved and very successful fitness club to augment and support our physical education and fitness curriculum. I recommend utilizing these steps to explore and ultimately launch your club too. 

What other ideas do other professionals or parents have? Are there other steps that could help or streamline the process? Check in and let us know what you think or if you have a question about starting your own fitness club. 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more ideas, tips, and trends!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!

Physical Education Games [Middle School]

Posted 6 months ago - by Peter Boucher

Teaching any subject,including physical education, in middle school can be challenging, but it can also be exciting!  During my teaching years, I found middle school students to be incredibly energetic and enthusiastic. They're willing to try just about any activity at least once, as long as you as the teacher, are energized and passionate about your teaching. 

Designing lesson plans full of movement and fun are paramount at every level and this is certainly true for middle school students. It's essential to engage them with all sorts of perpetual motion and a healthy dose of fun, and I always like to add a smidgeon of competition to keep it a little more exciting.  Here's my list of fun physical education games and activities for middle school students:

Super Fruithead  

I love to take games and change their names so that it is catchy and sometimes silly. This is a version of "Fishy, Fishy Cross my Ocean" and Fruit Salad. I have used this game with my PE classes and after-school teams for conditioning. It is a tag game where students need to run from one end of a field or gymnasium to the other when called by the "Super Fruithead".

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How to Play:

  • Assign all students a fruit (we always change up the fruits and use exotic fruits to make it more fun)
  • The Super Fruithead calls out a fruit, "Avocados!", then all of the avocados must run from one end of the field to the other without being tagged by Super Fruithead
  • If a student is tagged, they become a "Fruit Minion" and help the Super Fruithead tag from then on
  • The last student tagged becomes the Super Fruithead for the next game


Fitness Tic Tac Toe

This is a newer game that the kids love!  You can set up as many games as you want with as many kids on a team as you want, too. 

How to Play:

  • Set up a tic-tac-toe grid (or preferably more so the kids are more active)
  • Have the two teams start about 20 yards from the grid
  • Each team has a specific color of bean bags (4-5 per team)  
  • Teams line up and when the teacher says "GO!", one member of each team runs down to the tic tac toe board and places a bean bag on the board
  • The student then runs back to their team and the next team member goes
  • Team members continue to run back and forth because they can change/swap their bean bags to adjust to their opponents' moves
  • The running and game continues until a team wins


March Madness 3 vs 3

This is a more traditional game, but the kids look forward to it year after year.  We wait until March to coincide with the NCAA tournament to create more energy. I particularly like this unit because it teaches the kids how to play 3 vs. 3 basketball, which is a transferable skill throughout life – in their neighborhood with friends, after work in the gym, or later in life in an adult league, etc.

How to Play:

  • Each class works on 3 vs. 3 basketball skills leading up to the tournament
    • Students are taught all of the fundamental basketball skills along with how to play a 3 vs. 3 game on one net. 
  • Each class is divided into co-ed 3 vs. 3 basketball teams and they choose their own team names (they love this!)
  • Use a round-robin tournament in each class
  • The teams that win their class can play after school at the end of the tournament for fun and for the “school championship”. The students LOVE this unit and tournament!



Being completely transparent, I might be a little bit skewed here as I helped invent NitroBall with Gopher. With that being said, my teaching colleagues insisted that I include it, as they say that their students love this game. 

NitroBall™ is a version of "inverted volleyball" that can completely amplify the ability to utilize your tennis courts for something besides tennis.  This fun physical education game can also be set up inside and coincide with your badminton, pickelball, or other net games units.  The Basic NitroBall™ Set includes 2 balls, 1 net, a storage bag, and instructions. The only adjustment I would recommend for younger grade levels is to add a few more players to the court to maximize participation and the fun factor.  NitroBall™ is typically played with 4 players per team but you can definitely move that number to 5 or even 6 players at the younger levels. Learn more about NitroBall!


So there you have it, my top 5 physical education games and activities compiled from my years of teaching and a host of teaching colleagues.  I'd recommend giving all of them a try and see what you think.  Check back in and let us know how your students liked the games. Don’t forget to share your favorite physical education games and activities!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more ideas, tips, and trends!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!

