Category Archives for Tips

Balancing Screen Time and Physical Activity for Kids Amidst Coronavirus

For many parents, increased screen time resulting from the current Coronavirus pandemic can pose some serious concerns. Children spending extended periods in front of a screen, whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop, or television, are at risk of experiencing severe physical and mental health issues, and many parents are scrambling to find resources for physical activity during the pandemic.

While the time children spend in front of the television or other devices has always been a concern for parents, the Covid-19 pandemic is creating an even bigger challenge. School, Afterschool activities, social events, and even doctor’s appointments are all being held online, so it’s practically impossible to avoid the virtual world. Children can benefit from a bit of time behind the screen, but when their intake is increased tenfold, it’s best to strike a balance between screen time and physical activity.

Coronavirus is already having severe effects on adults’ mental and physical health, and children are also at risk. It’s crucial to keep kids active and away from devices as much as possible at this time to ensure a healthy and happy life long-term.

Increased Screen Time Affects Children’s Health

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and too much time spent online can have a significant impact on a person’s health. These days, children are exposed to tons of devices at an early age, making it difficult to pry them away for extended periods to get in some exercise time.

Unfortunately, the lack of activity in youths is causing a massive epidemic of childhood obesity. On top of obesity, there is a wide range of other health issues caused by inadequate amounts of exercise, including Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other severe afflictions. Children need regular activity to improve on:

  • Dexterity
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Musculoskeletal strength
  • Reaction time
  • Fine motor skills
  • Communication skills

Without enough exercise, kids will experience some nasty side effects both physically and mentally.

Mental and Physical Health Go Hand in Hand

With childhood obesity constantly on the rise, it’s unsurprising that there is also a sharp uptick in depression and anxiety in the younger generations. Weight gain has severe adverse effects on mental health and can lead to a lack of confidence and an abundance of body image issues in young people.

During exercise, the body releases endorphins, which contain a chemical that makes us feel good both inside and out. It’s easy for a child or teen to feel depressed, anxious, or even experience suicidal ideations without enough endorphins. Physical fitness is an essential part of keeping your child’s mind and body healthy during a pandemic.

The Sweet Spot: Striking a Balance Between Fitness and Online Activity

Finding time for fitness amidst the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is understandably tricky. Don’t get beat down if you’ve yet to find the perfect balance between physical activity and online sessions. Utilize any of the following tips and start prioritizing physical and mental health in your children today:

1. Make Movement Mandatory

Now, we’re not trying to make physical activity seem less fun by making it mandatory. However, free time to explore different fitness activities and games gives children the chance to step away from the screen, decompress, and re-energize their bodies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for children ages 5-17. With the pandemic abound, getting kids active for an hour per day probably seems impossible. Still, there are several ways to integrate physical activity into your child’s daily distance learning routine.

Incorporate regular, structured exercise time into your young student’s schedule. Just like most schools have mandatory recess time, so should your online classroom. It doesn’t even have to seem like exercise! There are plenty of fun activities that engage children and increase their heart rates, improving physical health without the child ever even noticing. Some excellent examples of fun at-home exercises and activities include:

  • Creating dance routines
  • Building an obstacle course
  • Hula hooping
  • Jumping rope
  • Going on a scavenger hunt

Whatever activity you choose to incorporate into your child’s routine, the end goal is still to get kids excited about staying away from device screens, even if it is only for a short while each day.

2. Incorporate Outdoor Activities

After being cooped up for months on end, children are itching to get outdoors and enjoy time with their friends and family. Weekends are a great time to encourage physical activity outdoors. The options for fun, outdoor activities that positively impact physical fitness are endless. From bike rides and tossing the ball around the backyard to more strenuous activities like long hikes and rock climbing, there is bound to be an activity you can enjoy (while still following social distancing guidelines).

3. Utilize Virtual Physical Activity Programs

When winter comes, and the weather isn’t cooperating, so you can’t go outside, there are alternative options that enable physical activity indoors. Although you definitely want to continue encouraging kids to take time away from their devices, some screen time is still okay. Consider utilizing a virtual physical activity program to teach your young student new skills and foster a love for fitness simultaneously.

Several virtual physical activity programs are available from Skillastics, a large group physical activity resource used by school districts, teachers, and afterschool programs around the United States. Skillastics offers fun, online fitness programming in the following subjects:

  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Martial arts
  • Basketball
  • Mindfulness
  • Move N’ Groove
  • STEM and sports
  • And more!

Skillastics virtual physical activity program is the perfect tool to help break up the monotony of in-home education experiences. Your children will love how easy it is to learn, and the virtual program easily transitions back to in-person classes, so they can have something to look forward to when things get back to normal.


