Grace Pruden has been playing competitive soccer since she was four years old. The freshman striker for Hillcrest High says the game has shaped her as a person on and off the field.

So, when she began experiencing recurrent bouts of back pain, she heeded the warning signs, sought medical attention and took some needed breaks from training. Recently, with physical therapy, and the help of a new injury prevention programprudensmall.jpg at Hillcrest High, Pruden says she’s feeling “healthy and strong” coming into a new season this fall. “I’m leaps and bounds from where I used to be,” she says.

But for every teen athlete who takes steps to safeguard their health, there are thousands who are compelled to push their growing bodies to a breaking point, contributing to what some are calling an epidemic in youth sports injuries.

“Many of these injuries, such as concussions and ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] tears, can be life-altering,” says Robin Cecil, a doctor of physical therapy and an assistant girls soccer coach at Hillcrest. “But the good news is that these traumas, along with overuse injuries, such as muscle strains and knee and ankle sprains, are preventable.”

There are about 2 million high school-related sports injuries annually, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Overuse injuries are responsible for about half of the injuries in middle school and high school athletes, and the CDC says half of those are preventable.

There are many factors behind the trend. Youth sports, now a $15.3 billion industry that includes leagues and livestreamed games, is no longer a seasonal affair. To remain competitive in the eyes of college recruiters, kids are being encouraged to specialize in a single sport at younger ages, and they’re playing the sport year-round, which is placing too much repetitive stress on their still-developing bodies. “Kids are training like adults and their bodies aren’t ready for it,” Cecil says.

But if new technologies and advances in sports medicine have made it possible to push athletes to excel, why not use these same tools to prevent injury? Such is idea behind AthleteMonitoring.com, a computer-based athlete management system that Hillcrest’s girls soccer team is test-piloting this summer.

In competitive sports, there is a sweet spot for training. In order to optimize performance, coaches have to design programs that push athletes without putting them at risk for injury or illness, explains the Husky’s new head soccer coach Kyra Peery. “Finding and maintaining the balance between intense training and recovery and rest is an art and, increasingly, a science.”

Athlete Monitoring is used by professional, college, high school and club sports teams around the world to gather and interpret data on athletes’ fitness and wellness. Every morning, Pruden logs in to the secure system on her cell phone or a tablet and answers a series of five questions designed to gauge how well she’s sleeping, and how much fatigue, soreness and stress she’s experiencing. Then, again, after practice she completes an assessment of the training session, remarking on her enjoyment and exertion levels, along with any health problems. “It’s easy,” she says, “and only takes a few minutes.”

The data are then made available in real-time to the coaching team through easy-to-understand dashboards and built-in alerts, which flag certain athletes as being at risk for injury due to overtraining or other stressors. There’s even a “monotony index,” which, when above-normal, indicates enhanced risk for injury.

The system empowers coaches to make more calculated and precise changes to their training, and to individualize training for athletes, Peery says. “As coaches, we often forget that external stressors, such as work, friends, school, and family also factor into an athlete’s recovery and performance. This helps us put the students, and their well-being, first.”

One of the ways to reduce injuries and athlete burnout is to play more than one sport, but monitoring the workload for these athletes can pose communication and coordination challenges for coaches, says Hillcrest’s athletic director John Olsen. “The benefit of using a single data interface is that it makes it possible for everyone to be working from the same playbook, because all of us—the coaching staff, athletic trainers and the athletic director—are alerted to any health issues that athletes report.” The girls soccer team is the first to experiment with the system, but if successful, it may be put to use more widely.

Students also appreciate the open line of communication. While taking a break from the summer heat during a pre-season training session, center midfielder Kate Timmerman described the daily routine of providing feedback to the coaches as “empowering.” It doesn’t hurt having a little extra incentive to complete the drills that coaches assign on off-practice days, she says. “It keeps everyone accountable.”

Staying fit through the off-season is important as injuries tend to spike during tryouts, Cecil says. “It’s best to gradually ramp-up workloads.”

With this in mind, Peery and her husband and assistant coach Brock Peery have been hosting free summer training for their players where the girls weight-train and run drills three times per week for two hours a day.

This, coupled with the team’s student-first, injury-prevention focus, has Pruden feeling optimistic about the fall season. “The team is looking really strong,” she says, “and it’s been a relief to see the improvement with my back and my health.”

