Branson offers new P.E. courses


By Kaya Dierks

In light of sport cancellations and shelter-in-place guidelines, Branson’s athletic department has introduced a new and creative option for students looking to stay active: Zoom-based physical education courses.


“Team sports have been delayed until at least Dec. 14,” said Director of Athletics Veronica Bosque, who is also teaching Yoga Flow, a class where students practice vinyasa yoga, this semester. “So the Athletic Department wanted to create something for student athletes to do in order to prepare themselves for a season that was going to start later than expected.”


The P.E. courses, which fulfill a student’s yearly athletic requirement, take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. — the new “P.E./Sports” block in Branson’s cohort learning schedule.


There are four offerings this fall. In addition to Bosque’s Yoga Flow course, Strength and Conditioning Coach Bruce Pruiett is teaching an exercise training program, Fundamentals of Exercise and Wellness. Amanda Boivin, athletic trainer and assistant to the athletic director, is teaching Commit, Climb, and Conquer Cardio, where students participate in home-based cardiovascular training. And Director of Athletics Rich Mazzola is guiding students through humanOS, a holistic health and wellness platform developed by a Branson alumnus, in his class, Daily Performance Program.


The variety in the courses is intentional. “We spent a good portion of the summer trying to decide what would be a diverse set of offerings,” said Bosque.


Adapting a sports education program has had its challenges, Bosque said. It was hard to think of fitness courses that would be engaging online. But she’s found that Zoom has been essential in helping coaches create and lead great classes.


“The video option is a critical resource — being able to actually see the students complete exercises,” she said. “It’s almost like we’re all in a room together.”


Ultimately, the goal of the P.E. classes is not only to help student athletes keep in shape, but also to create an athletic community — something many lost as Branson transitioned to a virtual learning environment. Central to this whole endeavor, Bosque said, was “creating a sense of team.”


Branson students have responded positively to the athletic department’s effort. Each of the four P.E. classes has about 25 kids enrolled – a critical chunk of the 320 total students at the school. And students agree that their experience in P.E. classes has been largely positive and encouraging.


“I’m taking yoga,” said Jocelyn Hohenrieder, a freshman. “I love it. After a day full of hard schoolwork, it’s nice to reset and relax for one hour on the mat.”


Shail Belani, a sophomore, is in Pruiett’s class.


“I’ve really benefited from Bruce’s hard work to keep us, as students, in shape through an enjoyable and engaging course,” he said.


And Charlotte Johnson, a freshman, who is taking Yoga Flow, said that it “is a very relaxing way to end the school day.”


One student took a slightly more reserved position. “I’ve been able to learn from a more academic standpoint about exercise and general health through the Daily Performance Program,” said Nathan Kwei, a junior. “However, at the same time, I don’t think the class can really account for a lost sports season.”