Too much time spent behind screens on televisions, computers, tablets, and other devices is detrimental to a healthy child’s development. It’s difficult to determine when enough is enough when it comes to screen time amidst Covid-19. If you’re concerned about your child’s online intake, consider implementing our exercise tips as mentioned above. Don’t hesitate and risk harming your child’s physical and mental health; start shopping for virtual physical activity programs from Skillastics today.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Skillastics® makes it easy to organize, motivate, and engage students to move, learn, and love it. Skillastics® is an innovative technique of play designed around an oversize mat where up to 100 children can play at one time. There are 13 different Skillastics® Activity Kit themes, ranging from general fitness, sport skill development, character enhancement, and academic integration, including STEM and nutrition. The newest layer of Skillastics® resources includes 30-Day Virtual Physical Activity programs, including Fitness, Martial Arts, and Yoga.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email or check out

5 Fun Fitness Tips for Your YMCA Program

It’s no easy task to engage children and teens in an active lifestyle. In recent years, as toddlers clutch tablets and keep their eyes glued to screens constantly, there has been a sharp uptick in incidences of childhood obesity. Young people desperately need exercise and healthy eating habits to achieve an overall sense of well-being and avoid severe health issues in their adulthood. After school activities or programs at the local YMCA can encourage kids to find the fun in fitness and healthy lifestyle habits.

How “The Y” Has Helped Families for Over 175 Years

The Young Men’s Christian Association, better known as the YMCA or “The Y,” was founded in 1844 on the principles of developing and maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit. The YMCA has served over 45 million people in the last 176 years, and there are active programs in over 120 countries worldwide. You’ll likely find that your local YMCA offers a variety of programs for young kids and teens that emphasize the importance of improving several aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including:

  • Physical fitness
  • Art and creativity
  • Humanities
  • Social skills
  • Sexual health and education
  • Healthy diet choices

For nearly two hundred years, the YMCA has helped families across the world encourage a healthy, active lifestyle and mindset in their children. With fun, engaging programming, kids can feel empowered to take control of their body’s health.

5 Fun Fitness Tips for Your YMCA Program

Building healthy habits start in early childhood. Exercise is essential to the healthy development of children’s bodies and minds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children and adolescents receive one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily. One fantastic resource for incorporating fitness into children’s lives is through fun programs at a nearby YMCA location.

Integrate fun exercises and fitness activities into your YMCA programming, so children start to associate enjoyment with movement. Establishing health-conscious attitudes early on will (hopefully) lead to a lifetime of love for physical activity.

1. Set Goals

Setting specific goals for physical fitness helps kids to stay focused during different YMCA programs. Work with your program participants to set realistic, flexible, and achievable goals. When participants reach their goals, they’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that inspires them to continue setting personal fitness goals outside of your program. Remember to celebrate the small wins and encourage each child as they continue to improve their physical fitness.

2. Go for Group Activities

Children learn a lot from their peers as their brains and bodies develop. Solitary exercise is still vital to a person’s overall well-being. However, group activities allow children to receive external affirmation and motivation. Group activities push your program participants to reach their greatest potential.

Utilize group activity kits for your YMCA program, which teaches kids about the importance of an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits, all in a fun and inspiring manner. A wide array of activity kits are available that focus on educating children about sports, nutrition, STEM, language, social skill, and self-improvement. Kids gain a lot of inspiration from each other when playing and exercising in groups. It’s a fantastic way to sharpen children’s social skills while strengthening their physical fitness as well.

3. Instill a Love for Sports

Something we know to be universally true is that people love sports. On every continent, you’ll find sprawling sports stadiums packed with fans on any given weekend. Every two years, the world stops to watch the best athletes compete in the summer and winter Olympic games. There are teams in almost every major U.S. city dedicated to playing baseball, football, hockey, basketball, and more.

These world-famous athletes didn’t pick up a ball later on in life and simply walk onto the field with immense skills. Their love for sports started from a young age, and they were encouraged to continue working on their skills throughout adolescence. The perfect place to start instilling a passion for sports early on is at the YMCA.

Encourage your program participants to take part in a variety of different sports to find one they love. The YMCA offers an excellent opportunity for kids to try out activities they might not otherwise have access to at home. If you notice a child taking particular interest in a specific sport, you can encourage them to seek out more serious teams in the area for them to join.

