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Vincent introduces idea of strength, conditioning coordinator for Upshur County Schools

TENNERTON – Upshur County Schools Director of Wellness and Child Nutrition Eddie Vincent recently announced he’s been working with Upshur County Schools athletic directors, coaches and officials from West Virginia Wesleyan College to answer one question: What can Upshur County to help families improve their students’ fitness and athletics?

During Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, Eddie Vincent also told BOE members that Upshur County Schools’ athletics need a boost.

“We have parents who drive their students to Clarksburg, Fairmont and Morgantown for specialized training that should be happening here,” Vincent said. “The rationale is, our sports programs at the high school level have to compete with Bridgeport, University, Morgantown and the Fairmont schools, particularly in sectionals in every sport. Those schools have access to facilities and resources we do not have.”

Vincent said it is important to be able to close the competitive gap.

“We could do this by hiring an individual and staff that would focus on the development of strength, speed, agility, diet, nutrition, wellness and sports psychology,” he said. “We can hire a professional with an exercise science and physiology background. We would pay them a competitive salary and provide six seasonal stipend positions to assist this person.”

He said another need would be to heavily involve West Virginia Wesleyan College exercise science program and partner with the college to provide interns and clinical opportunities.

“This position would work with all Upshur County students and athletes as well as coaching staff and school staff,” Vincent said. “They would provide training programs at B-UHS and B-UMS and develop multiple schedules at both facilities. In addition, we will need to update those school workout facilities.”

Vincent said in Upshur County, there are approximately 400 to 500 students who participate in sports.

“This position can serve a lot of kids from every level – from the youth leagues up through high school,” he said.

Vincent provided BOE members a proposed job description for the position of Upshur County Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and said the three major goals are improving athletic performance, reducing athletic injuries and teaching lifelong fitness and movement skills.

“We would expect this person to keep records of kids’ physical conditions from sixth grade through 12th grade,” Vincent said. “I think this is a way to spark our community athletic programs. It is a progressive, positive potential decision that could be made that would impact a lot of different people – parents, students, teachers, staff and particularly, our athletes.”

Drew Mason, WVWC Exercise Science and Athletic Training Assistant Professor, spoke about the potential program and said he is passionate about his profession.

“I am going to look at this potential program from a different perspective than most people,” Mason said. “Most people look at it from an injury prevention standpoint. As a parent, the idea of having someone here everyday for my kids to grow and to improve mentally and physically, I think, you cannot put a price tag on that.”

“As a youth coach, I see the gaps already,” he added. “I go to Morgantown and Clarksburg, and I am with parents whose children go to things like Pro Performance in Morgantown. We do not have those resources here. As a parent, it is an easy sell. From an athletic training standpoint, it is an easy sell for me, the reason being the strength conditioning program we have developed at WVWC goes hand-in-hand with what we do downstairs.”

Mason said from a collegiate standpoint, he has 30 seniors in exercise science, and he said he can place them anywhere for clinical hours; however, he does not have many options. He said another clinical site would be a huge benefit for his program.

“This potential program would reach about 25 percent of your students,” Mason said. “I do not know if there is another position in your school system that is going to reach that volume that I can think of.”

He said it would be beneficial to multi-sport athletes because kids would not be going in different directions.

“There would be one person the athlete talks to for strength, conditioning, speed and agility standpoint and would be a better fit for the kid,” he said.

BOE Vice President Katie Loudin asked if there was a database or software system that would allow the students to be followed from sixth to 12th grades. Vincent said there is software available, and the coordinator should have technology to keep track of multiple kids and their progress.

“If we are really going to close the gap in sports and athletics and fitness and wellness … I perceive this being something that is not just for athletes,” Vincent said. “This could grow into something where we involve Mike Donato’s strength conditioning classes and have some dual-credit opportunities with kids in nutrition and wellness,” Vincent said. “I think there would be a lot to this. It is a big job for somebody.”

Vincent said he is not asking the BOE for anything at the present time, but said the teachers, parents and coaches he has talked to love the idea.

Loudin said she would like to consider the whole cost of putting something like the position together including costs of software and upgrades to facilities annually.

“We have to do a better job of developing people in our county and developing student-athletes in our county, and I think this is one way we could possibly do this,” Vincent said.

Debbie Shapiro, athletic director at B-UMS, said kids coming into the middle school are already behind kids in many counties.

“We do need to level our playing field for our athletes,” Shapiro said. “For one thing, we have a lot of kids that are sustaining injuries that they should not be sustaining at that age and it is for the simple reason that they have not been physically trained in a proper way. Our kids need this. They need for the injuries and for the training they could have. It would give kids the opportunity to become true athletes.”

Rick Reynolds, athletic director at B-UHS, said he wanted to make sure folks knew he was not taking anything away from the coaches.

“This will better our athletes,” Reynolds said. “There are so many things that would benefit us.”

“We think this is a potential, progressive, positive type of thing I think our parents and our community need,” Vincent said. “It is something to consider. Nothing worthwhile is ever cheap. The number of student-athletes this could reach has potential. It could change our culture. If we are going to compete with the people we are going to compete with, we are going to have to do some other stuff to close that gap.”

BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples asked Vincent to work on two things before he addressed the board again.

“I would like to try to find a school system that has a person they pay to do this,” Samples said. “Also, a price, and moving forward, what are the dollar signs to upgrade the facilities? We have to be fiscally responsible.”

Samples said she would also like for someone to look for potential grant funding opportunities.

“I do not think the money all needs to come from grants, but if we had three or four areas where we were pulling funding from, it would be much more doable,” Samples said.

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