Archive for the ‘SPARK’ Category


Our 7 Most Popular Articles Published Around the Web

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

young girl plays on the jungle gym

If you frequent the SPARK blog, you’ll know we’re passionate about children’s health and physical activity, but our blog isn’t the only place where we’re sharing our passion.

Our SPARK experts have been spreading their insight and knowledge across the Web for some time now. Because we don’t want you to miss out on any of this helpful information, we’ve rounded up 8 of our most popular articles on the web for you. Read on to find out more about these great examples of our thought leadership.

The Fall of Dodgeball: Why Schools are Removing Competitive Elimination Games from Their PE Curriculum

In this post on Edutopia.org, Jeff Mushkin explores why schools are getting rid of dodgeball and other elimination games. Reasons include a heavier focus on bullying prevention as well as trying to promote engagement from all students throughout entire physical activities. As a Director of Curriculum Development for Sportime featuring SPARK, Mushkin provides expert advice on the types of games and activities that can be used to replace dodgeball in PE lessons.

Is Gamification the Next Step in Physical Education?

Jeff Mushkin looks at the concept of gamification, which is the idea of introducing gaming principles to non-game activities, and how it can be incorporated into physical education programs. Discover his innovative ideas in this interesting piece on Edutopia.org.

Fit Vacation: How to Add Healthy Activities to Your Family Vacation

Vacations are a perfect time to relax, but they also pull you out of your normal routine. This usually means that your fitness goals are put on hold until you get back, but the good news is, they don’t have to be. With these tips from Dr. Kymm Ballard on The Active Times, you can head off on vacation knowing how to keep the whole family healthy while away from home.

Physical Activities that Provide Kids with Lessons in Leadership

Leadership is a skill kids can learn in multiple areas of life, from the classroom to the playing field to home. In this article on The Leadership Program, Dr. Kymm Ballard offers ideas on ways parents, teachers, and communities can get kids involved in physical activities that teach and nurture leadership skills.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Physical Education As Punishment

It’s not uncommon to see physical activity used as a punishment, particularly by teachers or coaches. One common example is requiring students to run extra laps. While this form of punishment can be effective, it comes with its downsides, too. In this post on TeachThought, Dr. Kymm Ballard discusses the problems with using physical education as a form of punishment, and how it can affect students and their relationship with physical activity later on in life.

Is Your Child Getting Enough Exercise?

Today, only one in three children are physically active on a daily basis, and an estimated 13 million youth in the US are obese. Could your child be among those who aren’t getting enough activity? In this piece on The Active Times, Dr. Kymm Ballard covers the statistics and national fitness guidelines on youth health. She also discusses what types of exercise your child should be getting and strategies to get them moving.

4 Habits Kids Should Learn to Become Healthy Adults

Forming habits takes time, but it helps to get a head start. If you want to set your child up for a healthy adulthood, get them started with the right attitude at a young age. Adults who ate healthier in their childhood, for example, tend to show better health later in life than their counterparts. This post on CaliDiet shows you how to develop important healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Visit SPARK’s blog today to discover more insightful articles on children’s health and fitness.

Tabata 201

Monday, August 7th, 2017

young woman using a skipping rope

By: Dr. Derek J. Mohr & Dr. J. Scott Townsend, Appalachian State University

In our last blog, Tabata 101, we discussed the Tabata Protocol. Today we will extend the conversation, focusing on how to teach Tabata in a physical education setting.

Imagination Station

Imagine a PE class that operates like a wellness center (see this blog for more details)… one where motivated students choose from and enjoy participating in a variety of fitness stations (weight training, yoga, Tabata, fitness walking, cycling, etc.), where each station is led by certified student-instructors, focused on helping their peers develop personal fitness skills, knowledge and confidence. Read on to make this dream your reality…

Tabata Refresher

Tabata is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program designed to get maximum fitness benefits in a short duration workout, making it a great option when you are pressed for time or want to add variety to a training program. Accordingly, Tabata can be a meaningful part of a well-rounded HS PE program.