4. Make Time for Mindfulness

Healthy lifestyles hinge on much more than just exercise and nutrition. The YMCA was founded on the premise that people should better their bodies and their minds together. There’s a significant correlation between adequate physical fitness and improved mental health, so consider incorporating mindful exercises into your program. There are a variety of exercises you can utilize to motivate your participants to engage in mindfulness, including:

  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises

5. Turn Playtime Into Exercise

It can be challenging to get kids involved in activities that are apparent modes of exercise. Things like running and lifting weights can seem unappealing to young people. Luckily, you can easily integrate exercise into your YMCA program without the participants even realizing it. No, this is not a trick; it’s simply the truth. There are tons of fun ways to turn playtime into an opportunity for physical fitness. Children won’t even notice that they’re burning off calories and strengthening their bodies because the following activities are so fun and engaging:

  • Jump-rope or double dutch
  • Playing tag
  • Capture the flag
  • Juggling
  • Musical chairs
  • Dancing
  • Simon Says

In the age of technology, some children might not even know these games exist. Your YMCA program is an excellent opportunity to teach kids classic games that involve running, jumping, and increasing their heart rates.


Exercise is essential in improving children’s physical and mental well-being. Participating in fitness activities and programs at places like the YMCA helps children develop a wide range of useful skills that last a lifetime. These programs provide children with a safe place to improve their social skills, motor skills, and lifestyle habits. Shop for new and exciting fitness activities to implement into your YMCA programming regularly so children can learn just how fun (and important) daily exercise is for their bodies and minds.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Skillastics® makes it easy to organize, motivate, and engage students to move, learn, and love it. Skillastics® is an innovative technique of play designed around an oversize mat where up to 100 children can play at one time. There are 13 different Skillastics® Activity Kit themes, ranging from general fitness, sport skill development, character enhancement, and academic integration, including STEM and nutrition. The newest layer of Skillastics® resources includes 30-Day Virtual Physical Activity programs, including Fitness, Martial Arts, and Yoga.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email or check out

10 Unfortunate Facts About Childhood Obesity

One of the saddest conditions for a child to experience is obesity. The discomfort from excess weight and the limitations that obesity causes are difficult to bear. Unfortunately, we are still a society in which this condition affects children more than it should.

We have the education, knowledge, and ability to do better, but childhood obesity persists. While the apparent consequences relating to cosmetic problems like finding appropriate clothing sizes and looking different come to mind, there are other reasons that we need to combat childhood obesity.

Problems Related To Childhood Obesity

  1. Long Term Health Problems. Childhood obesity may affect a child’s future, as well. There is every chance that obesity extends into adulthood, causing a host of social, emotional, and physical health problems. Whereas obesity affects development when young, the weight can cause significant damage to organs like the heart over time.
  2. Diabetes Risks Increase. Diabetes comes in two forms, and while one may manifest as a genetic condition, the other is an effect caused by obesity. Being overweight does not automatically ensure diabetes, but it’s a leading cause. Children who suffer from obesity are more likely to develop diabetes, a condition that is difficult to manage for adults, let alone a young child.
  3. Complications From Weight. The human body was not meant to carry excessive weight, and obesity stresses the whole system. From the bones and joints that bear the brunt of the weight to the blood vessels and heart of the circulatory system that must strain to pump through so much excess weight, obesity causes many secondary health issues for children.
  4. Damaging Self-Esteem. The emotional burden of childhood obesity is often a lifelong struggle. Children who suffer from obesity experience feelings of shame or embarrassment that affect their mental health. As these children grow into adults, many continue to carry negative emotions and maintain low self-esteem.
  5. Too Easily Occurring. Children today have more options for physical activity, but they also have increased access to unhealthy foods or sedentary hobbies that contribute to childhood obesity. Fast food deliveries and lower prices at fast food restaurants like dollar menus make it easier to choose these unhealthy convenience foods. The amount of time children spend in front of screens for homework, school, and recreation also means they move less overall. It’s almost effortless to end up with higher caloric intake and less physical activity.
  6. Parental Guidance Required. Children must rely on their parents for guidance, but despite so many sources of information for parents to reference, there is still a lack of understanding about childhood obesity. Many parents with children who suffer from obesity do not have all the facts about health and nutrition that they must manage to guide their children.
  7. Lack Of Options. For those parents who understand that their children are obese and at risk, they may not have many choices to combat the condition. Depending on their socioeconomic background, some families can’t afford the solutions that could counteract the factors leading to their child’s obesity. Other parents may not be equipped with the ability to parent through the necessary actions that must be taken to counsel a child who is obese.
  8. Social Media Shaming. The rise of social media means children today are always under a microscope; their lives unfold publicly. While there are many positive elements to social media, there is a dark side that comes from shaming or online bullying. For children who are obese, they may struggle further to feel confident or accepted within this medium. They also may attempt to compare themselves against false standards from manufactured images, worsening their feelings, and perpetuating their condition. Encouraging a digital detox will help remove your child from negative situations and inspire them to look elsewhere for entertainment.
  9. Stigma Of Weight. As much as we have seen cultural shifts in the perception of weight, there is still a stigma against obesity. Body positive movements have come a long way and made many inroads, but there is still a lack of acceptance for larger sizes, particularly in children. Our culture and society have stepped back from a narrow view that promotes thinness as representative for all, and more body types are finally recognized. However, obesity still gets associated with many negative stereotypes.
  10. Not Enough Change. Too much effort to embrace physical differences obfuscates the health effects of obesity. While it’s crucial to maintain good mental health, this should not come at the expense of physical appearance. It’s a delicate balance to accept that a child is obese and work to preserve the child’s mental health while also battling against the factors that contribute to the condition. Acceptance shouldn’t equate to permission but rather be the first step toward making changes.

