Pope John's Exercise Science course helps students get 'a step ahead' in field

Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School

Editor’s Note: This is the first story in a seven-part series on Pope John’s new course offerings, which are exercise science, design thinking, principles of engineering and design technology, principles of entrepreneurship, retail and fashion marketing, sports and entertainment marketing, and introduction to guitar. To check out courses like this or any other of our dynamic educational offerings, come visit our Open House on April 29 at 3 p.m. or visit www.popejohn.org.

SPARTA — Exercise Science is a growing field of study.

Exercise Science, which is the “study of human movement performed to maintain or improve physical fitness,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, helps prepare for careers in areas such as athletic training, exercise physiology, coaching and physical education.

However, most high school students in New Jersey do not get a chance to experience this field unless they are attending a technical school or decide to major in it in college.

Luckily, Pope John XXIII Regional High School can give students this opportunity after putting in Exercise Science as part of its course curriculum this year.

 “I really like the class,” Pope John senior Tim Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve always enjoyed working out and how the body works. To finally see all the things that go into it, it’s unique.

“I really enjoy it,” Pope John senior Katie Valenza said. “I want to go into nursing, so this helps a lot. You would only think a course like this is available in college, and that’s only if you see it as part of a major or something. You wouldn’t normally see this in a high school.”

The idea of having an exercise science course at Pope John was introduced three years ago by Joe Lopez, the department chair of the Health and Physical Education department. Lopez, who is also the school’s head strength and conditioning coach and the New Jersey State Director for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, felt that it would be great for Pope John students to get a taste into this course and what it has to offer.

“We have anatomy and physiology here at Pope John, but this is a nice sister class to them,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of the same information from both those classes, but this gives a practical side to it. Anyone who wants to go into physical therapy, do what I do and become a strength coach, or go into nursing, this has a huge benefit to that.

“So, my thought process was that if these kids can get a little bit of background and a head start into these types of fields before they get to college, that would be great.”

The course was approved by the school’s Academic Council shortly after Lopez presented the idea.

Since its implementation, the course has provided Pope John students with the knowledge and experiences in order to train athletes and clients for the primary goals of improving athletic performance and fitness.  With the help of using facilities like the Coach Paternostro Training Center and the Frank Setlock Track & Field Complex, the students also know how to conduct sport-specific testing sessions, demonstrate and teach proper exercise techniques, design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning and personal training programs, provide guidance regarding nutrition and performance-enhancing substances, and apply exercise prescription principles for training variation, injury prevention, and reconditioning.

Fitzpatrick and Valenza love the hands-on approach that the class provides.

“It’s cool,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve gone over a lot of training programs and we put them to use in the Paternostro Training Center once or twice a week. It’s great to put all of the knowledge we know into effect.”

“It helps me because I know all of the parts of the body now and what types of exercises can be used to help prevent or deal with injuries,” added Valenza.

More importantly, students like Fitzpatrick and Valenza are thrilled that Pope John has provided them with this base so they can be prepared for their future careers.

“I want to be a personal trainer when I grow up,” Fitzpatrick said, “so studying this at Pope John is certainly helping me reach that goal.”

“I feel like I already a step ahead of everybody else (that is going to enter this field),” Valenza said.

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