Putting the physical back into physical education

Just returned from a fascinating and rewarding weekend at the National Applied Functional Physical Education Conference in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The conference, organized by Greg Thompson, career elementary physical educator, was a terrific success. We were treated to superb presentations by Vern Gambetta, the "Godfather of functional strength conditioning" and Steve Myrland, former strength and conditioning coach for the University of Wisconson. We were also joined by Mike Meeteer and John Ditter of Foundational Fitness.

There was too much content to describe here, but one theme emerged consistently: the distinction between "adapted" and "adaptable." Those who train exclusively in a single sport, movement style or discipline simply dig their neurological ruts deeper and deeper; they become adapted to a specific challenge. But for true athleticism and holistic health, more is needed - the ability to move across challenges and disciplines, always adjusting and adaptable.

Passion was evident at every level of this event, but one consensus opinion was clear: All agreed that it's time to transform the state of the modern human body, starting with kids. This conference marks a turning point in physical education philosophy and is sure to start a sea change in our teaching practices.

Many thanks to Greg and to all who gave their time and energy.

Squat game with rope

This game is both fun and burly: Sink down in your stance and start working your partner with tugs, releases and heckles. Keep stepping and moving. The object is not to "win" but to keep the action in play. The key lies in setting up the right relationship; the primary objective is to make sure that the other person has a good experience. Keep adjusting the intensity and the direction. This game can be fast or slow and meditative.

This is a good example of what you can do with low-tech toys such as ropes. For more ideas on natural training, or to become an Exuberant Animal trainer, visit www. exuberantanimal.com