Tabata in SPARK High School PE

In the SPARK HS PE program, Tabata is part of a larger unit called Group Fitness. As such, Tabata, like all other group fitness “mini-units,” consists of two progressive instructional activities:

  1. Basic Training

Here students master fundamental safety protocols and movement techniques associated with the unit content. In SPARK Tabata, students use the Content Cards to experiment with and master basic exercises. This may take multiple lessons as the teacher leads students through the mastery process. Tabata Basic Training focuses on SHAPE Standards 1, 2 and 3.

  1. Create a Workout

Here students create a series of personalized Tabata workouts by applying fundamentals mastered in basic training. As part of the process, students practice, refine and then lead classmates through their created workouts. In SPARK Tabata, students are challenged to create nine 4-minute Tabata workouts (3 workouts with 2 exercises, 3 with 4 exercises and 3 with 8 exercises). Tabata Create a Workout focuses on SHAPE Standards 4 and 5.

Tabata Teaching Tips

  • Encourage students to give Tabata a chance to help them improve aerobic and muscle fitness.
  • Focus students on safety, performance cues and personal fitness goals.
  • Modify activities to ensure safety, individual success and motivation.

Get Equipped

Share Your Knowledge

What are your experiences teaching Tabata? What advice would you give to someone who has never taught Tabata, but wants to? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new Tabata unit under High School Web-Based Units. If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK High School curriculum set.

Tabata 101

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

People exercising with dumbbell at gym

By: Dr. J. Scott Townsend & Dr. Derek J. Mohr, Appalachian State University

Tabata 101 is the first installment of a two-part blog series highlighting the latest web-unit addition to the SPARK High School PE Group Fitness Unit.

Tabata… a HIIT for getting fit.

Tabata is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program designed to get maximum fitness benefits in a short duration workout, making it a great option when you are pressed for time or want a change from more traditional workout programs.

The Protocol

A single Tabata workout is 4 minutes in duration and consists of two parts: work and rest.

  1. Work: 20 seconds of full effort
  2. Rest: 10 seconds recovery
  3. Repeat: Complete workout/rest cycle 8 times
  4. Exercises: 1, 2, 4 or 8 exercises can be included per workout

An Example

  1. Push-up (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Jumping Jacks (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Air Squat (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Jump Rope (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Repeat 1-4 (4 min)

A Bit-a Tabata History

  • Who: The Tabata protocol was developed by researcher Izumi Tabata.
  • How: His landmark study compared the following training programs:
    • Traditional aerobic training: 5X/Week @ 60 min/workout
    • HIIT: 20 sec work, 10 sec rest repeated 8X
  • Results: HIIT and traditional trainings equally improved aerobic endurance. Tabata also improved anaerobic capacity while the traditional did not.
  • Summary: Tabata is an effective training protocol for improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

Try Tabata

Follow the guidelines below and give Tabata a try.

  • Bod Squad: Use body-weight exercises to reduce the need for specialized equipment.
  • Experiment: Try Tabata at a lower intensity to get comfortable with the protocol.
  • Choose Wisely: Select exercises you can perform safely and that match your fitness goals.
  • Modify: Alter exercises to match your current fitness level and progress as your fitness improves.
  • Stack It: When ready, try multiple Tabatas back-to-back with a brief rest (1-3 min) between each.
  • Warm-Up & Down: Use a dynamic, full body warm-up before and warm down afterwards.
  • Tech Support: Use a Tabata app to: select exercises, and add music to and/or time your workout.

Share Your Tabata Thoughts!

Stay tuned to for our next Tabata blog. In the meantime, we’re interested to know… What are your experiences engaging in Tabata? What advice would you give to someone who has never engaged in Tabata? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new Tabata unit under High School Web-Based Units. If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK High School curriculum set.

Updated Standards in Online SPARK Manuals

Friday, July 7th, 2017

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One hallmark of the SPARK K-12 Physical Education programs is the alignment with National and State Physical Education standards. These standards help guide the planning, implementation, and assessment of student learning. With expectations mapped out, teachers can focus on learning targets designed to enhance student learning. By using a standards-based program, teachers can plan focused lessons to meet specific needs of students.

SPARK understands that teachers use a variety of standards – district, state or national standards – so a one-size-fits-all methodology doesn’t serve everyone’s diverse needs. Though possible, we also know it’s not efficient to sort through an exhaustive list of standards. To that end, we have flipped our standards alignment around to list the grade level outcomes so that you can now match the outcomes with your specific set of standards.

