Archive for April, 2015


SPARK Announces Dr. Kymm Ballard as New Executive Director

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

SPARK is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kymm Ballard as next Executive Director of SPARK!  As the world’s most researched and field-tested physical and health education program, SPARK is a key component of School Specialty’s Physical Education offering. Kymm assumes her new role as Executive Director, following her distinguished leadership in the program as Partnership Development Specialist since 2009.  Kymm succeeds Paul Rosengard, the SPARK “Godfather”, who recently retired.

“I would like to congratulate Kymm on her well-deserved promotion and have every bit of confidence in her ability to continue to enhance SPARK programs and our overall growth in the Physical Education (PE) category,” stated Ed Carr, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer. “Kymm has been a strong advocate for physical and health education for decades and brings tremendous operational and managerial experience that serves SPARK and School Specialty well.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Paul for his outstanding service to the program over the years.  We have a strong team in place and together, are committed to building upon SPARK’s leadership position in research-based physical education and advancing our wide assortment of physical education solutions.”

Dr. Ballard’s professional experiences include more than a decade as a PE teacher and athletic director, several years as an administrator and the co-developer of North Carolina’s first high school demonstration school.  She is the former PE, Athletics and Sports Medicine Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; and has drafted, advocated and promoted the Healthy Active Children Policy of the NC State Board of Education and the state’s Essential Standards for Physical Education. Dr. Ballard also supported the North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, and Sport Management (NCAAHPERD-SM) to retool the physical education teachers with SPARK statewide training the trainer model, more currently known as “IsPod” (In School Prevention of Diabetes).

In providing guidance to schools and other national organizations to help secure resources for quality PE programs, she served as the President of the Society of State Directors for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, as well as the Chair for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) Public Relations Committee, among other committees. In addition, Dr. Ballard currently serves as the Coordinator of Health and Physical Education at Campbell University.  In her Partnership Development role at SPARK, she has also been successful in helping to initiate and facilitate millions of dollars to schools to address obesity prevention.

Among the many awards that Dr. Ballard has received are the National P.E. 4 Life Advocate of the Year award for her work in North Carolina and Washington, D.C.; the Physical Education Teacher of the Year and Health Education Teacher of the Year Awards in North Carolina; the North Carolina Coach of the Year; the highest Honor Awards from NCAAHPERD and Society of State Directors for Health, Physical Education and Recreation; the Channing Mann, National Administrator of the Year from NASPE; and lifetime membership to the North Carolina PTA.  She continues to be recognized by her industry peers, health organizations and her SPARK colleagues for her commitment to advancing physical fitness for children.

“I am honored for this opportunity to serve the SPARK program and School Specialty in an even greater capacity and will continue my focus on advancing our physical education solutions for educators and children. With the achievements that SPARK has made over the last 25 years in motivating students to engage in a lifelong love of activity and healthy lifestyle choices, I firmly believe we are well-positioned for future success.  I look forward to working more closely with the team to drive advancements in quality research-based physical education in schools and organizations around the country and world – with the goal of keeping our children and communities strong and productive.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Kymm is following in my footsteps and becoming SPARK’s 2nd E.D.!  Placing a physical educator at the wheel demonstrates SPARK’s commitment to developing the best PE resources and doing things the right way; for kids, for teachers, and for public health. I’m excited for our worldwide SPARK family and know SPARK will be bigger and better than ever in the months and years to come,” stated Paul Rosengard.

Please join us in welcoming Kymm as the new SPARK Executive Director!  Follow Kymm on Twitter @KymmBallard and stay up to date with all of the news from SPARK @SPARK_Programs.

Kymm and Annika

Kymm Ballard and women's professional golf icon Annika Sorenstam work together to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children

The 5 Best Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Let’s face it–even as adults, there are certain foods that we’d like to avoid eating. However, when it comes to picky eating, it’s fair to say that children really take the biscuit. Often, as parents we struggle to convince our children to eat the right meals at the right times–even with foods we know they enjoy. Introduce a recommended daily dose of vegetables into that equation and you have the perfect recipe for headaches, tantrums, and tears. So why bother with the hassle?

Healthy doses of vegetables can benefit your child in a number of different ways. Fresh, healthy produce results in improved nutrition, an enhanced performance at school, and a decreased risk of childhood obesity. According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, half of your plate should consist completely of fruits and vegetables.

Obviously, the people who came up with this suggestion didn’t have much experience in convincing a child to eat their fruits and veggies. Statistics have shown that only 22% of children between 2 and 5 eat their recommended daily vegetables.

Fortunately for frustrated guardians, there are some tricks and tips that could help you to prompt your child into eating more veggies.

Photo by Martin Cathrae, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. Photo by Martin Cathrae, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

1. Use the “One Bite Rule”

This is a simple concept that works brilliantly on younger kids. It’s far too easy for children to decide they hate a food that they haven’t tried before just by looking at it. Push your children to try and eat at least one bite of the food that they’ve vetoed whenever you serve it. Science suggests that the more your child experiences the item, the more they’ll get used to it and begin to enjoy the taste for what it is, rather than rejecting it on principle alone.

2. Try to Make Food Fun

Children can be difficult at times, but if they’ve got one major talent, it’s in the realm of imagination. Kids love to play pretend and make games out of anything and everything. A new vegetable might be intimidating and disappointing for a child who was hoping to eat chicken nuggets, but if you turn it into a game, the task is suddenly less daunting. Transform your reluctant child into a superhero who needs to eat six carrots to see crime perfectly in the dark, or eat five pieces of broccoli for super-strength and you’ll notice the difference.

3. Don’t Push Too Hard–and Praise Success

If your children are working well on the “one bite” rule, the quickest way to spoil it is to force them into finishing their entire plate. Punishments, fighting, and conflict develop into a negative meal experience for your child, and conditioning suggests that the more pressure and discomfort you associate with an item, the more your child will grow to dislike it. When they manage the one bite, reward them with praise or a shiny sticker–anything that convinces them they’ve done a good job. Positive reinforcement is far more productive than negative pushing.

4. Shop and Cook With Your Kids

A great method for getting your children to eat more vegetables, which also connects to the “make food fun” tip above, is to get them involved in the meal process. Take them out to the local supermarkets and have them pick out examples of fresh vegetables that they might like to try. Then, once you get home, ask the child to help you prepare the vegetables. Most children will be happier to chomp through a meal of healthy veggies when they’re brimming with pride that they “made them” themselves.

5. Learn Your Child’s Vegetable Values

Most kids are under the impression that they’re invincible, so trying to convince them to eat their vegetables by telling them how healthy it is probably won’t get you far. Instead, tempt your children with tales that their veggie portions will help them to grow bigger and stronger. Appealing to their desire to grow and overcome their limitations is much more effective than simply using the “Because I told you to” approach.

Don’t Give Up!

We all have those days where our patience seems to have met its limit, but remember that the habits you teach your child now are likely to remain with them as they progress to adulthood. For their sake, it’s important to focus on solving eating issues early. Make the kitchen a fun place and create positive connotations with vegetables. You should find that, after time, your persistence pays off.

What works best for you when getting your kids to eat healthier? Let us know!