A Complicated Condition

It’s difficult to believe that childhood obesity continues to exist as a health problem facing children, but that doesn’t change the fact that it does. We have the education, knowledge, and ability to do better. Parents, teachers, and students in society today must continue to understand and combat any factors that contribute to childhood obesity.

The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Learning

We may not be able to gather in groups right now, but we can make the best of a difficult situation by planning for the day when we can resume our regular activities. While we have this time outside of the usual routine, we can use it to learn new ideas that will come in handy later. As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. We can use this time to our advantage, so we return even stronger and better prepared.

Making Lemonade

This is an excellent time to practice what you teach. It’s easy to fall into a lull and become inactive without our routines to keep us going, so you may want to take time and reflect on this process to help relate to children who feel similarly. Children who have been without regular exercise for some time may resist movement that pushes them out of their “lull,” their comfort zone. How do you inspire someone to move more when they are resistant or in the habit of staying comfortable? How do you motivate yourself to get up and keep going?

When we’re in the middle of our daily routine, it’s hard to stop and think about these questions. With the slower pace we find ourselves in today, it can be helpful to be reflective and consider new ways to do things. What has worked in the past? What are you looking forward to trying out?

It is vital to keep going, to keep moving. The more we move, the more energy we create, which allows us to be productive. When we move our bodies, the extra blood flow to our brains and the work our muscles do gives us a boost, and we can get more done. Overall, we feel better and more motivated. Our students do, too.

Activity Improves Learning

This motivational boost from exercise and fitness makes movement a crucial part of the learning process. With regular movement, children are energized to face the day. Exercise affects a child’s body by influencing sharper thinking and higher frustration tolerances for challenging work. Their bodies are better equipped to manage the stress of learning.

In addition to the effects on their body, exercise makes it easier for children to concentrate. Higher levels of brain chemicals released during exercise improve the brain’s ability to retain information. Memory is improved, and new information is absorbed faster.

As retention is a significant performance indicator for academic success, the ability for exercise to help students absorb and apply knowledge better makes it a vital component to students’ academic progress. If kids’ brains experience activity and perform better in school, then we must create more movement opportunities to help them develop.

The Value Of Physical Activity

For those children without options to move or ways to be active, we need to create opportunities or provide access. The more we expose kids to physical activity, the more they will stay engaged, ideally seeking exercise activities on their own. As they engage in movement activities, kids will begin to understand their bodies and movements, further developing their awareness of their bodies.

Through kinesthetics, the study of body motion, and one’s own ability to move, children can begin to develop this awareness. Classes like Physical Education or after school programs engaging in physical activities are good ways to build children’s perception of their bodies and how they move.

The goal of developing awareness is to give children an appreciation for their ability to move as well as the importance of exercising. When children learn about the way their bodies react to movement, they will be more likely to engage in physical activity on their own.

For children who don’t readily exercise or have not been exposed to the fundamentals of movement and exercise, they don’t develop the concept of movement in quite the same way. For all children, it is more important than ever to include kinesthetics into their curricula so that they can learn the value of movement and how they can be active.

Building Kinesthetics Programs

Creating programs that reach kids and help them develop their physical ability requires engagement and variety so that all children can participate and gain these essential skills. Program plans can build confidence and foster a love for exercise by focusing on skill development and fun activities.

As you plan, remember that the objective is to introduce movement, build body awareness, and scaffold to more advanced skills over time. Break down broad concepts into smaller parts that can become games. Repetition builds muscle memory, so look for ways to repeat the skills but with new techniques; think, “same rules, different game.”

As children interact more with movement, they can begin to experience the positive effects of exercise. They learn better. This is the higher purpose of kinesthetics. While life is interrupted in this way, it can be challenging to focus on the future when the present is so uncertain. However, there is hope to be found in plans for the future, so use this time to look ahead. What can you build when everyone comes back together?

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Skillastics® makes it easy to organize, motivate, and engage students to move, learn, and love it. Skillastics® is an innovative technique of play designed around an oversize mat where up to 100 children can play at one time. There are 13 different Skillastics® Activity Kit themes, ranging from general fitness, sport skill development, character enhancement, and academic integration, including STEM and nutrition. The newest layer of Skillastics® resources includes 30-Day Virtual Physical Activity programs, including Fitness, Martial Arts, and Yoga.

 Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide. For more information, email or check out

20 Hard Facts About Childhood Fitness

As children engage in activities that get them moving, there are significant side effects that participating has on their lives. From better health overall to long-term benefits into adulthood, childhood fitness has some great byproducts beyond just fun.

Fun should be a main driving factor in getting children to participate in physical activity. Having fun with fitness continues to drive motivation for children. However, the following are 20 hard facts about the benefits of incorporating fitness into the lives of youths:

  1. Development. It is better for bones and muscles throughout the body to get active early. The musculoskeletal system benefits from regular and varied activity.
  2. Attitude. When children feel good about themselves, this improves their outlook on life, opening them up to discover and maximize their potential. 
  3. Growth. Children who get active early are more likely to stay active throughout their lives.
  4. Emotional Development. Participating in group exercise gives children the chance to learn healthy coping skills to manage stress.
  5. Maturity. Children who participate in activities are more likely to have a sense of self as part of something bigger, rather than a more self-centric view.
  6. Leadership. Getting active gives children experience leading group activities or making choices that affect others.
  7. Confidence. When children learn new skills, they gain more self-respect and feel more confident.
  8. Health. Active children tend to retain their healthy habits and emerge into adulthood in better overall condition.
  9. Diet. The ability for children to connect healthy eating with activity early in life will sustain them as they understand the importance of making good food choices throughout their lives.
  10. Cognition. Childhood fitness improves kids’ ability to think and learn.
  11. Movement. Fitness counteracts modern sedentary lifestyles and provides an opportunity to move as well as instill a desire to be active.
  12. Strength. Getting fit as a child contributes to feeling strong enough to manage the changes and stress of life as well as actual strength to withstand the physical demands of a full life.
  13. Heart. Activity in childhood leads to better heart health as an adult.
  14. Success. The more fitness children achieve, the more likely they are to seek out other achievements, engaging with life and striving for success.
  15. Participation. When children are active, they gain skills that can lead to membership of a team or club.
  16. Wellness. Children that engage in physical activity will be more likely to protect their bodies than harm themselves through unhealthy choices such as substance abuse.
  17. Motivation. The effort to reach fitness goals will extend to other aspects of life and make it more possible to accomplish goals overall.
  18. Knowledge. As children participate in fitness, they gain knowledge about the way the body works and the requirements for living a healthy lifestyle.
  19. Body Image. Through fitness, children develop a realistic and accurate understanding of a healthy body so that they are less susceptible to disorders or negative body image.
  20. Power. Children that engage in fitness are more capable and self-reliant, and as a result, feel empowered.

Any one of these would be reason alone to get kids active but imagine the collective advantages that come from all twenty working together. Children will be healthier and stronger, both physically and mentally, for their childhood as well as adulthood. 

Imagine The Possibilities 

The healthier we grow as a society, the more we can develop culturally and individually. It’s a benefit to the world we live in when everyone has better health. 

The financial costs alone for managing poor health are astronomical, not to mention the tragic loss of lives from preventable diseases or emotional suffering on relationships from the strain of caregiving. All these detract from our quality of life. 

As society finds more reasons to be sedentary, from our workplace functions that require sitting at a computer to our advances in technology that make it less necessary to budge from the couch (order dinner, groceries, and clothes, all online!), it’s even more important to get moving early and often. Small movements grow larger over time as fitness transforms body strength and allows more opportunities to handle greater exercise.

While a simple game of catch seems like a small gesture, maybe meant to occupy a child’s attention, the movement does more good than just keeping them busy and having fun for a bit; it has a greater impact on the wellbeing of that child and their place in the world. The simple movements like that game of catch with a ball transform into bigger opportunities to move, like group sports or activities centered on ball play.

The facts of the matter are clear:  fitness improves the quality of life, and it’s hard for anyone to argue against that. The sooner we accept our ability to improve life through movement and activity, the better we will feel in life.

Guide to Healthy and Active Students

Students today experience unparalleled pressure compared to previous generations. The stakes are higher for education and college entrances, a college degree likely won’t be enough preparation for a career, and technology has increased speed and decreased privacy which can be for good but also the bad.

Kids today are under a microscope, held to high standards, and not only expected to outperform their peers but also their past performance. Even kindergarten, when school is supposed to be sweet and fun, has picked up its game. Now, full-day kindergarten combined with much more stringent standards for math, writing, and reading has created a new, more challenging experience.

It all trickles down from the competition for jobs experienced at the end of their academic careers, but that means kids these days push up-hill against academic and life pressures from the very start of school until the finish. It’s hard and arduous, and kids need help. How can we keep students healthy and active so that they succeed in life?

Establish Positive Coping Mechanism

Coping skills for stress are crucial for a successful academic career, but too many children fall into using unhealthy methods. From overeating convenience foods and processed snacks to absorbing themselves in sedentary worlds of too much screen time, kids have options to soothe away the stress that are easy, but often unhealthy.

