Chalk Talk EP17 - Balance in PE

Chalk Talk – Episode 17 – Stressed Out – Finding Balance in PE

Chalk Talk – Episode 17 – Stressed Out – Finding Balance in PE 

Students are more stressed-out than ever before. Where in their lives can we help them find balance? Physical Education. 

Molly Collins, PE Teacher, talks about building relationships, being vulnerable, and understanding that not every day is perfect….for students or teachers. 

This episode is sponsored by the PLT4M Essay Contest. Students across the country have the chance to think and write creatively as to why PE is important to them this October. 

Time Stamps: 
Part 1: Activity + Relationships: 
  • Molly Collins Introduction (1:00-2:52)
  • Kids are Stressed: Facts and Feelings Behind It (2:52-5:57)
  • Building Relationships. Seeing The Whole Picture of Students “I don’t forget this is a WELLNESS class.” (5:57-9:50)
  • Storytime with Collins: Being Vulnerable For Your Students (9:50-12:20)
  • Knowing When to Adjust “You can observe a lot just by watching”-Yogi Bera  (12:20-17:30) 
  • Meeting Them At The Door…Growing Relationships (17:30-19:30)

Go check out Molly’s article “The New Age of PE: Purpose, Passion and Pride”

Part 2: Flexibility + Feedback: 
  • Making Changes Mid Class – Trial and Error..But Never Forget the Music (19:30-24:20) 
  • Stretching For Recovery Assignment: Responses and Results (25:20-29:00)
  • The Science Behind Stress (29-33:20)  
Bonus: Brody James: A Dog’s Life (33:40-40:31) 


Here’s how to make sure you never miss an episode:
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Importance of PE

Fitness in Physical Education: Get up & Move!

Fitness in Physical Education: Get up & Move!

This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2, discussing the mental/emotional side of physical education.

Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.
-Thomas Jefferson

Hard work, self-improvement, and self-sacrifice used to be the hallmarks of this country. 

Toiling, in pursuit of a worthy purpose, was hardwired into our nation’s DNA. It was reflected in everything from the professional workforce to our youth and the public education system.

In recent decades, however, the value of physical pursuits and well-being dropped in favor of the cerebral.

Academic subjects and the arts were hoisted to a position of “most-importance” whereas physical education was looked down upon as a “baser,” less noble pursuit. Worse, educators were forbidden from making kids sweat, or feel physically “uncomfortable” in class.

The result? A national health epidemic.

Houston, We Have a Problem.

Unfortunately, we are not speaking in hyperbolics. This country has a health and wellness problem, and it’s being perpetuated in today’s youth, each and every year.

In fact, as recently as 2015, the prevalence of obesity amongst the nation’s High School population was a staggering 20.6%.

Making matters worse, overall physical fitness rates have been in decline since the turn of the millenia.

  • Less than half of 12 to 15 year old youth have adequate cardiorespiratory fitness levels
  • Only 52% of children between 6 and 15 years old have adequate muscular endurance, based on the number of pull-ups performed
  • Of High School-aged students, just 5.3% of boys and 12.1% are in the “excellent” Health Benefit Zone for grip strength.

We’re talking about more than 1 in every 5 high school aged students being overweight, and only 1 in 2 being in any sort of adequate muscular or cardiovascular “shape”.

It’s no surprise, a lack in physical fitness can lead to all sorts of harmful situations down the road as kids age. Such students are at greater risk for all of the following:

  • High Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Asthma & Sleep Apnea
  • Low Bone Density & Joint Problems

Happiness, stress-level, and academic achievement are also all at risk when physical activity and fitness are not made a priority within education. (Read our complete take on that side of the argument here).

And yet, across the country, many high school students are graduating with little-to-no physical fitness, and lacking the tools to drive them forward into a healthy life in the long term.

The Missing Link: A Commitment to PE 

Our national health concerns are no surprise given our recent focus, or rather a lack thereof, on physical activity & exercise in school.