By listing the outcomes – divided into the three categories of Movement and Skills; Fitness; and Social and Personal – you can see that the lesson you are teaching is aligning with the standards you are looking to address in the day’s lesson. Now you are in the driver’s seat to choose the lessons that meet your specific standards!

The revised lessons with outcomes are available online today at SPARKfamily.org with your SPARK K-2, 3-6, Middle School, or High School PE subscription!

If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK PE curriculum set.

Visit Sportime featuring SPARK at the 2017 SHAPE America National Convention!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

2017-Convention-Banner

The SHAPE America National Convention starts on March 14th and will be in Boston. Visit the SHAPE America website to register for the convention and find all of the event details.

Download the 2017 Convention Program and use the online planner to view all of the convention sessions. Make sure to attend the Sportime featuring SPARK and Teacher of the Year sessions – view our presentation schedule.

Stop by the Sportime featuring SPARK booth to learn about:

We are proud to be a convention sponsor, and the exclusive sponsor of the SHAPE America Teacher of the Year Program.

We are also offering 40% off equipment featured in our booth and during our presentations at the convention with promo code 081SHAPE17.

Not able to make it to Boston this year? Don’t worry! The offer is valid 3/3/17 – 4/28/17 at Sportime.com – use promo code 081SHAPE17 at checkout to save. Select products only.

Lacrosse 101

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

SPARK-Lacrosse

By: Dr. Scott Townsend and Dr. Derek Mohr, Appalachian State University

What sport is…

Considered the fastest game on two feet?
The national summer sport of Canada?
Originally derived from a game called Baggataway?

You got it – Lacrosse a.k.a. Lax!

Think you don’t know anything about lacrosse? Think again! Lacrosse is a field-based invasion game that is similar in strategy to sports like soccer or team handball. So while the skills of the sport are unique, the tactics are likely familiar.

Whether you are looking to freshen up your curriculum with new content or teach lacrosse again, the tips and resources below can help you be successful.

The Terrific 10

Here is a list of 10 basic rules of traditional lacrosse:

  1. Teams. 10 players per side; three defenders, three midfielders, three attackers, one goalkeeper.
  2. Games. Four 12-15 minute quarters with a running clock.
  3. Scoring. One point per score.
  4. Starting Play. Game starts with a coin toss to determine defending ends. Teams switch ends after each period.
  5. Restarting Play. After a goal with a face-off.
  6. Out-of-Bounds. Over a sideline: use a thrown-in to restart play. Over an endline: use a throw-in or run-in (possession of a missed shot that crosses an endline is awarded to the team with the player nearest the endline as the ball goes out).
  7. When a team fails to have at least three players in the attack half of field and less than four players in the defensive half; results in a 30 sec. penalty.
  8. Tie Game. Games tied are decided by extra time play, then penalty goal shootouts.
  9. Breaches of rules result in time-out penalties, divided into technical (non-injurious fouls such as holding; 30 sec.) and personal (severe foul such as slashing; 1-3 min.). While penalties are served, teams play shorthanded until the penalty time-out is over.
  10. May stop the ball with any part of their body or stick while inside crease. Consequently, offensive players may not contact or interfere with the goalkeeper in the crease.

Terms of Endearment

Whether watching or playing, knowing the terms below will make you more lacrosse-literate:

  • Clearing: Passing or running the ball from the defensive area to the attack area
  • Crease: Circle around the goal area
  • Extra Player: When a team has a player advantage due to a penalty on their opponent
  • Loose Ball: An uncontrolled ground ball
  • Quick Stick: Catching and passing or shooting in one fluid motion
  • Riding: A quick transition from offense to defense to prevent a clear

So Skillful

While the tactics of lacrosse are similar to other invasion type games, the skills are unique. Some of the most important stick-based skills include:

  • Scooping: Retrieving the ball from the ground quickly
  • Catching: Securing the ball in the pocket in preparation for a pass, shoot, or to run
  • Passing: Moving the ball around the field from player to player
  • Cradling: Maintaining possession of ball without passing, catching, or shooting
  • Dodging: Changing direction and speed to free a player up to either pass or shoot
  • Shooting: Similar to a pass but its intent is to score a goal
  • Stick-Checking: Defensive use of the stick to keep offensive player from scoring or passing

Did You Know?