Children need to recognize the connection between their success and their health. When we choose to exert ourselves and exercise, we create added benefits beyond just weight loss. People who move are more likely to cope with stress better. They will feel stronger because realistically, they are stronger at the biological level, and that will impact their brain. There is a highly identifiable connection between an active lifestyle and improved cognition.

Create The Opportunity To Move

For this generation of children who experience more confined and structured play, they may need to seek out an activity. They may not gravitate to sports or exercise on their own, so it’s best to build in movement and activity within their lifestyle.

For these children, they will benefit from learning skills and ways to be active that they can apply throughout their lives. Instead of choosing a sport to master, children today can learn the fundamental skills required to be active. By breaking down sports into skills, we can provide opportunities to gain the foundation for movement that equip this generation to find and participate in activities throughout life.

Offer Fun And Engaging Options

When kids enjoy themselves while being active, they are more likely to return to the same activity or springboard to another one. The feeling of accomplishment from participating will motivate and inspire more of the same behavior. As they grow, this sense of enjoyment and accomplishment from exercising will grow, too, so it’s essential to instill the joy of exercise as early as possible rather than coerce kids to move.

No one wants to feel forced into exercise or activity. If kids do feel this way, then they usually abandon the project or task as soon as they feel frustrated or unmotivated. The best way to engage children in an activity is to make it fun so that they feel enjoyment. The overarching goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle that inspires children to seek out exercise and movement. Making the development of skills into a fun experience ultimately helps foster the established goal.

Focus Attention Away From Screens

You can get your students to fall in love with the idea and actuality of activity. It requires adults who inspire, motivate, and demonstrate a passion for exercise in such a way that kids see the movement as fun, not fearsome. Children are afraid to fail, and too many children who fear failure will avoid anything that feels too risky. When we break down barriers and create safe places to explore movement, then children will respond.

It’s tough today to break kids out of their comfort zones, primarily the screens that occupy them. Screen time offers safety; when they’re watching television or playing a video game, no one witnesses any failures. We are tasked with convincing these children to learn new skills and take risks in ways that rival the security of a screen.

Adults must provide a level playing field, accessible games, cooperative environments, and consistent reassurance. Having this responsibility can feel like a tall task and may be overwhelming. What can compete against the screens?

Providing programs that exist to build skills using play can break the dependence on screens and create healthy and active students. From the youngest to the oldest child, all children enjoy playing. When you layer in skill development with just enough challenge to keep kids’ interest without intimidating them and provide a supportive environment in which to enjoy movement, then kids finally have a reason to put down their screens.

For more information, email or

Tennis Skillastics®: Fun and Skills All in One!

(Common Core, Physical Literacy and Standards Based Physical Fitness)

My favorite Skillastics® kit is Tennis Skillastics®. It is no surprise that I have a true passion for Tennis. I am a 28-year veteran High School Tennis Coach and played Tennis myself since I was 8. We as teachers may give our students the opportunity to learn and play tennis. Like anything else, the more skilled students become the more they will enjoy the sport. It is an activity, which may be played throughout their lives. It may be played at any level, gender or age. Teaching Tennis in school has never been a question for me, with or without a court. I have seen the bonds made between families and friends, which has such an amazing impact on their lives. Tennis stimulates the mind, body and emotions. It involves cooperative engagement as well as skill development. Tennis decreases the risk of chronic illness, increases social skills, improves mental focus, and discipline. Participating in tennis activities is an excellent way to relieve stress.

Skillastics® works on skills while increasing MVPA in a game situation. It works well for a warm-up/fitness lesson in a Sport Education Season or as a full lesson.
My favorite way to use Tennis Skillastics® is to divide students into teams as in a Sport Education Unit. Students must first learn the terminology, skill and fitness task for the game. This may be done within their teams covering a few skills/terms each day. When using the Sport Education model teams will be awarded points for fair play, fitness, warm-up, completion and order of finish. This is a great activity due to the fact that students are responsible for their own learning and what a great way to include the standards. Using stations may add a common core component and make students responsible for their own learning. Students work together to improve skills and knowledge needed to live a healthy lifestyle.

Secondary Stations for Tennis Skillastics®

1. Teams begin with their home base station grid.
2. Read the task card and perform the skill together. This could be considered a common core/physical literacy activity. Students are responsible for their own learning.
3. Perform each station for a time limit. (Example: 3 miinutes each station) When the music stops (using Tabata Pro) move to the next station.
4. Continue until all stations have been completed.

After completing the stations, students will remain with their teams for a fun Skillastics® game. Teams send a player to the mat to roll the die and get the number of the activity to be performed. Students are given the level to participate for the game activity. The game may be played for a time limit or when one team gets around the mat once or twice.

