Kennedy Meaney: Instilling Confidence and Mental Toughness is Key

My name is Kennedy Meaney and this is my 5th year teaching, I currently teach Physical Education to high school freshmen. In January 2016 I got my first teaching job at Santa Paula High School. In August 2016 I moved back to my hometown of San Luis Obispo, and took an awesome job at C. L. Smith Elementary, where I stayed for 3 school years. Since last August I have been at San Luis Obispo High School, which is also my alma mater.

 

I have been super lucky with class sizes at SLOHS. My largest has been 48, and my smallest was 22. Elementary class sizes tend to be a lot larger, because in our district 2-3 classes come together.

So I was used to having 70 little kiddos, which makes 48 high schoolers totally manageable! I’ve loved volleyball since I learned what it was in 5th grade. I played year around throughout high school and I always knew I wanted to play in college.

I was lucky enough to play at Cal Lutheran University. After playing collegiately for 4 years, I knew I wasn’t done with the sport! After I graduated I stayed at CLU and was the graduate assistant coach for 1 year. When I moved to SLO 4 years ago, I became the assistant girl’s varsity coach and boys JV coach. This past season I stepped in as the head coach for the girls program, and continued with JV boys.

 

Setting Up Shop

I notice that students tend to lose focus when they’ve repeated a skill, game, sport, or lesson multiple times. I like to mix it up daily. For example, 1 week in my class could look like this: 

 

Monday: weight room day focused on learning lower body strength exercises

Tuesday: Pickleball unit: tournament pool play

Wednesday: Workout Wednesday- tabata workout 

Thursday: Pickleball unit: tournament bracket play

Friday: weight room day focused on learning upper body strength exercises

 

With this sort of set up, I tend to see students more engaged and excited for what’s coming each day. If they’re asked to play pickleball 5 days/week for 3 weeks straight, they tend to lose focus.

Kennedy Meany Coach

Additionally, I like to mix up the sport activities that we do, incorporating more unique sports like Pickleball and Spikeball and less mainstream activities like a soccer scrimmage.

CROSSNET provides a wonderful opportunity for engagement in PE classes. I believe that teaching students a unique game like CROSSNET peaks their interest and allows for more excitement while being highly active.

The biggest challenge that I face with coaching volleyball is instilling confidence and mental toughness in my players. I think one of the hardest parts about coaching is balancing the act of building your players up while also being tough on them.

Kennedy Meaney

As a coach you are supposed to be their biggest critic, because that’s your job- to make them better. In my experience, I have several players that are their own biggest critics….they get more upset with themselves than I do.

More often than not, my players only listen to what I say they need to fix or improve on, rather than listening to the tons of compliments I have given them. While some elite players have the ability to listen to criticism and get better, more confident, and more mentally tough, I find that many high school aged players become less confident and less mentally tough.

As a coach, I’m like a scientist. It is my job to find the perfect concoction to build each individual player’s confidence. With two teams, that’s like 25 different concoctions...I’d better get busy! 

 

My dream solution for the lack of confidence and mental toughness is for that to disappear, of course. My hope is that I can improve so much as a coach and part-time scientist that I can come up with the perfect concoction of words, tools, and necessary drills to improve every individual player’s confidence and mental toughness.

 

 

I want to continue having fun in practice, providing a lot of opportunities for success and achievement, while also challenging my athletes to become better with every touch on the ball! I think that CROSSNET provides a perfect opportunity for players to have tons of fun and still be challenged to improve their skills.

 

The #stayathome Movement 

#Stayathome has had a significant impact on teaching. Rather than being able to physically interact with students face to face, we are teaching virtually. I genuinely miss the daily interaction that I had with my students at school.

I can no longer provide them the amazing equipment and facilities that we possess at SLOHS, instead I have them doing workouts at home with their pasta sauces and laundry detergent. It has definitely been a challenge, but I have been impressed by my student’s engagement and motivation.

 

To engage my students in exercise, I am doing a variety of things. I am utilizing google classroom, where I post workouts and assignments. Workouts range from a 25 minute HIT video, to a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood, to a morning yoga routine. I assigned a mini research project where students had to find free apps, Instagram pages, and websites to assist them and their family in staying active during #stayathome.

Students are engaging in 30-day push up, plank, and squat challenges. They are continuously sharing with me their fitness goals and progress during this time. I am super impressed with my students and their efforts to stay active and healthy while they’re at home and missing out on PE at school.


I know I may be biased, but I strongly believe that physical activity, whether that be in PE or a specific sport, is the most important part of a student’s school day.

Being active has numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits.  Perhaps the most obvious benefits are physical, for example, improved muscle and bone strength, reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, and weight control.

 

 

In my opinion, the more important benefits are the mental and emotional ones. Physical activity improves learning, academic performance, and brain health.

Being active makes people happier, decreases depression, and relieves stress. I want readers to know just how important PE and sports are to your child’s daily life and overall health!

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