Inspire Health and Wellness

3 strategies to instill a gold-medal mindset in your school community.

By Sandra A. Trach
July 2015, Volume 38, Issue 11

Childhood obesity is rampant and excessive sitting is hurting students. Shannon Miller, who is the most decorated gymnast in American history, is seeking to change this epidemic through her inspiring life as a famous athlete, entrepreneur, and parent. Speaking recently at NAESP’s Best Practices for Better Schools Conference in Long Beach, California, Miller shared the following message of how principals can be leaders of physical activity and wellness.

Set Goals

Miller believes that setting goals, being inspired, and being held accountable are all important elements for success. This is important for adults—and for children as well. They need to know that what they do is important.

Writing short- and long-term goals is critically important in achieving dreams. It is also crucial in personal motivation and overcoming obstacles. Miller told principals that even the simple act of writing goals on an index card can be powerful, and can keep your will power strong.

Make Physical Activity Fun

Childhood obesity is a national epidemic that directly contributes to Type II Diabetes and many other serious health issues such as cancer. Despite this reality, in some schools, physical activity is almost non-existent. Miller reasoned, “We cannot remove PE and recess and expect a change.” We have an opportunity to use wearable technology, including heart rate technology, to help kids live a healthy lifestyle.

Miller has started her own foundation that is focused on getting kids active. She wants to help children break sedentary lifestyles. She acknowledged that although life has changed (with digital media, for example), we can help make physical activity fun for students. It affects their self-esteem, and impacts how they approach and conquer challenges.

According to Miller, even adults have to get up and move in order to help their own learning. Sometimes adults are so focused on the students that they forget about themselves. Adults must be the models in what they eat and how they move. Miller urges adults to “double down” and “increase our efforts” in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

A Gold-Medal Mindset

Principals, who are invested in education of the whole child, have the unique opportunity to help students be safe and successful. This endeavor, however, takes a special “gold-medal mindset.”

To illustrate the gold-medal mindset, Miller described a time when she made an unexpected mistake in one of her Olympic vaults. She fell—in front of the world watching the Olympics. Then, it all came down to the balance beam event. Although she had been taught as a gymnast to block out the audience, this time she soaked in the audience entirely. When she ultimately felt her feet hit the floor, she felt the surge of euphoria where all of the hard work for her and her team came through. “It was a moment in time,” she said. “We all remember the highlights, but also forget about the injuries and insurmountable obstacles along the way.” According to Miller, “Training for the Olympics was training for life.”

Miller told the audience that the greatest obstacle to a healthy life is a “bad attitude.” It will make you lose hope. “Keep the positive attitude no matter what,” Miller said boldly. She thanked a packed house of principals for advocating for children and removing obstacles in their lives, saying to never forget that “principals change children’s lives.” She asked that principals spread the message of the whole child, and keep physical fitness and movement at the forefront. “If principals bring a gold-medal mindset, think about the change you can make!”

Sandra A. Trach is principal of Estabrook Elementary School, Lexington, Massachusetts.

Visit NAESP’s Conference News Archives to see more highlights from this year’s conference.

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