5 Tips for Effective P.E. Class Management

Posted 9 months ago - by Peter Boucher

Hello fellow PE, Fitness & Wellness Teachers, or aspiring movement instructors! As a PE Teacher of 20+ years who evolved into administration as a Principal and K-12 Wellness Director/Athletic Director, I can absolutely attest that teaching Physical Education Class is an amazing and rewarding teaching position!  However, as we all know this Physical Educator position does require a very particular skill set. 

Most “strictly academic” teachers shudder at the thought of covering a PE class and most substitutes do not really want to be a substitute for Physical Education.  The large open spaces, the students’ ability to move around freely, and the potential for students to jump off task so quickly can intimidate most teachers. This is completely understandable if a teacher has not been properly trained to handle movement activities in multiple large open area arenas (gym, multipurpose room, track, outdoor fields, pool, fitness center, etc…)

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So, armed with this information, what are some critical skills or components that a new or even a veteran PE teacher could incorporate to help maximize ALT (Active Learning Time)? I went into my notes and archives to grab the “Top 5” management skills that I share with our K-12 Wellness/PE staff.  Take a read and see what you think:

1. Engage immediately and know names

I grouped these together as I believe them to be symbiotic and critical! It is so important to know EVERY student’s name! All current data indicates that students respond so much better when they are directed by name rather than a “hey, you”, “friend”, or any other type of general label.

This can be difficult for elementary PE Teachers as they typically instruct the entire school (which can be as much or beyond 500+ students) however it is still super helpful to know their names.  I also encourage the PE Teacher to engage the students the moment they enter the instructional environment (and engage them by name of course.) Immediate warm-ups, some sort of dynamic or static stretch, or a quick regimented sport specific movement sends a message that “what we are doing is important” and “we can’t afford to waste ANY time…so let’s get moving now!” 

2. Organization, routines, and start on time  

These skill springboard off of #1, as I feel it is important to have a routine opening class exercise/warm-up that is familiar and known to the students.  This creates an immediate and specific message that you are starting class and is less intimidating to students of all ages as they know and expect what is coming for a warm-up before any new material/movement is broached. 

Another routine that data shows to be important is “framing the lesson.” Quickly explaining the 1-2 or even 3 lesson goals AND the activities that you’ll be using to achieve those goals will decrease student anxiety and hopefully increase enthusiasm related to what is coming next for movement. A skilled PE teacher can “frame the lesson” in 1-2 minutes and then get the class moving.  Some teachers even frame the lesson during warm-ups/stretching.


3. Plenty of perfect practice

I remember learning this at Bridgewater State during my undergrad years for Physical Education and I still utilize it to this day.  Basically, what we are encouraging is that students should be practicing (“Skill & Drill”) in a fun movement session as much as possible during the class. Maximizing movement (fitness) and skill development is integral in the 21st Century educational world.  More student movement and repetition increases the student’s ability to grasp the skill and improve their fitness and skill level which in turn will increase their confidence in the intended movement or skill.


4. Organization! (Color coding and coordination)

This recommendation also connects with Organization (#2) and Plenty of Practice (#3). Organization is paramount to an efficient and effective lesson and it is the one component that if not deployed properly can derail a lesson into the Physical Education abyss.  Basically, the more organized you can be with your equipment and the more organized you are with your students then the better the lesson should progress. 

I have become a big fan of “color coding” student groups and even equipment if you can do so. This is especially important for the elementary levels where organization can complicate their movements and stunt a lesson.  I purchase colored or rainbow sets of equipment for our staff whenever possible to help maximize our efficiency and organization. For example, the “blue team” would utilize the “blue basketballs” while the red team would use the “red basketballs” in a particular lesson.  It’s much easier for the students to follow along.  Another great example would be color-coordinated cones as this helps frame practices.  The options are endless with the colored sets of equipment and being organized in every way imaginable can only increase Active Learning Time for students. For a wide-variety of equipment in Rainbow colors, look here


5. Have a back-up plan… always!

Having a back-up plan and some ancillary activities ready to go in a heartbeat should be common for every lesson every day.  So many PE plans can get disrupted by inclement weather (a planned outdoor lesson that needs to move inside for example), unforeseen speed bumps in the schedule (fire drill), technology not working, and any number of other hurdles that could present themselves.  A strong PE Instructor will have back-up plans that coincide with the planned goals of the day to make sure that students are receiving the physical, affective, and cognitive activities that they need and deserve.