Physical Education, itself, has traversed a unique and winding road over the last two centuries.

In the early 1800’s, PE was focused squarely on gymnastics and personal hygiene. It then shifted to more of a sports-dominated pursuit for near-to a hundred years.

Then, the press of global war forced the government to push PE back towards fitness education and physical standards (driven mostly by a need for a fit “fighting-age” population). The oft-debated “Presidential Fitness Test” was a direct result of this movement. It wasn’t perfect, but exercise was a priority.

But, economic downturns in the 70’s and 80s, though, and the subsequent budget cuts, led to a drastic decline in the presence of comprehensive PE programs in our nation’s educational institutions.

Instead of being presented with regular activity and exercise, our students are now more sedentary than ever.

In fact, the United States earned a D- in Overall Physical Activity within the recently released 2018 U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

Research has shown a disturbing trend amongst our nation’s students with regards to acitivity levels:

  • Only 6% of students get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • Just 30% attend any sort of PE class every day. Worse, over 50% attend such a class just once a week! 

To make matters worse, PE has become the subject from which students claim exemption on a regular basis. From physical or cognitive disability, to participation in other school activities, like band or art class – these days there are many “acceptable” reasons for missing PE.

Across the country, students are being asked to sit more, and move less.

We’re setting our kids up for failure.

Let’s Get Moving

With the country’s youth facing such serious health concerns due to a lack of fitness and activity, it is time to invest in Physical Education.

If we want to solve our nation’s health crisis, we must place physical education at the level of importance at which every other school subject sits.

It may require some physical discomfort. It may require a shift in attitude within schools. But it must happen.

Teaching lifetime fitness is a noble pursuit.



SAM BRESLIN, Co-Founder, Head of Performance

  • CSCS, CF-L1
  • Offensive Coordinator & Head Strength Coach at a High School in MA
PLT4M Background Image

PLT4M Essay Contest


A new company, ‘Sedentary Industries LLC’, is setting up their new headquarters in your town.  They do not like any type of physical activity or fitness.  Even worse they want to CANCEL physical education for high school students.


In less than 750 words, you have to convince ‘Sedentary Industries’ that physical education is important to you. Why does physical activity and fitness matter to you?

You can use any style of writing that you believe will change their minds about Physical Education and Fitness!

Do you have a personal experience that you think would convince them that PE is important? Or do you think research and data would help persuade them? It is entirely up to you on how you approach your argument.


Submit your essay to PLT4M and enter to win!
 Finalists will have the opportunity to be featured on PLT4M’s Website. The overall winner receives $250, PLT4M Gear, and will be featured on the PLT4M Blog.
All submissions are due by October 31st and can be entered below.
Eligibility and Requirements: 
  • The contest deadline is October 31st, 2019
  • Essays can be no more than 750 words. There is no minimum word requirement. You can be convincing in a few paragraphs or 749 words! Essays over 750 words will not be considered. 
  • Essays must be the original work of the student
  • All students in grades 9-12 are eligble to participate (Must 13 Years or Older)
Judging and Evaluation: 
  • Essays will be reviewed and voted on by a panel of PLT4M Team Members and Physical Education Teachers.
Criteria For Judging: 
  • Essay’s ability to present a compelling argument 
  • Essay’s effectiveness in expressing an original point-of-view
  • Essay has literary style, as well as appropriate grammar and spelling


  • All information submitted in connection with entry to this Contest shall be governed by Sponsor’s privacy policy (at
  • By entering this Contest, you acknowledge that you have read and agree to this privacy policy.
  • Contest finalists and winner will be featured on PLT4M’s website. The decisions of PLT4M with respect to the selection of the winners, and in regard to all matter relating to this Contest, shall be final and binding.
  • Winners will be notified via email and must respond to email notification within ten (10) days of receipt. Winners may also be required to complete, execute and return an Affidavit of Eligibility and Release.
  • In order for winner to accept prize, PLT4M requires the authorization of the parent or guardian.
  • Please feel free to reach out to [email protected] with any questions.
Episode 16 - Recruiting 101

Chalk Talk – Episode 16 – Recruiting 101: Featuring Greg Hadley

Chalk Talk – Episode 16 – Recruiting 101: Feat. Greg Hadley 

High School Athletics can be the stepping stone for students to “make it to the next level.” Getting recruited is a young athlete’s dream. So how does it all work? 

