Monday, January 23, 2017

Long Term Athletic Dancers

In my years as a teacher of dance and Physical Education, I have heard many of our dancers comment, “I suck at sports”, or “I am terrible at…” and continue on to list any common sport played at the junior/senior high school level.  Our program has done a commendable job in recent years of trying to change this negative perception the dancers have of themselves as athletes, but we have a long way to go.

The approach our program has modeled itself after is the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model. This model is “recognized as the framework for sport development in Canada.  Through the improvement of physical literacy (fundamental skills such as running, jumping and throwing), the LTAD model will help develop a lifelong involvement of Canadians in physical activity and sport, as well as help to produce future star athletes.” (Athletics Canada and Coaching Association of Canada, 2005)

Clearly, our goal is not to produce future star athletes in sport; but for me, the important goals of the LTAD model are as follows:
1.       Improvement of physical literacy skills such as running, jumping, throwing
2.       Development of lifelong involvement in physical activity and sport

Without positive experiences in sport at a young age, it is less likely that children will actively participate in those same activities when they reach adulthood.  In dance, the students develop amazing proprioception and body control, and are given many opportunities to improve in jumping.  However, the running and throwing skills are not developed at all.  This creates an imbalance when you are looking at a well-rounded athletics program.  Jumping in a ballet class is very different from a long jump, or a jump to block in volleyball, or even a lay-up jump in basketball.  Involvement in sports allows our dancers to stimulate those physical literacy skills that are missing in their dance classes.

Many of our students do not pursue dance after high school, and so I say to them in our P.Ed. classes, “It is not likely that a ballet or jazz class is going to break out on the beach during the summer, so you would be wise to learn to play some other sports.”  Volleyball, badminton, basketball, softball, recreational soccer are all examples of sports that they will encounter in their lives, and they can either get in the game, or sit and watch.  I would encourage them to get in the game.

My hope is that a small taste of a variety of sports will encourage these students to stay active after graduation; in dance and in sport.  Encouragement and modeling from their friends and family will go a long way to encourage them to stay active.  Throw a ball around after dinner, go for a bike ride or a run, take a yoga class, go for a walk in the river valley; being fit has many faces, and my hope for all my students is that they will find one that fits for them and run with it.

Nancy Hamilton

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