How about you and your classroom? What are some other Fantastic PE Class Management tips? I know there are far more than five, what are some that you feel are critical too? Thanks for sharing…


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!

3 Types of Adventure Programming for P.E.

Posted 10 months ago - by Peter Boucher

Physical Education and Wellness classes have come a long, long way in the 21st Century.  Gone are the “Friday Dodgeball” bashes from the 1970s-80s – they’ve been replaced with a healthy smattering of fitness, team and collaborative sports, and individual skills classes.  Much of the credit for these improved physical offerings goes to the colleges training our PE/Wellness teachers, improved knowledge/technology, Wellness Directors leading the curriculums, and certainly the physical education teachers whom are deploying and designing these types of cutting-edge classes. And there certainly is worthy acknowledgement to the administration and communities that have demanded and/or supported these types of Wellness classes.

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However, there is one offering that I’d like to encourage teachers to consider— adventure programming.  This programming has multiple references; many would know it as “Project Adventure,” which is the name of the group that pioneered this type of curriculum back in the 1970s and continues as a leader in the field today.  Many schools, camps, businesses, and community/recreation programs have adopted and utilized adventure programming with great success and tremendous feedback.  Adventure Programming is a “challenge by choice” type of fun, experiential, learn-by-doing series of sequential activities that EVERYONE can participate in. There are 3 major types of adventure programming that I am familiar with and very supportive of at all levels:

Adventure-Fitness Programming

The basic premise of these types of lessons and programming is perpetual movement in fun, challenging activities where all students/campers are included for the entire duration of the activity.  Teachers are taught to combine fitness principles with adventure philosophies in some of the most fun and creative activities I’ve ever seen, taught, or experienced. And there is a cognitive/academic connection, too, with body awareness and the 5 major fitness principles.  It’s a fun and creative way to teach fitness where the students/campers don’t really know they were working on cardio until the class is over.

Social/Emotional Programming

This is an incredibly powerful programming model that teaches self-efficacy, empathy, and overall teamwork and cooperation. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies are introduced along with academic content in an adventurous, fun, and exciting movement manner. Students are challenged and learn through sequential thought-provoking physical initiatives designed to encourage teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration. Goal setting, decision-making, and teamwork are essential components and outcomes of this type of curriculum.

Adventure-Based Programming

This is probably the more “traditional” adventure programming that people visualize when they hear “project adventure”. Ropes, carabiners, harnesses, helmets, belaying, etc. But there is so much more to it than the rope climbing and it doesn’t need to be so expensive or so high off the ground. Ropes courses are definitely a worthy financial endeavor; however there are low-element, ground games, and lead-up activities that do not require such a financial commitment.  The low element and ground games can be so powerful for students to learn problem-solving and teamwork in a fashion that other physical activites simply cannot offer. This type of programming is the type of programming that can reach and positively impact many students’ lives due to the adventure it offers and confidence it creates. 


Adventure programming opened my eyes to a whole new world of learning for me, my students, and my colleagues. This type of programming can and will engage EVERY student in your classroom.  If delivered with knowledge, confidence, and enthusiasm this type of programming can truly transform some of your students and help them to grow and mature socially, emotionally, and also from an activity standpoint, too.  I encourage you to do a little investigating and research on adventure programming and “take the leap” – pun intended! It will be an exciting journey for you and your students. 


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!

Back-to-School Tips to Make a Difference this Year

Posted 1 year ago - by Peter Boucher

With summer coming to a close and the fall quickly upon us, I felt it would be appropriate to share a few words of wisdom with all of us that work with children. 