SPARK is hosting a free lacrosse webinar on October 19, 2016 (click here to register) and has just rolled out a web-exclusive SPARK HS Lacrosse unit located on SPARKfamily.org. Please join us to learn more about this exciting sport and experience the vast array of educational resources SPARK offers to help you implement lacrosse in your PE program.

What are your experiences teaching or playing lacrosse? What advice would you give to someone who has never played the game or a teacher wanting to add this to their curriculum? Post a response below and let us know!

Click here to shop lacrosse equipment & resources.

Big Results in a Short Period of Time

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email, spark@sparkpe.org.

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.

Introducing: Project IGNITE!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Project-IGNITE-blog-image

By: Naomi Hartl, PE Development & Technology Specialist, Sportime featuring SPARK

These two questions are frequently asked in the physical education profession today:

  • “What does effective teaching look like in a physical education class?”
  • “How can I observe model teaching practices in physical education?”

Physical educators are not always given time to observe other teachers within their school or district, and administrators observing classes may not understand what an effective physical education lesson looks like. They may think if students are smiling, moving, and behaving, then the educator is an effective teacher.

While the physical education classroom may “look” different from a general classroom, both require sound instructional practice, which is essential for an effective physical education program. Therefore, a recurring problem is the minimal knowledge about what evidence-based teaching practices look like in physical education.

There are many informative resources available that support effective teaching. These may be in the form of blog posts, resource documents, journal articles, and books. However, there is nothing that is freely and readily available to the public that visually shows us what it looks like.

This is where Project IGNITE! comes in…

Project IGNITE! is a free resource package, brought to you by the SPARK Innovation Team, that includes SPARK Lesson Checklists, an Effective Teaching Resource Document, and the much anticipated Project IGNITE! Video Library.

The purpose of Project IGNITE! is to elevate the profession by providing a platform that shares videos of what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting. This platform will allow administrators, physical educators, university professors and pre-service teachers to begin to have collaborative conversations about what effective teaching looks like in physical education and begin the shift from a teacher evaluation lens to a professional growth mindset.

The Project IGNITE! Video Library is a crowd-sourced project where educators from across the country contribute by sharing videos of their lessons. All videos submitted will go through a vetting process before being posted on the website. We would like to post video clips that represent multiple levels of what effective teaching looks like in physical education and encourage you to share video clips at every level of your teaching. All videos are stored and posted for free on www.SPARKecademy.org.

Sportime featuring SPARK is actively searching for an elite group of effective physical educators to showcase best practice from their programs and assist others by adding their expertise to our online Video Library.

Ready to learn more?

Join us on for a free webinar on September 14th at 5pm PT, 8pm ET to learn more and join the movement. Click Here to register for the free webinar.

Want to get started? (after September 14th)

Log in or create your free account at SPARKecademy.org, then navigate to the Project IGNITE! Video Library under the Course Catalog. View videos, download resources, and access instructions for uploading your video.

Join us as we revolutionize the profession by sharing what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting!

Recap: 2016 SPARK Institutes

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Thank you to all 2016 Institutes attendees!

Over 300 participants attended the SPARK Institutes in San Diego this summer.

Here are the group shots for each Institute. Also, the dates for the 2017 Institutes have been set – click here to check them out and register!

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Early Childhood Institute 2016

 

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After School Institute 2016

 

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PE Technology Institute 2016

 

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SPARKabc’s Institute 2016

 

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K-6 PE Level 2 Institute 2016

 

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K-2 PE Institute 2016

 

3-6 Institute 13-6 Institute 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoops! The group picture from the 3-6 PE Institute went missing so we do not have this one. But, here are a couple of action shots from the 3-6 PE Institute. Our apologies!

 

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Middle School PE Institute 2016

 

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High School PE Institute 2016

Back to School: PREP, SET, TEACH!

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Coach Giving Team Talk To Elementary School Basketball Team

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

Well, it is that time of year again! You have squandered another perfectly good summer and now you need to get ready for the new school year. If you teach using one of the SPARK Programs, this post will help you prep for a SPARKed-up year.