We talk with college coach Greg Hadley about juggling camps, social media, and all of the in’s and out’s of recruiting.

Time Stamps: 

Part 1: What Do You Bring To The Table?

  • Introduction to Greg Hadley – College Football Coach (0:00-3:10)
  • Can you Play? Ok Great, But What About Everything Else (3:10-7:02) 
  • High School Coaches Need to Be Honest (7:02-12:34) 
  • Camps: What Are They Good For? (12:34-18:20)
  • Balancing Training and your Summer with Camps, Camps, and Camps (18:20-22:45) 

Part 2: Exposure in the Age of Social Media

  • Exposure: “Phones have become loaded guns…”  (23:20- 27:30)
  • Branding Yourself via Social Media Interactions (27:30-32:15)
  • Know Yourself and Where You Fit (32:15-35:15)
  • Make Connections with Coaches, But Remember, as Recruiters “It is our job to find you” (35:15-38:40)
Here’s how to make sure you never miss an episode:
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  • Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date on Chalk Talk updates. Use use #PLT4MChalkTalk to connect with us!

Have an idea or topic you would like us to cover? Feel free to send us along a suggestion!

St. Paul

To Grade or Not To Grade…Is That The Question?

To Grade or Not To Grade…Is That The Question?

“Educated individuals like Thomas Jefferson, Rene Descartes, William Shakespeare, Galileo, and Plato were never given grades.”

This quote came from an article written by THNK on why “grades are bad.” (If you are interested, go check out the full article.)

While the likes of these great minds referenced in the article may not have been given grades, they also were not in crowded classrooms of 30 to 40 students. They certainly were not in schools of hundreds, if not thousands of students. No grades were needed back then. 

For the foreseeable future of education, the question may never be whether or not students should be assigned grades. And by no means does this short blog post even attempt to unpack that. 

In schools today, grades are viewed as an efficient way of delivering feedback to students. It gives us a way to communicate both strengths and weaknesses for students to reflect on. 

So how can we take THNK’s critiques of modern grading and help shape feedback to students? How can we better inform students about their progress and areas in which they can improve? 

Putting It In Perspective:

We decided to take one teacher’s grading rubric and break it down in the context of THNK’s main arguments. Rusty Fuller, High School Strength and Conditioning Coach and Physical Education Teacher, was kind enough to share his grading rubric and thoughts with us.

For context, Fuller has up to 30 students per class ranging from freshmen to seniors, including athletes and non-athletes. Students are given personalized workouts based on their experience in the weight room. Each student is expected to get through the assigned movements and log their workouts using the PLT4M app. 

At the end of class, each student receives a grade out of 10 points. The daily grade evaluates students on a variety of metrics in hopes of informing them for future classes. 

PE Grading Rubric
“I think it is very important for students to receive positive feedback from me on my 5 pillars. Seeing progress made for each student and passing expectations is far more important to me than anything else.
Students need to be taught these 5 valuable life lessons as it stretches far past the classroom. When students enter the real world, they need to be taught on how to develop a positive work ethic, how to hold themselves accountable for their actions, how to be disciplined, how to be prepared, and how to be prompt.
All future employers will look for these traits in our students and it is my job to instill these traits in them.”
– Rusty Fuller

 Breaking It Down: Fuller and THNK

So let us break down the three major critiques from THNK’s article within the perspective of Coach Fuller’s class and grading rubric. 

