UT Health San Antonio and Spurs take over elementary PE classes

The San Antonio Spurs Sports Academy with UT Health San Antonio took charge of the physical education classes at a Northeast Side elementary school May 8.

The clunk of basketballs hitting rims instead of the swooshing of nets mixed with squeals of laughter as the Spurs Coyote led a group of third graders through basketball drills. lt was part of an afternoon of fun and learning when the San Antonio Spurs Sports Academy with UT Health San Antonio took charge of the physical education classes at a Northeast Side elementary school May 9.  

During the Spurs PE Takeover, UT Health San Antonio sports medicine physicians, Guy Nicolette, MD, Ken O. Kenneth-Nwosa, MD, and Alberto Oseguera, MD, joined Spurs Sports Academy coaches and members of the Spurs Hype Squad as they led three PE classes at Camelot Academy. Together they shared information about healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods.

Guy Nicolette, MD

“If you want to be a professional athlete or college athlete, you have to fuel your body the right way. Athletes sometimes have their favorite fast food, but most of the time they are providing themselves with the best balance of colorful veggies, good protein and good fats. The better you fuel your body, the better it will work,” Nicolette, who sees patients at UT Health at Kyle Seale Parkway and serves as the Spurs team doctor, told students.

During the takeover, third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students performed stretching moves before breaking up into groups. They navigated a floor ladder skill test with more enthusiasm than grace and made one attempt after another to sink a basket, all to the cheers of the coaches. Outside, the Hype Squad led students in a dance routine and then formed a circle as the students showed off their skills. 

“I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was just basketball but the cool thing is you might have a kid that’s not great at basketball, but they are having a great time out here dancing,” said Amy Behlen, the school’s PE teacher. “The kids who are athletic or don’t like to dance are having a great time with basketball. It’s a little bit of something for everyone.”

At the end of every session, each of the more than 200 students participating received a branded drawstring bag from UT Health San Antonio. They were also given tickets to a San Antonio FC soccer game from Spurs Sports Academy.

Giving back

Camelot Academy on San Antonio’s Northeast Side is a Title I campus with more than 90% of its students classified as economically disadvantaged. The event was an opportunity to support students who may not have a chance to attend a professional sporting event, said Austin Peebles, Spurs Sports Academy associate director.   

“We give them a Spurs Day. We want them to have fun and enjoy life. A lot of kids go through a lot of different things, and we just want them to enjoy their day with us,” Peebles said.

He said the sports academy and the dance team began the PE takeovers about nine years ago and conduct eight events a year throughout the city. 

“We want to get kids moving and playing. But we are also here for the teachers. We want to give them a little break,” Peebles said. 

Nicolette said being part of the event is a way to not only give back to the community he serves, but also a chance to talk to kids about finding balance in their lives. 

“I think we fall into a trap of being a little overly prescriptive of what shouldn’t be done. I’m not sure that works great on kids — it doesn’t work great on adults either,” he said. “It’s about how you can do things that are a balance of all these activities that you want to do and still maintain your physical and mental health. And so, to say ‘no gaming’ is not reality and that’s not healthy. It’s a moderation of things.”

A ripple effect

He said the one takeaway he wanted the students to share with their parents is the benefits of a good night’s rest. 

“Sleep is the most important thing you can do that’s free,” he told the students. “If you can get five full cycles of sleep — and for most kids your age that is somewhere between nine to 12 hours — then you are giving your body the rest it needs, you are helping it to repair any injuries accumulated during the day, and you are helping your brain function better for the next day.”

Shara Wade, the school’s assistant principal, said the event shows the students that others outside their school community care about them. She said that when students share their experience with their parents, the compassion shown by the Spurs staff and physicians also extends to their families.

“It has a ripple effect,” she said. 

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