If you would like more information on ways to incorporate Tennis Skillastics® into your curriculum feel free to contact me at or view my website at

Bottom line. “Love what you do and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Build Self-Confidence

Recently I’ve been receiving e-mails from athletes confiding in me that they have lost their self-confidence. They were doing so well and then it seems like they can’t do anything correctly on the basketball court. They wonder, “What went wrong?,” “How can this happen when I was doing so well?”

First of all, I’m here to tell you this happens to EVERYONE! All the greatest athletes in the world have felt this way at some point in their lives. “Slumps” are a normal part of athletics. The key is how you handle that slump and what steps you take to get yourself out of it! Below I’ve outlined some steps to take in order to get out of a slump and build your self-confidence back. Whether you’re worried about making a team, or just feel like you’re in a slump with your practicing — applying these steps will help you regain that self-confidence and get you back on track.

1) Recognize that ALL athletes have slumps. If you understand that this is a part of being an athlete, you won’t think, “Something’s wrong with me.”

2) You can grow strength and confidence out of physical hardship, frustration, deprivation and failure. Recognize these uncomfortable situations for the CONFIDENCE-DEVELOPING opportunities they are and seize them. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”

3) Physical Preparation. The foundation of confidence is neither glamorous nor mysterious. It’s boring, grueling, dirty, and monotonous. It hurts and it is very lonely. It requires constant sacrifice. If you want to feel like champion, then start training like one. Your secret to self-confidence is a four letter word: WORK.

4) Strengthen Your Weaknesses. Everyone loves to practice something they are good at. Because we succeed. The true test of a person’s character is if they work on their weaknesses. For instance, if you are really good at dribbling with your right hand and terrible at dribbling with your left hand, start practicing dribbling with that left hand. Before you know it, you’ll build confidence in using that left hand.

5) Set Up Your Training Environment to Boost Self-Confidence. Motivational signs should be up in your bedroom, reminding you to stay focused and help keep you motivated. My book, Off The Rim: Thoughts and Observations of the Game, was written for this purpose. Just reminding and reinforcing all the positive things about basketball. If you have a favorite saying or poem, hang it up in your bedroom or in your locker. Read it every night. Surround yourself with positive things!

6) Catch Yourself Doing Things Right. Keep track of all the gains you’ve made in your journey toward your ultimate goal. By focusing on the things you’re doing right, instead of dwelling on the things you’re doing wrong, you will begin to see that you have, AND are making progress.

*Some information excerpted from Sports Slump Busting by Alan S. Goldberg

Dribbling Through the Alphabet

How’s your basketball unit going?  Ready to try something new?  Here is an activity that integrates basketball fundamentals, basketball terminology and spelling in one!  First, Copy each of the 26 letters of the alphabet on 26, 8 1/2″  x 11″ sheets of paper.  If possible, laminate each sheet.

Copy each of the 42 basketball definitions on a piece of paper (see below)

Scatter all 26 letters throughout the playing area.  Place a Basketball Skillastics® Task Card under each of the 26 scattered letters.

Scatter the 42 basketball definitions in an area away from the letters.

Every child has a basketball or a ball that bounces.

On the signal, each student retrieves a basketball definition, reads the definition and remembers the word associated with the definition.  The  child can either place the definition back down on the floor or take it with them.

The objective is then to spell the word.  When he or she finds the letter (dribbling the ball to that letter), they look at the Basketball Skillastics® Task Card under that letter.

The student does the activity the number of repetitions that were determined prior to play (blue, red or green).  When the student completes the repetitions, he or she then searches for the next letter in the word they are spelling.

When a student finishes spelling the word, they jog back to the “word definition” area, replacing the last word spelled and retrieves another basketball term to spell and repeats the process.

The length of play is determined by the instructor.

Competitive Option:

  • Appoint teams

o   Each team is told to spell a word (each team has a different word, but has the same amount of letters in the words.  For example, assist and center).

o   The first team to spell the word first and dribble to a designated area, wins.


Basketball Terms:

Assist – A pass to a teammate who scores a basket immediately or after one dribble.

Air Ball – An unblocked shot that fails to hit the rim or backboard.

Alley Oop – An offensive play in which a player throws the ball up near the basket to a teammate who jumps, catches the ball in mid air and immediately scores a basket.

Backboard – The rectangular platform behind the rim that supports it.

Backcourt – The half of the court a team is defending.  The opposite of frontcourt.

Bank Shot – A shot that hits the backboard before hitting the rim or going through the net.

Baseline – The line that marks the playing boundary at either end of the court.  Also called the “end line”.

Block – To tip or deflect a shooter’s shot, altering its flight so the shot misses.

Carry – A penalty when an offensive player is deemed to have held the ball excessively while dribbling.  Also referred to as palming.