In a quick summary, THNK’s article argued the following: 

  1. Grades create risk-averse behavior
  2. Grades have become the end goal
  3. Grades are an inadequate form of feedback.

1) Grades create risk-averse behavior 

In other words, THINK argues that schools should be a place where mistakes are made. Schools should be a place where a student’s decisions are not dictated by the fear of failing.

Physical education has traditionally been a place where the ‘athletically gifted’ succeed, and others are left on the sidelines feeling insecure or embarrassed.  The weight room gives every student, regardless of their athletic ability, a chance to come prepared, challenge themselves, and positively impact others. Because Fuller’s rubric is designed to reward students on those things they can control, each student has an opportunity to succeed.

For Fuller, making mistakes is okay, but the overall goal is to identify when they are made and fix them. While mistakes can and should be made, there is value in rewarding the ability to correct and adjust. 

2) Grades have become the end goal 

In the era of “Teaching to the Test,” students often focus on a letter grade and not the process of learning itself. The more consistent daily grades in Fuller’s class allows for continual feedback centered around weekly improvement. 

The focus of class for every student is to develop appropriate skills. Nowhere in Fuller’s rubric does it ask if the student can achieve a perfect push-up, back squat a specific number of pounds, or perform any other movement for that matter. Because the goal is not to end the learning process with a particular library of movements but to constantly be building and growing as an individual. 

In fitness, there is always room for improvement. Once a student masters a movement or achieves their goal, there is always an opportunity to move onto a new movement or to continue developing skills. The idea that we can always strive for better is an innate value of Physical Education and is reflected in Fuller’s class. 

3) Grades are an inadequate form of feedback

Lastly, THNK argues that grades signal an end to a learning process and can be extremely one-dimensional. 

To prioritize the commitment to overall education within his strength and conditioning class, Fuller uses attendance, effort, discipline, accountability, and influence as his 5 pillars of evaluation. These pillars help shape not a test of right and wrong, but behaviors and habits that can carry beyond Physical Education class. 

For Fuller, students are informed in several ways and are by no means limited to a 10 point daily rubric. They receive feedback via the app, Coach Fullers teaching, and the peer-to-peer instruction fostered in class. 

Since Fuller incorporates technology that delivers curriculum digitally, he is free to help navigate his busy classroom and give more individual feedback to his students. When students struggle to meet the standards of class or a movement, Fuller can use the rubric to better shape conversations and interventions. Grading is only a small piece that is used to promote larger “teachable moments.”

What Would Shakespeare and The Gang Say?

Looking at both THINK and Fuller, the question shifts away from ‘to grade or not to grade?’. In the spirit of Shakespeare, that is not the question.

Instead, how can we productively use grading to highlight student’s progress and areas in which they can improve? 

So no, Jefferson, Descartes, Shakespeare, Galileo, and Plato did not have grades. But, if we asked them their thoughts on being assessed by Fuller’s 5 Pillars, they just might hear us out.


Rusty FUller

Special thanks to Rusty Fuller for helping to create this article! 

Coach Fuller is a Physical Education Teacher, Football Coach, and Strength Coach.

He is also a PLT4M Coaches Club Ambassador and featured on Chalk Talk. 

Swim Team

First Timer: Expectations vs. Reality of Being a New Coach

The Dream: 

Becoming a new head coach was an exciting development in my young coaching career.  I was thrilled to have my first opportunity as Head Coach for a boy’s high school swim team. 

What came with my new job title ranged from the control of practice and line-up design…to the not so glamorous bus schedules and parent emails. 

Part of my plan for the first season was to integrate a strength and conditioning program with my 25 athletes. With a little digging, I found out that my athletes had little to no experience training outside of the pool. 

Ambitiously I wanted my athletes in the weight room 2 to 3 days a week, on top of practices and competitions.  

So I did it. End of the story…right?

The Reality:

I was met with a major roadblock as I mapped out our season’s schedule and training plan.

