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Professor organizes, inspires children through RunJumpThrow

11/13/2018
 

From his office on campus at East Tennessee State University, Dr. Andy “Dott” Dotterweich doesn’t hesitate to recall a favorite coaching moment. Like most who work in education, he has standout memories that anchor his passion for working with kids, highlights that flood his mind to remember a child’s breakthrough or profound realization.

 

He remembers a surprising moment with an overweight elementary school student, a boy who was struggling but pushing through RunJumpThrow stations at a school event. He was crying. The other kids seemed to be enjoying themselves, laughing and running through the activities with support from the adult volunteers. When approached, the boy told Dr. Dotterweich that earlier, his parents had chastised his weight and said he shouldn’t participate in the program. Dr. Dotterweich took another look at the teary child.

 

“He was crying tears of joy-- no, accomplishment,” he recalls, “because we were out there encouraging him, taking note of what his accomplishments were for himself despite what his entire life had told him.”

 

Established by USATF in 2015 in partnership with The Hershey Company, RunJumpThrow is a free, hands-on learning program that gets kids excited about physical activity by introducing them to the foundational skills of running, jumping and throwing.

 

This year alone, Dr. Dotterweich has used RunJumpThrow’s offerings to reach over 3,330 children in the East Tennessee area. The program’s customizable elements and core teachings were a perfect fit for the University’s Center of Excellence for Sport Science & Coach Education (CESSCE), which operates a U.S. Olympic Training Site.

 

The center looks for ways to create initiatives that tap into the community and find partnerships that improve the level of coaching and opportunities for physical activities.  In a time where many scholastic P.E. programs are losing resources, “Dott” says RunJumpThrow is an invaluable resource to continue adding a physical component to children’s education.

 

Dr. Dotterweich, whose full title is Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Science, has hosted events since 2015 utilizing both the RunJumpThrow six-week curriculum and 1-day Core Plan, in addition to  incorporating various elements into existing events. Dr. Dotterweich’s efforts have impacted more than 6,000 children in total.

 

To celebrate Olympic Day this year, CESSCE brought over 800 kids to a high school stadium to participate in RunJumpThrow stations as well as activities for rugby, weightlifting and other Olympic sports. In preparation for a local Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, they used the running mechanics portion of RunJumpThrow as part of a training session, and at the annual Kingsport FunFest, the organization set up RJT stations for more than 100 children.

 

“Kids love it and the idea of bettering themselves,” he said of the RunJumpThrow. “They get a sense of self-worth. They’re more involved in trying to better themselves so no one feels bad about competing against each other. They’re getting a sense of that early competitive spirit but more importantly, working through their own issues in terms of [seeing improvement over time] … which is really the mindset you want to develop in an athlete.”

 

Dr. Dotterweich knows this from experience but also from academic research. He’s working on a study that looks at the self-esteem that goes along with program participation. The primary aim of the study is to empirically investigate the impact of the RunJumpThrow (RJT) program on children's attitudes towards physical activity, motor development, and self-efficacy.

 

The RJT core plan is designed for non-technical event organizers or individuals who don’t have physical education degrees. Dr. Dotterweich helps local organizers, including teachers and those without coaching experience, to implement the program in their community. He shows how it can fit into what they’re already doing and that they don’t need specialized equipment.

 

According to Dr. Dotterweich, the community has reacted extremely positively. The city commissioners and local Park and Recreation Department even provided the high school stadium for 2018 Olympic Day.

 

What’s next? Dr. Dotterweich is focused on getting RunJumpThrow incorporated into more area elementary schools as part of P.E. One school is currently working through a six-week plan, and another has incorporated the curriculum into a morning walking program.

 

“It’s been a wonderful vehicle for opening dialogue with members of the community,” he remarked. “It’s opened doors from a collaborative standpoint as opposed to a competitive standpoint.”

 

To learn more about RunJumpThrow and how to become an organizer, visit  http://runjumpthrow.usatf.org/.

 

About RunJumpThrow

USATF’s youth program created in partnership with The Hershey Company, RunJumpThrow (RJT) provides children ages 7-12 a fun chance to learn and practice the foundational skills of all sport - running, jumping and throwing.

 

Organizers receive lesson plans, instructional videos, marketing materials and liability insurance at no cost from USATF. Since its inception, RunJumpThrow has reached over 600,000 children and looks to reach one million by 2020. Visit http://runjumpthrow.usatf.org/ for more information.

 




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