Unified PE & Athletics – Investing In Fitness For All Students A few years ago, the Horace Greeley High School fitness center was starting to collect cobwebs. As an old and outdated room, there had never been a significant emphasis on using the space in athletics or physical education. At best, a handful of kids would consistently use the room throughout the year. But that was a few years ago. Fast forward to today, the fitness center is now a staple of Horace Greeley High School and is used every day. Students use the fitness center throughout the school day during PE classes and after school for sports and general wellness. To make such a drastic shift over the last few years, the Physical Education and Athletic Department took a unified approach to make changes that would impact the entire student population. To do so, they invested in significant fitness center updates, enhanced the program with additional technology and resources, and empowered the teachers and coaches to make the most out of all the changes. Updating The Space One of the more significant financial hurdles was updating the fitness center space and equipment. To do so, Horace Greeley applied for a community grant that allowed them to make some major changes. Steve McLees, Strength & Conditioning Coach and Certified Athletic Trainer, remembers the case that was made for the grant, “At the time of the grant process, our pitch was that the fitness center was going to serve every student at the school. Instead of it being seen as just for athletics, or just for PE, the fitness center presented an opportunity to benefit every student.” Soon after the renovation, the fitness center went from an afterthought to a state-of-the-art facility. The new fitness center boasts an open floor plan with room for weightlifting stations, free weights, and cardio machines. It even has a small turfed area along with one of the sidewalls of the room. Horace Greeley High School Fitness Center. (Photo Credit: Steve McLees)Putting The New Fitness Center To Use With the new fitness center in place, the Athletic and Physical Education department wanted to match the updated space with equally impressive technology and resources. Steve McLees, a certified strength and conditioning coach at the school (CSCS), was approached by the school’s Director of Athletics and Physical Education Jason Semo with an idea. “Jason at the time brought to me something called PLT4M. It was a tool he had incorporated at his previous school and many other schools in the area were using. It was an opportunity for me as the strength coach to layer in technology and programming.” Jason Semo, the Director of Athletics and Physical Education, looked at PLT4M as an opportunity to get everyone onto the same page for their unified mission of fitness education. Jason was excited right from the start, “Having used it before myself, I could really speak to the benefits and sell it to our sport coaches. First, I got the football team quickly on-board, and from there sports like basketball, volleyball, wrestling and more quickly became interested.” To start actually using PLT4M, Steve was able to work alongside the sports coaches to get the student-athletes using PLT4M after school. The goal was simple: help students develop in the off-season and continue maintenance and injury prevention during the in-season. “We have students with a wide range of experiences at our school, and so I can help each student with a program that meets them at their level. I can adjust and tailor from what I see students doing in the weight room and it goes right to their training app.” But for Steve and the other Horace Greeley teachers, the goal was not to have just athletics use the fitness center and PLT4M. They wanted to get everyone involved. Want to see how PLT4M is used in PE and Athletics? Click the on the quote from Steve McLees below to learn more! Implementing Into PE To start the rollout in Physical Education, Jason and Steve worked together to host a professional development training where the PE teachers could get familiar with the in’s and out’s of the quickly changing program. As an initial effort, the PE department developed a freshmen class that helped every student build a strong foundation, “Every single freshman gets an introduction to the fitness center. They get exposed to what it looks like, how things work, and they use the PLT4M app to help them navigate those initial experiences.” By creating this freshmen offering, Horace Greeley minimized the often intimidating nature of a fitness center or weight room. It created an equal playing field where every student could learn together and get a chance to work through all the different elements of fitness and training. After the baseline introduction, the PE department expanded and worked with students based on their interests, “Some of the kids in more advanced classes can jump into an in-season or off-season program. Others that aren’t involved in sports can work through 4-6 week units and get exposed to other fitness offerings both in and out of PLT4M’s curriculum.” There was something for everyone. And everyone was able to find something.From A Few To a Full School With the unified approach across the PE and Athletic department, the fitness center is now bustling with different groups of students all throughout the day. For Steve, who has watched the change happen first hand, he looks at the after-school program as a telling example of the transformation, “We went from 5 kids who consistently worked out to upwards of 80-100 kids in the fitness center, and that is not counting athletes. It went from us posting workouts on a TV and people asking for different training ideas to now daily activity and even one kid starting a fitness club.” Horace Greeley set out to encourage fitness for both student-athletes and the entire school population.While at many schools, tension can arise over who benefits from different investments, the Horace Greeley fitness center has been a place of harmony. Bringing the PE and Athletic department together to make the fitness center a place for everyone has been well-worth this school’s energy and investment. Excited For More And while Horace Greeley had been full steam ahead, like many schools, Covid slightly altered their approach to fitness and training. But as schools get back to normal, Steve is excited to see the fitness center come back to life after a quick pause on the natural progressions they had made, “Everyone had to change a bit over the course of the last year, but we all are coming out with the same energy and excitement around fitness and training.” As for Athletic Director Jason Semo, one of the champions for both the fitness center and integration of PLT4M, he is now moving on to work at a new school a bit closer to home. Horace Greeley looks forward to continuing to work at their unified fitness approach, and Jason is sure to continue his same mission of unifying his Athletic and PE departments at his new school next year.