Practices were at an off-campus facility that had no access to a weight room.

Outside of our pool time, we were designated just a small hallway to use for 30 minutes before each practice. At first, I thought the cramped space with no equipment was a dead end for my strength and conditioning dreams. 

How could I introduce strength and conditioning without any real space or equipment to do it?

As a young coach, I decided to seek advice from coaches who had experience in high school athletics and strength and conditioning. I went to a mentor of mine and talked with Coach Breslin. 

A Simple Purchase: 

After explaining my situation, he suggested the hallway was not the wrong place to start my novice athlete’s strength and conditioning journey. 

Coach Breslin also encouraged me to keep it as simple as possible. But, I still wanted to add some equipment to try and give our hallway that weight room feel. 

As my mind raced, trying to think of the best equipment to purchase for our little hallway, Coach Breslin nudged me back towards the basics.

“If anything, start with PVC Pipes. Simple plastic tubing from the local hardware store. For $50, you now have one of the best possible tools for every single athlete on your team.” 

Although a little wary of such a simple purchase, I still went out and bought a bushel of 5 foot long, 1-inch diameter PVC pipes. 

A Simple Plan: 

It was week one and as we shuffled into our little hallway for training, I thought I was “keeping it simple”.

‘5 by 5 PVC Pipe Back Squat’. I went over a few points of performance, demonstrated the movement, and said go. I was met with a lot of confused looks. 

It was as I saw heels coming off the ground, backs being arched like cats, and knees going in every direction, I remembered the most important part of what Coach Breslin had told me, 

“You’ll probably realize pretty quickly that most of these kids are going to be starting from scratch, which means you will need to keep it basic. You won’t need much equipment to start…If any at all.” 

Coach Breslin was right. I took a step back from my lofty ‘week one, year one goals’ and kept it even more basic.

Our main focus became going over foundational movements, and in our ‘hallway turned fitness center’ spent 30 minutes a day quite literally building a foundation of fitness. 

Progress. Plain and Simple: 

A few weeks in, my athletes were showing substantial progress, and were starting to look the part. They moved well, had great range of motion, and were beginning to really hammer home solid form and technique in a variety of body-weight exercises. 

The athletes walked into the hallway every day and took pride in their ‘gym’. As I threw new challenges and movements their way, the athletes attacked each workout with excitement. 

The season came to a close, and athletes could move with control and command. Better yet, they were confident in themselves. 

What Comes Next: 

Now the weight room, a place many of them had never dreamed of stepping foot inside, was where they were eager to end up. Just about everyone on the team wanted to know what came next. 

Some athletes signed up for a fitness class offered at the school. Others sought me out for training plans so that they could take their training to the ‘next level.’ 

I even hosted a few Friday morning workouts before school, where we would review barbell movements and do a ‘finisher’ to wrap up the week. Even the seniors, with no more high school sports to train for, ‘wanted in’ so they could continue on a track for life-long fitness. 

We had taken an untraditional path, but as a team, we created our strength and conditioning program. 

Reflections of a Young Coach: 

As a young coach, I still have plenty to learn. I am starting to figure it out through trial and error (and of course, my daily dose of guidance from veteran coaches). 

When we hit our roadblocks as coaches, we can often make excuses as to why something will not work. For me, in my first year as a head coach, I was ready to throw in the towel on strength training and simply write it off to my unfortunate circumstances. 

Looking back, the hallway could have quite literally become a dead end to my first-year strength and conditioning initiative. Instead, it became a place where athletes developed life-long fitness skills.

And the only ground-breaking thing we had to do was start with the basics and own our circumstances. 

Meet the Author

Doug Curtin, Swim Coach
 Doug Curtin
  • Director of School Partnerships
  • Host of PLT4M’s Podcast: Chalk Talk
  • Head Girls Swim and Dive Coach (Fall Season)
  • Head Boys Swim and Dive Coach (Winter Season)
  • Former Two-Year College Swim Captain