December 14, 2012
My name is Ted Scheck. Last year was my 4th year at Indiana’s top ISTEP-scoring school, Sidener Academy. The week before school let out I read a story in the Indy Star about a non-profit bicycling organization whose main goals matched mine perfectly – reducing the state’s rising childhood obesity rates. Nine13Sports, I researched on the Internet, seemed like a sincere and extremely cool organization to be a part of, or to have become a part of my own. I’ve always loved recreational bicycling, so the idea of pairing up with them, though a long-shot at the time, seemed worthwhile to investigate. Two or three days later after contacting them by email, I received a response back from them. I was pleasantly surprised.
In the middle of last June, I met with Tom Hanley, Ken Nowakowski, and John Singleton after Field Day, our last day of school. We sat down and talked about kids, and bikes, and bike trips, and how large and sedentary some of the kids we’d all come into contact with, and also, how incredibly fit and motivated other kids we’d come into contact with. There seemed to be a reasonably strong and immediate connection with all three of these gentlemen, so I asked them if there was a way Nine13Sports could possibly work with my school.
Sidener Academy was in the process of hiring a new Principal, Tennille Wallace, so when I spoke to Mrs. Wallace about our school pairing with them, her response was positive. Nine13Sports agreed to begin Indianapolis Public School’s first foray into the world of non-profit bicycle fitness training, setting up a six-week training session (Fall 2012) in the following October. On that Friday both my 4th grades, as well as one 8th grade class (approximately 70 students) began a six-week course on the bikes attached to the big screen. It was an education for all of us, and Fridays became known as ‘Bike Day’ and I would hear from all my other classes: “Hey Mr. Scheck, when can we get on those bikes?”
Session Two (Winter 2012) began after Fall Break, on a Tuesday, this time, and just finished. Around 95 more students received intensive cardiovascular professional biking instruction, or slightly more than half our total enrollment. Nine13Sports sets an age limit of 4th grade as the minimum age requirement to be able to safely and correctly handle them on what appear to be ‘normal’ bikes but which are extremely technical exercise ergometers, measuring some very sophisticated data. This data is saved after the first session, so the student, once returning to the bikes the following week, can race against their own best time. This by itself is one of the most amazing parts of the entire program. If I were to ask for one thing to further enhance the whole Nine13Sports experience, it would be the implementation of heart rate monitors, and the ability to record and store that data.
What I would eventually like to do is be a part of a grant that would collect data from an age group, say 5th grade boys and girls, with an age range of 10-11, with body-mass indexes in the high-risk zone or borderline high-risk. Train them on the bike simulators for 2 sessions, monitor their eating habits carefully, and get them on an exercise regimen. I would bet the farm that the bikes would play a major role vs. the control-group, who did not get to ride the bikes.
My entire physical education program has changed because of Nine13Sports. The level of engagement on “Bike Day” is completely off the charts. My students seem more engaged, more fired up, excited, and motivated about Gym Class. The grant idea I had? Tom Hanley and I have discussed grant ideas, and I’m very excited about the future of Nine13Sports and Sidener Academy, for I have the idea of bicycling (both indoor and, someday, regular bikes outside) being embedded into the “fitness culture” of my school and its students.
It has been my most sincere pleasure to sit up on my stage, as I supervise the group of students waiting in the wings for the first group to complete their training regimen, seeing world-class coaching by Ken Nowakowski, himself the former Director of Racing & Training for the Major Taylor Velodrome for nearly 16 years. Ken is a certified Elite level cycling coach, and no matter the age group, he always manages to squeeze more effort and energy out of my students than anyone I’ve ever encountered. Next to Ken is John Singleton, whose business mentality, entrepreneurial spirit, and coaching experience make him a valuable addition to the Nine13Sports team. And finally, the youngest member of the trio, Tom Hanley, who still looks the part of an elite-level bicyclist. I think my older students are most impressed by Tom’s youthful demeanor, his knowledge of cycling and racing, and his heart, which is to take what is inside and share it with as many young people as possible.
I cannot say enough good things about the non-profit organization that is Nine13Sports. They are amazing on multiple levels and dimensions. My professionalism as a teacher has been greatly enriched simply by spending time with these three gentlemen.