In 2006, I was fortunate to be awarded the Sarasota County (Florida) Teacher of the Year Award which afforded me the opportunity to work with all sorts of teachers in my district and across Florida sharing my thoughts and perspectives on great teaching. To conclude my awarded year, I was invited to address every teacher in Sarasota County the following fall to kick off the 2007 school year.  I worked hard to craft a message that was brief but to the point. I spent a lot of time reflecting, and making sure my message was clear. Here are my updated thoughts:

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Hello both veteran and new teachers! Congratulations on being chosen to undertake the daunting task of molding the future of our society and maybe even the world.  You are entering the hallowed halls of teaching my friends! You have been given a gift by the parents and administrators in your community.  Yes, a GIFT! Your gift is the mere opportunity to instill enthusiasm, education, encouragement, and empowerment.  If you cherish your gift and wield it wisely, you could potentially and positively impact a young person forever.  You could open doors to other worlds for some lucky kid; doors he/she thought impossible to open and walk through before meeting you.  You will have the power to make the wrong seem right, turn dark into light, and possibly transform the meek into might.  Please use this gift honorably, it is an awesome responsibility.

But the quest will not be easy. Education is the toughest profession in the world if you tackle it appropriately and it should not be entered into lightly.  Good things and favorable results do not happen “magically” or by chance.  Learning will occur when a compassionate, dedicated, enthusiastic, empathetic, organized, flexible, creative, intelligent and caring individual willingly desires to share his/her time, energy, emotions, soul, and character in order to ATTEMPT to make a difference in the lives of young people.  And there is no guarantee that success will take place.  However, if you “stay the cause” the odds will be in your favor.

I have given a ton of thought and reflection to what new and veteran teachers would both want or need to know before they embark (or continue to embark) on the journey to mold and shape the future of their community and possibly a portion of this great Nation.  I will simply mention what I wish someone had shared with me early in my teaching/coaching career as I navigated my path of trying to make a difference by making a connection.  I will let and encourage you to decide if these tips can help you on your trip. Here it is, plain and simple, from a guy who learned through education, experience, and “trial-by-fire”:

  • Set high expectations
  • Work hard
  • Be creative
  • Seek advice often
  • Over plan EVERYDAY
  • Be friendly, kind, and respectful  
  • Set up and follow routines
  • Be flexible
  • Encourage and reward kids
  • Use appropriate nicknames
  • Follow your heart and your deepest instincts
  • FIND YOUR OWN STYLE and use it
  • Have FUN!
  • Find a BALANCE between work and home
  • Never, ever give up on a kid!

Above all, please remember one simple rule,  You are Always on Stage! Every time you look at or speak to a child/student/athlete you have the incredible power to hurt them or help them, break them down or build them up, insult them or inspire them, enable them or empower them. EVERY interaction is an opportunity to Make a Difference in their lives! Each interaction is an important opportunity to connect with and support children.  Good luck and please use your gift wisely and respectfully.  The future is in your heart, hands, words, and actions. Best of luck and above all else, do everything you can to Make a Difference!

I’d love to hear your tips for being an excellent teacher who expects excellence and looks to Make a Difference EVERYDAY.  Have a great year and make a difference!  


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great tips, trends, and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!


We're Teaching What in PE?!

Posted 1 year ago - by Peter Boucher

I think most professionals reading this blog would subscribe to the professional opinion that PE/Wellness classes are probably some of the most important, if not the most important, classes that students can take in their K-12 educational journey. However, many PE/Wellness Departments are typically all defending their budgets, curriculums, and even our very “existence” as a necessary educational teaching staff at some challenging portion during our careers.

All educational departments typically have some sort of challenging component in their curriculum, for example: science has the creation vs. evolution argument, English/ELA has the ongoing battle that certain books may or may not be deemed “acceptable” for study in some districts, history has the debates related to which perspective the book or curricula is written from… I’m sure we could list every educational discipline and a related debate for a component of its curriculum. But PE/Wellness is different in its battles as they tend to take more heat than the other disciplines.

