PINELLAS PARK — For Tiffany Williams and Allison Swank, their 13-student wellness education class at Pinellas Park Middle School on Friday was an epicenter of innovation.
A monitor showed a PowerPoint presentation that included a video featuring Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. Words like “pliability” were written on a whiteboard. Foam rollers vibrated, pliability spheres rolled, and instructions explained foundational movements to loosen the muscles of their eighth grade students.
Pinellas Park Middle School is one of 10 pilot schools in the district — four high schools and six middle schools — integrating Brady’s TB12 Method into their health and wellness curriculum this year. Through a partnership among Pinellas County Schools, the Pinellas Education Foundation and the TB12 Foundation, there’s now a semester-based course at the middle schools and a one-credit course at the high schools.
Pinellas County Schools is the first district in the nation to revise its curriculum to include Brady’s holistic approach to wellness with the help of certified TB12 body coaches, the district said in a news release.
“For us to be able to get a peek into what (Brady’s) been doing to help him play so long, I think it’s great,” Williams said of the 45-year-old quarterback, who is playing his 23rd season in the NFL.
And they’re just getting started.
By next school year, PCS is scheduled to roll out the program’s daily health habits at all of its middle and high schools, said pre-K-12 health and physical education specialist Ashley Grimes.
“This wasn’t a thing 10 years ago,” Swank said. “These are current trends, and we’re not with adults doing this. We’re doing it with kids.”
The TB12 Method is a “paradigm shift,” Grimes said, compared to what the teachers are used to. It takes a traditional physical education program and innovates it. In addition, Brady’s name produces “instant buy-in” among students, she said.
Swank, who worked in corporate fitness before becoming a teacher, knew most of the concepts behind the regimen’s pillars — muscle pliability, movement, nutrition, hydration and mental fitness — but only taught adults. Williams said she didn’t learn about foam rollers until she was in college.
Teaching these concepts to children can be easier than adults, Swank said, because they are more open to new information. It’s important to take complex terms like “pliability” and make them digestible, distilling them into familiar words and phrases.
“It’s something that’s not traditional,” Grimes said, “and it’s almost like (there’s) that excitement when it’s something new and different and it’s not the same, ‘Here’s a ball. Go play.’”
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The eighth graders already have noticed differences. Antoine James, a 13-year-old, said he likes the TB12 Method because it helped relieve his cramps. Joshua Stroman, also 13, said that when he first saw the foam rollers, he thought, “I don’t think this is gonna help me at all.” Then, one rolled out his hamstrings, loosening his calves.
“So I liked it,” he said.
Swank and Williams started Friday’s session with the video and a quick explainer on pliability before giving students time to experiment with the vibrating foam rollers. They then divided them into four stations: planks, squats, lateral walks and 90/90 single-leg balances.
A member of each group was assigned to note areas for form improvements, with sheets of paper containing written and visual cues. When they arrived at the various cones, Williams and the other coaches asked if everything looked right.
At the squat station, Stroman noticed his group’s knees were turning outward and shoulders leaking back.
Near the end of the session, Williams and Swank asked each group to look at its clipboard and return for a second rotation at the movement they felt needed the most work. After leading a discussion with his group, Stroman vouched for its decision to redo its squats.
Such moments reflect the unique elements of this curriculum — where students make choices as part of the self-assessment, unlike other instances where teachers might dictate those options, Grimes said.
“We all got it figured out,” Stroman said afterward. “They got it down.”
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