Lesson Learned (Feb, 18)

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.” — Attributed to Yogi Berra

Eddie Vincent, Wellness and Child Nutrition Director, proposed a bold remedy for a competitive gap and a healthy addition to our Upshur County Schools fulfillment of our Mission. He addressed our January 19th public meeting of the Board of Education. Eddie correctly noted a pattern of injury to our student athletes, including heat injuries, concussions, overuse injuries, sprains and strains as well as skeletal traumatic injury. As he explained, the issue is not our native ability or ambition for which Buckhannon-Upshur sports teams are renowned. But the difficulty is a lack of comparable strength, speed and conditioning training evident when comparing Buckhannon-Upshur teams to other AAA and better-positioned West Virginia high schools.

In my 10 years serving on the Board of Education, we have previously problem solved concerning caring for our student athletes.

To address heat and cardiovascular risk and injury, we have hired West Virginia Wesleyan College Athletic Trainers. These young professionals are present at many team activities and most especially football practices and games, meeting our West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) requirements.

Now Eddie Vincent has done his homework! He is inspiring our BOE to grow our Upshur Strong students even healthier. “We can close this competitive gap by hiring an individual and staff that would focus on development of strength, speed, agility, diet, nutrition, wellness and sports psychology.”

This appeals to me as a physician and a lifelong aerobic exercise enthusiast as well as a nutritionally grounded healer. My health and physical educational teacher at Buckhannon-Upshur High School in the 1960s was the legendary Frank Feola. First, he was my summer Coach for Little League Baseball and then my teacher extraordinaire. His most important message was to develop a daily exercise program that an individual could carry out. He correctly noted getting teams together throughout life would be difficult. I accepted his challenge, beginning a daily cross country running program that I could do day or night, rain or shine with just a good pair of shoes and weather-appropriate clothes. For 40 years I ran until a truck accident with a pelvic fracture. Now I have nearly 20 years of aerobic walking.

Director Eddie Vincent continues to enlighten our BOE, noting, “We can hire a professional with an exercise and physiology background. We would pay them a competitive salary and provide six seasonal stipend positions to assist. We would also heavily involve the West Virginia Wesleyan College Exercise Program and partner with the college to provide interns and clinical opportunities.”

My initial response is that this idea matches our Upshur County Schools motto: EXPECT EXCELLENCE.

My second response is that this needs to be for all students and not just our student athletes. Yes, this would begin at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. And yes, there would be multiple schedules, meaning quite possibly we would be extending the school day. Nutritionally, we may even be offering a supper meal prior to students heading home.

My third response is that this new programming will require upgrading our facilities. We have models to follow, for example in Morgantown, so we are not reinventing the wheel.

Yogi Berra’s observation is apt. “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” We have diagnosed our problems before, including injuries that haunt students the rest of their lives, including a growing obesity health risk that shortens our students’ lives, and including an opioid drug epidemic that kills too many of our brightest and best. Now let’s problem solve!


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