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PE/Wellness at times has to defend its very existence of necessity in general as a necessary department or entire curriculum (this is a potential volatile topic for an entirely other blog as PE/Wellness IS incredibly critical and necessary). However, there has been a trend in the last decade or so connected to one very specific PE/Wellness unit that I have found has generated particularly spirited discussion, unwanted attention, and interesting debate and consequently has been not as easy to defend.

As usual, there is the educated vs. uneducated perspective. This unit that has become very popular in the last decade or so is what many departments refer to as a “Recreational” unit. Some departments call it “Backyard Games”, others call it “Lifetime Pursuits”, and there are all other sorts of descriptive unit names for this nucleus of content.  Typically, this is a unit that teaches students how to be productive and enjoy their time with friends or family in an active sort of way. 

In the past, foundations of this unit usually would revolve around volleyball, tennis, ping pong, badminton, and maybe even some version of golf amongst other more traditional recreational activities. Most modern recreational units in the 21st century though have evolved into reflections of what used to be viewed as far more family gathering activities such as horseshoes, bocce, croquet and a variety of toss games such as ladderball, cornhole/bean bags, ring toss, lawn darts, etc. There are many, many versions of these backyard toss games, and I am constantly receiving reports from PE colleagues that there is a ton of resistance to this sort of curriculum from those within and without the educational world.  However, many PE/Wellness teachers are sharing that the vast majority of the complaints are coming from WITHIN their own school staff rather than from parents or taxpayers? I find this fascinating and troubling… we all would probably agree that education in general has had to take on more and more roles over the past 20 years or so; teachers used to strictly teach years ago and that was the job.

Now, teachers typically find themselves teaching AND acting as pseudo other forms of society, such as: parents, mentors, coaches, therapists, “nurses”, etc. Education has been tasked with doing more and more each year, so I find it troubling that other teachers are challenging the PE/Wellness staff related to their content and curriculum. Families don’t gather as much as they used to do so; kids don’t play outside in groups the way they used to. Consequently, kids are not learning to organize group games and they are not learning to spend their time recreationally the way we did 20-30 years ago at family/neighborhood gatherings. I see this evolving recreational unit as necessary and important to the social and affective development of many of our students. We are teaching and encouraging students to be social, active, and have fun while playing… isn’t this one of the critical cornerstones to PE/Wellness curriculum?

There is always going to be some sort of debate with educated and uneducated individuals related to comprehensive well-rounded education and usually the spark of resistance comes from outside the educational arena. 21st Century education is VERY different from its educational predecessors; it seems that we need to teach everything to every student today, recreational games and activities included.

What is your take as a professional PE/Wellness colleague? Is the recreational unit a necessary component or just “fluff” as some colleagues would seem to claim? Do we need the recreational component and can we make room for them in our already limited and “curriculum-cramped” timeframes?  Where do you stand on this growing curriculum debate?  


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more great ideas, trends, and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Peter!


Keeping the "Physical" in Physical Education

Posted 1 year ago - by Peter Boucher

 I was lucky enough to get on the phone recently with an old mentor and former superintendent of mine, you know, one of those leaders that you loved being around, learned a ton from, and just plain trusted. He had a saying that was way ahead of its time in the 90’s and rings even more true today when related to Wellness and Physical Education. During administrative or curriculum meetings when we would be setting district, school, and department goals, he would always whisper to me, “Remember Peter, don’t let folks take the “physical” out of Physical Education!”  That left a long-standing impact on my teaching career in wellness and PE. For the rest of my career, I battled to maintain equal (or longer) PE/Fitness classes and rallied to keep movement as a cornerstone for virtually every class I or my colleagues taught. The challenge continues to this day…

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That saying seems so much more important now. We live in the 21st century where technology and data reign supreme in American education, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that notion. Everywhere you go in education, someone says, “Show me the data!” Data-driven methods are powerful in student learning and overall forward progress. I am a former principal of a level 1 MCAS school (Massachusetts) and you can bet we took our data, overarching goals, standards, and academic time on learning very, very seriously. But when I was a principal, I was also incredibly protective of our PE/Wellness Teachers to make sure that we didn’t bog them down with all sorts of unnecessary or “busy” academic work just for the sake of appearing to be more academic in nature. Don’t get me wrong: reading, math, science, and many other disciplines can and certainly should be woven into the lessons and curricula, but we need to also stay true to the core value of Physical Education and Wellness… and that is movement!

