Friday, November 12, 2010

Learning Healthy Habits While Playing Tag: Meet Coach Dave

"I feel like I haven't worked in months," says Dave Walsh, the new track instructor for Project Coach. "It's too fun - it doesn't feel like a job." This is Dave's first time working with kids, but running and coaching, run in the family. Dave runs at least 35 miles a week, which is about the same number of years his father has coached high school Cross Country.

Dave studied finance at Lasell College, where he also ran on the Cross Country team. So far, he has used his finance studies as the Annual Fund Director at his Alma Mater, Cathedral High School. Project Coach was an unexpected addition to his year, a position he found out about from his mother, who is the Director of Physical Education, Health and Family Consumer Sciences for Springfield Public Schools.

Dave writes track lessons aimed at helping kids have fun while learning about health and exercise at the same time. One of his major teaching points is on hydration, and the importance of drinking water rather than Gatorade and other sugary drinks.

As the teams rotate and join Dave for a brief session, he gives them high-fives and introduces the relays of the day, which he also designs himself. During the week of Halloween, participants did Zombie, Witch, and Werewolf relays.Dave is learning about how to plan each day, which can prove challenging. "You never know what they'll like," he says. However, a visit to one of Dave's sessions, and a talk with the High School coaches will both reveal that the kids are loving track. Coach Elyahsa says the kids like the competition, and that they look forward to the relays, which are a rare activity amidst the regular soccer schedule. Coach Lakeisha sees a simple joy the kids take in the session: "They like chasing each other."

Program Director Andy Wood says track is one of the many sports Project Coach may include in the future. Because Project Coach Fellows have experience playing a variety of sports, upcoming seasons may bring even more options for elementary-aged participants.

Dave thrives on seeing the kids have fun at Project Coach practices. He throws himself into the games as much as possible, letting the kids tag and chase him as well. Dave hopes to spread the notion that through running, one can actually gain energy and feel better.

Track is not the only contribution Dave brings to the program. With each Coaching Academy session, he is taking more leadership and learning more about the High School coaches. He says, "Project Coach is a chance for students to learn how to be responsible and be good role models. The leadership and communication skills learned at Project Coach transfer into all aspects of life, and I feel these students are improving not just as coaches but as people."

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