Physical education and athletics have long been viewed as important elements contributing to the overall education of well-rounded, Old Trail School students. But with limited time during the school day, finding space for both programs to thrive has often been a challenge.
After decades of trying to collapse a robust athletic program into the traditional daily school schedule, Old
Trail made the strategic decision last summer to move all interscholastic sports to a more conventional after-school time slot. The impact was two-fold and felt immediately as our athletes received a more team-oriented experience with classmates who shared their passions while students benefited from a more comprehensive physical education curriculum that dove deeper into health and wellness, fine and gross motor development, and skill exploration during the day.
“COVID presented many challenges for Old Trail, yet one of the bright spots was the emergence of an integrated and cohesive physical education program separate from athletics,” said Middle School Director David Chottiner. “By allowing these two integral parts of our program to exist simultaneously has been to the benefit of students, their health and wellness, and the overall success of our athletic teams.”
In the fall, more than two-thirds of seventh and eighth grade students competed on sports teams that
included Boys Soccer, Girls Tennis, Girls Field Hockey and Boys and Girls Cross Country. Augmenting the already sizable athletic teams, sixth graders were invited to join cross country as individual competitors.
“The after-school practices made for a dedicated group of soccer players that didn’t mess around,” said soccer head coach and PE teacher Ronald Teunissen, who led the Buffaloes to a 9-1 record. “The commitment was close to 100% in both games and practices, including the entire team showing up and winning the invitational tournament at University School."
Freed from the requirement to coach sports during the school day, the PE department has reinvented its middle school curriculum. Throughout each term, students rotate with mixed groups of grade-level peers to three different areas of physical education.
“While academic success is what all schools aspire to, there is more to a student’s eventual triumphs,” said PE faculty member Kathy Novak, who was also the Girls Field Hockey coach this fall. “It is their understanding of the balance of sound nutrition principles, health and wellness, along with the correct amount of physical activity, that will ultimately lead to a longer and more productive life.”
The winter season began just before Thanksgiving, and now includes multiple basketball teams for boys and girls between fifth and eighth grade, as well as a swim team.