 Activity should be the heart and soul of just about every Physical Education/Wellness/Fitness class today in the USA. Think about it, we are sadly evolving into one of the most sedentary first-world countries on the planet and we are already one of the most overweight countries. Please don’t misread my message, I love America, but we need to keep our kids moving! As each decade passes, it seems as though kids are playing outside less and are decreasingly involved with clubs and sports that keep them active; the trending data is serious and dangerous. That makes it all the more imperative that we keep the kids moving in our PE classes.

Think about this, when is the last time you drove for more than 10 minutes and saw a group of kids playing outside somewhere? Activity outside of school is almost becoming a thing of the past. So with that in mind, our PE classes NEED to keep kids moving, “We can’t take the physical out of Physical Education!” We have to walk a fine line between the academic world and the movement world. Every second that we can be creative and plan for movement in a lesson should be utilized and held sacred. Introductions, attendance, feedback, transitions, summary sessions, wrap-ups, etc., all can and should be held to some sort of movement standard in our classes and schools. Some sort of movement needs to be embedded in every moment of our Physical Education classes. For many of our students, PE class could be the most active part of their day and we need to make it count. So please, hold the line and don’t let 21st century education “take the physical out of Physical Education!” Movement is far too important to our students. 

How does your district operate on this topic? Are you moving toward more or less movement? 


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Competition: Preparing Students for the Real World

Posted 1 year ago - by Peter Boucher

Typically, when I am writing my Gopher PE Blogs, I prefer to pose a topic that encourages professional debate and ultimately causes educators to reflect on their own professional practices and foundational principles (check out my previous blogs).  Normally, I don’t give a solid opinion, I just share perspectives and facts…until now.  Today I’d like to discuss why PE/Wellness Classes SHOULD be incorporating competition into their programming.


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For quite some time many of our national youth athletic associations across the U.S. and even our own K-12 educational systems have been minimizing and decreasing the element of competition.  Think about all of the local youth athletic leagues that we all know.  These leagues typically don’t keep score of the games, they usually give out trophies for participation, and they normally do not recognize championship teams at the end of the season. We all can probably name at least 2-3 local examples, if not more, where children are taught that competition is not necessary.  And for some reason, our PE/Wellness classes (along with many other academic disciplines) have adopted this “no compete” model.  This is acceptable in the primary levels and the early elementary grades; however, competition is healthy and a necessary life skill, especially as children grow into adulthood.   Competition is a core concept in the real world, even if many choose not to embrace that idea. 

The truth is we ALL compete on a daily basis.  Think about it for a moment; examples of competition are all around us.  Each and every day we are all trying to find the best parking spots, the shortest lines at stores, the cheapest prices for virtually any product from candy to cars; small but concrete examples. 

Now jump further into the real world. We all compete for companions, husbands, wives, etc…and most importantly, 99% of us compete for that coveted job that will pay our mortgages, car payments, utility bills, etc...  In the real world when you compete for a promotion or job there is one person who “wins” and a bunch that do not get the gold medal.  Competition is a fact of life that everyone should probably embrace, albeit they should ideally learn this competition at a progressive and age-appropriate pace throughout their K-12 careers and beyond…

How does this competitive concept tie into PE classes? Simple. 