CREATE A YEARLY PLAN

Not looking forward to spending all your Sunday afternoons planning what to teach each week? Well, the Yearly Plan (YP) is the way to get it all done up front. This isn’t to say there won’t be some adjustments along the way, but it’ll save you many hours throughout the year. Not only that, it also ensures you will cover all the content needed for each grade level.

Each SPARK Program has sample yearly plans which can be used as written or as a guide to create your own that is more aligned with your needs. Things to consider when creating one for your school:

  • Standards and Outcomes: This is most likely your highest priority. If you do a Standards-Based Yearly Plan, try using SPARK’s as a guide. It covers all the outcomes for each of the grade levels showing which assessments to use and which SPARK activities help address those standards. It’s very handy!
  • Facilities and Equipment: Due to the reality of often sharing space and stuff, you will need to keep this in mind when writing the YP. For example, if there is only one track, you won’t want all 7th grade classes doing Track and Field at the same time. In our MS program, we have YPs for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades keeping these issues in mind.
  • Weather: It’s tough to teach flying disc activities when it’s crazy windy, and you wouldn’t want to be doing jump rope on a blacktop when it’s 100° outside. If you use outdoor space much, like we do in California, you’ll need to use the weather as your guide.
  • Team-Teaching: If two or more teachers are team-teaching PE, that needs to be figured out before you write up your YP. For example, if three 5th grade teachers want to “specialize” in one Spotlight on Skills unit for three months it might look like this: Ms. Sanchez teaches Dance, Mr. Anderson teaches Cooperatives, and Ms. Ng teaches Football. The YP shows all three for three months, with students rotating from teacher to teacher each month. Be sure to keep facilities and equipment in mind when selecting units.
  • Unit Plans: As part of a YP, you will need to have Unit Plans to schedule which activities you will teach on which days in order to address the standards and have students reach the outcomes for their grade level. SPARK has sample Unit Plans for each unit/section in each of the programs.

2016-2017 SPARK Calendar:
www.sparkpe.org/wp-content/uploads/SPARK-Calendar-2016-2017-Interactive.pdf

READY YOUR LESSON PLANS

Prior to each week you’ll want to pull out the lessons needed for each day and each class. Many teachers using tablets will create PDFs out of all the lessons needed for each grade level for the whole unit. Others, who like the paper lessons, will pull them out of the manual and put in sheet protectors and on clipboards for each day. Whichever way you go, prepping your lessons on Fridays ensures a smoother week to follow. SPARK has you covered and ready to adjust and challenge students with SPARK It Ups, Extensions, and Game Resets (depending on which program level).

View and download additional sample SPARK lesson plans:
www.sparkpe.org/physical-education/lesson-plans

GET YOUR EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS, AND MUSIC SET

If you didn’t do an inventory at the end of last year, shame on you. Just kidding! However, you should do one now so you know what you have and what you may need to order.

Before each unit, check out the What You Need page found in each unit’s Introductory Pages to ensure you have all required equipment before you teach each unit. If you don’t have the equipment, see if you can substitute something else, or possibly borrow from another school. (“If you loan me a KIN-BALL® and I’ll loan you a parachute!”) If that doesn’t work, either order it or change your plans! Once you have your equipment together, put it all in a cart (or two or three) so it’s ready to go and other teachers know you have dibs!

Check the lesson plans for any instructional materials needed and print them or pull from your SPARKfolio.

Be sure you have your music prepped and ready to go, as well. Make a playlist for each unit so you’ve got it all in one spot. You can use SPARK’s music from one of their CDs and SPARKfamily, and add your own if you like. Students always appreciate new, fresh music (clean versions, of course) they are hearing on the radio.

TEACH!

SPARK always suggests leading off the year with our first mini-units (Building a Foundation, The First 3 Lessons, The First 5 Lessons, and HS PE 101) followed by team-building activities from the Cooperatives Unit (3-6, MS, and HS). These activities help to establish a positive learning environment to set up protocols, learn and reinforce social skills, and promote cooperation and trust among your students. (It never hurts to revisit these throughout the year!) Follow your YP and make adjustments as you go.

By doing some extra prep now, you’ll save yourself a lot of work throughout the year. Who knows, maybe you’ll have time on the weekends to do some playing yourself! Golf, anyone?