Every day, shouts of “You’ve got this!” and “Great job!” can be heard on our play yard. Whether it’s a game of soccer, kickball, baseball, or any other sport, our students always cheer each other on. “We clap, support one another, and offer the winners congratulations,” says seventh grader Analise. “We’re learning valuable information about uplifting your team and good sportsmanship.”
Teamwork, sportsmanship, encouragement, and self-confidence are all major components of our physical education program and critical building blocks for student growth – on and off the field. “Communication is something we talk about every day,” says Emily Cohn, sports and wellness teacher. “Encouraging others with the right tone is key.” If someone misses a kick or fumbles a play, other classmates don’t show frustration; they show helpfulness. “They’ll say, ‘It’s OK; you’ll get it next time’ or ‘Instead of doing that, maybe try this.’”
From the Soccer Pitch to the Classroom
For fifth grader Robert, words of encouragement are important no matter the outcome of the game. “There will always be a team that wins or loses, and it’s important to say ‘good game’ either way,” he says. “We motivate each other, and I try to encourage students by telling them not to give up.” This is the last line of our School Creed and an ethic often at play in our classrooms.
“Pushing yourself requires positive self-talk,” notes Ms. Cohn. “It’s great when students are able to make the connection between how they reset and refocus on the field during a hard game and the fact that they can do the same in the classroom.”
As Nobel Coste, also a sports and wellness teacher, puts it, “We want to teach kids that their words have power. You start to believe what you say to yourself.” That, coupled with hard work, can make a tremendous difference in school success. “If students tell themselves that they can do something, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. It means rising up to the challenge.”
Middle schooler Analise agrees: “The motivational skills I’m learning from sports will always stick with me and help me with everything from homework to writing essays.”
Our Own Play Yard
While Harlem Academy’s new campus has made it possible for us to strengthen our physical education program and help students develop an array of fundamental skills, the more immediate objective for students is to have fun. Thanks to our dedicated play yard, they no longer have to trek to the park for exercise and fresh air. It’s now mere steps from the school.
“I’m ecstatic about our new play yard,” says Analise. “It opens up opportunities for sports that we never had before.” Her favorites so far? Basketball, soccer, and some intense games of kickball!