  • Contemporary 21st Century PE/Wellness classes are a great segue way into safe, friendly, sportsmanlike challenges and they can be critical launching points for competition.  I fully understand that most districts and schools do not allot adequate time for PE/Wellness classes for students.  Therefore sitting out of blocks of time for not winning is not acceptable and nor should it be.  “Losing” is not a reason for kids to sit out of class; EVERYONE should be active 99.9% of the class.  Creative PE teachers can incorporate all sorts of ways to include all of their students during the active sessions of current PE/Wellness programming.   
  • For the traditional sports classes, it is very appropriate to run a round-robin or two-sided tourneys that have brackets which direct students, duos and/or teams to progress through the tournament depending on who they’ve played, defeated, and lost to in the intra-class tournament.  This is “real life” application. 
  • In the more cutting edge fitness classes, it is perfectly acceptable to have the students track how many exercises they have conducted.  Whether it be via numbers (ex: push-ups, crunches, Jumping Jacks, etc…); repetitions (either in resistance, weight, or time,  lifting weights, nautilus, or cardio activity); or in measurable fitness activities (ex: cardio machines, physical pursuits, walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, etc…) all of these actions/movements have some sort of evaluative component where competition can be monitored. 

I wholeheartedly recognize that competition is not the “end all be all” in PE/Wellness programming, nor should it be.  In fact, some professionals feel it has no place at all in these types of classes.  However, competition is a necessary life skill that we ALL need to learn to succeed in the real world.  It can even increase participation and make many classes more fun and exciting.

What are your thoughts as a professional?  Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about competition in PE/Wellness programming…


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To Play or Not to Play? That is the Question...

Posted 2 years ago - by Peter Boucher

It’s probably becoming apparent that I welcome PE/Fitness topics that are debatable and encourage some thought and “spirited” discussion and this blog is no different; I am encouraging and hoping it causes some thought and professional conversation. 

So whether you are a veteran or brand new PE teacher, I am certain that if you attended a reputable teacher education college then you can certainly recall a few critical “do’s” and “don’ts” that your college professors instilled in you related to instructing Physical Education classes.  The one that I struggled with the most, and flip-flopped on many times during my 25+ year career, is considered one of the “ten commandments” of Physical Education instruction:  To NEVER play/practice with your students during Physical Education class. 

Generally, there are two steadfast camps involved in this ongoing debate and there is usually a solid line drawn in the sand. Some teachers and administrations feel that PE teachers playing during class inspires and encourages the students to participate while professionals on the other side of the line feel that it is a gargantuan liability and typically can only bring potential physical/emotional injury or worse…and both sides have validity from my perspective.  

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The professional disagreement seems to mirror the age old argument of “textbook vs. reality”. You know, the argument where we all learned the textbook application, which is typically in opposition to the real life application.  Obeying the speed limit, textbook law vs. trial law, the legal alcohol drinking age of 21, Cliff’s or Spark notes vs. reading the book for a book report, “do as I say not as I do”, etc… There are too many to mention here but I am sure everyone can conjure up some sort of textbook vs. reality struggle…

I can share with you that I flip-flopped on the subject more times in my career than I care to count.  Many of my perspective changes occurred during specifically identified stages of my career.  In my first 2-3 neophyte years I followed all the college’s expectations and didn’t play during PE classes.  Once I grew more comfortable and confident (4-5 years into my teaching career) as a teacher, and became embedded in the school culture, I did begin to play and help physically facilitate classes as a participant.   The kids definitely loved it and certainly looked forward to those classes when I played. 

About 15 years into my career I chose to take a job as a K-12 Wellness Director at another district and part of my responsibility was to set policy and teach a few classes too.  You can bet as a part-time administrator I saw things a little differently (I was also a little older and wiser too).  I definitely felt that a teacher playing during class was a liability for the district and for the individual teacher who chose to do so.  But this doesn’t really settle the disagreement, does it?

So I am curious what our readers and professionals think on the subject; which side of the fence do YOU identify with?

Do PE Teachers who play during class encourage and inspire their students to participate at a higher and more enjoyable level  or do these participating PE Teachers only increase the potential injury to themselves and possibly their students? 

The disagreement remains: 
Should PE teachers be encouraged or even allowed to play during PE classes?  What do YOU think? 

Furthermore, does your district have any policies in place that prevent teachers from participating?  Please share your thoughts in a comment or response…


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