Chest Pass – The ball is passed from the chest

Center – one of the three standard player positions.  Centers are generally the tallest players on the floor.

Double-Dribble – To dribble the ball with two hands at the same time.

Dribble – To bounce the ball continuously with one hand.

Dunk – to score by putting the ball directly through the basket with one or both hands.

Fast Break – An offensive tactic in which a team attempts to advance the ball and score as quickly as possible.

Field Goal – A shot made from anywhere on the court, does not include free throws.

Forward – One of the three standard player positions.  Forwards are primarily responsible for scoring and rebounding.

Foul – Violations of the rules.

Free Throw – An unopposed attempt to score a basket, worth one point, from the free throw line.

Granny Shot – An underhand shot taken using both hands, usually as a free throw.

Guard – One of the three standard player positions.  Guards have strong ball-handling and passing skills and are typically used to run the offense.

Halftime – The end of the first of play.  The interval between the two halves.

Jump Shot – An overhead shot taken while jumping.

Key – The free-throw lane.

Lay – Up – A close-range shot using one hand to bank the ball off the backboard.

Man-to-Man Defense – A defense in which each player guards a single opposing player.

Offensive Foul – A foul committed by a  member of the team playing offense.

Overtime – When the score is tied at the end of regulation play, the teams play a five-minute overtime period.

Palming – Referring to the habit of an offensive player to hold the ball under the ball while dribbling.  It is a violation.

Pass – To throw the ball to a teammate.

Pivot Foot – The foot that must remain touching the floor to avoid traveling.

Post Up – To go in or near the key, turn so that you are facing away from the basket towards a teammate who has the ball, and try to establish position to receive a pass.

Rebound – to obtain the ball after a missed field goal attempt.

Set Shot – A shot taken without leaving the floor.

Shot Clock – A timer designed to increase the pace by requiring the ball to either touch the rim or enter the basket before the timer expires, resulting in a loss of possession.

Sixth Man – A player who does not start, but is generally the first person off the bench.

Swish – A shot which goes through the net without hitting the backboard or rim.

Technical Foul – A foul assessed for unsportsmanlike non-contact behavior.

Three-Pointer – A shot, worth three points, attempted with both feet behind the three point line.

Travel – To move one’s pivot foot illegally.

Turnover – A loss of possession.

Violation – An infraction of the rules other than a foul, such as traveling or a three-second violation.

Zone Defense – A defense in which each player is responsible for a section of the court to defend.


Making The Team

The team roster is posted. You quickly glance at the paper, hoping your name is there… Coach said he or she would call if you made the team. So you hang around the phone hoping you’ll get “the call”… Sometimes your name is on that list, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you get “the call,” sometimes it never comes.

Whatever experience you may have, the bottom line is trying out for a basketball team is stressful. All you want to do is your best, and hopefully show the coach that you deserve a spot on that team. What can you do to stand out? What will give you the edge? What does the coach really look for?

The logical answer of course is your skill level. Can you play the game? This is the number one factor. But I have known athletes who were excellent basketball players, and didn’t make the team. Why not? Because of their attitude. After skill, having a positive attitude is the second most important factor in determining whether you make the team. Attitude is everything. If you really want to make the team, take a good look at yourself to determine your attitude under the following conditions:

1) You turn the ball over or miss a shot. Do you:
A. Get mad at yourself
B. “Shake it off” and quickly get down the floor and play defense.

2) The referee calls a foul on you that you feel is unfair. Do you:
A. Argue with the ref
B. Accept the call, realizing referees can make mistakes and that it’s just a part of the game.

3) You accidentally knock an opponent down. When play stops do you:
A. Walk right pass the person you knocked down
B. Do you help them up.

4) Your teammate just gave you a great pass. Do you:
A. Ignore that teammate, thinking it’s about time I get the ball
B. Do you “high five” your teammate, thanking him or her for the pass.

5) A timeout is called. Do you:
A. Take your time walking to the sidelines
B. Run to the sidelines to hear what your coach has to say.

If you answered B on all the questions, you’ve got a great attitude. If you answered A to any of the questions, take a moment and think about how you can change your attitude to make it better.

Other Factors coaches look for in determining whether you make the team:

1) Get to tryouts early. Don’t show up late.
2) Ask the Coach if he or she needs any help (sweeping the floor, getting the basketballs out, etc…)
3) Before tryouts start, don’t goof around with your friends trying to shoot the ball from as far away from the basket as possible. This is the time to warm up. Work on your skills.
4) Always look at the Coach when he or she is speaking. Not paying attention will not sit well with the Coach.
5) Run, don’t walk to the next drill. Coaches like to see hustle all the time.
6) If you don’t make the team, ask the coach what things you need to work on to help you make the team next year.
7) Have fun!

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