Injury Prevention Tips

All sports carry the risk of injury. Fortunately, the benefits of sports outweigh most of the risks, and many injuries are preventable—especially those due to overuse or overtraining.
  • Take a Break: It’s important to build-in rest periods between training, practice and competitions. A useful rule-of-thumb is that children under the age of 16 should not practice more hours per week at a given sport than their age in years. 
  • Self-care: It’s important for athletes to eat a healthy diet and consume enough calories. Getting enough rest and liquids are equally vital. 
  • Keep it Fun: Training should be fun and invigorating. If it feels monotonous or painful, that can be a sign that you’re pushing too hard. 
  • Play Safe: Good sportsmanship and adherence to game rules can reduce the risk for injury.
  • Manageable Workload: With training, it’s important to use proper technique and to keep weekly workload increases under 15 percent.
  • Warm-up & Cool Down: It’s important to do dynamic warm-ups before training to pre-stretch and activate muscles without overstretching them, and to do cool downs afterward.
They could have spent the summer relaxing poolside with friends, playing video games, or earning babysitting money. Instead, they chose to get a jump on high school with a deep-dive into the math and science concepts they’ll be expected to learn as entering freshmen this fall.

For four hours a day over four weeks, participants in Jordan High’s AVID summer academy immersed themselves in what it takes to be a successful Beetdigger. They attended class, conducted experiments, and completed exams while becoming familiar with the new surroundings, new teachers, and more rigorous demands of high school. For their efforts, on Friday, June 13, they were awarded cash stipends and completion certificates, and treated to a celebratory breakfast with family members. Screen_Shot_2018-07-13_at_5.20.51_PM.png

More valuable, still—they learned that they’re capable of doing hard things, and that it feels pretty good. “This summer, you’ve shown that you can do something really important,” remarked Canyons Board of Education member Steve Wrigley at the ceremony. “Believe in yourself and work hard and it will open all kinds of doors for you.”

 Made possible with an investment by the Board of Education, and modeled after a similar program at Hillcrest High, the AVID summer academy is now in its second year. Participants in last year’s academy ended their ninth-grade year with higher grade point averages than those students who were invited to the program but chose not to participate (see chart below). They reported having more confidence and also attended school more regularly.

“We didn’t have any of our participants who were falling into dangerous areas of missing a lot of school, which is something that prohibits students from being successful,” says Jordan’s Principal Wendy Dau.

How students perform in the ninth grade tends to predict how well they’ll do in high school. The idea behind the AVID program, says Dau, is to help students excel that first “sink-or-swim” year, and beyond.

Last year, the approach earned CSD the honor of being named a 2017 District of Distinction by District Administration Magazine. One of Utah’s largest newspapers called the initiative a "smart, sensible and innovative" approach “to dealing with a specific problem — one that happens to be at the heart of any education system’s principal mission — to make sure students who show up on the first day of school are still there when the bell rings on graduation day.”
While the family is enjoying picnics, water slides, holiday fireworks and popsicles on hot summer days, don’t forget to start making back-to-school plans for your 4-year-old kiddos. 

Canyons continues to accept applications for spots in preschool programs in all parts of the District. For the 2018-2019 school year, tuition-based preschool programs will be held at Altara, Bella Vista, Butler, Edgemont, Jordan Valley, Oakdale, Quail Hollow and Willow Springs elementary schools. 

Interested? Click here to see the application.

Canyons preschools follow a curriculum that lines up with the core standards of learning at the kindergarten level. As a result, children who attend preschool programs in CSD schools have the foundation to meet the challenges of kindergarten. Also, students are paired in classrooms with students who require special-education services so they can serve as peers and role models in language and social skills. 

Cost is $100 per month for students attending two days per week and $200 a month for students attending four days. There’s also a one-time $20 registration fee. Availability for the program in the coming academic year is based on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Morning sessions are from 8:20-10:50 a.m. Afternoon sessions are 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.  

In addition, free school programs are provided at Title I schools. Students who turn 4 years old before Sept. 1, 2018, and live within the boundaries of Midvale, Copperview, Sandy and East Midvale elementary schools can apply to participate.

A lot of learning happens in preschool — but it’s also a lot of fun. Don’t underestimate the power of play when looking for a preschool for your child, says Terri Mitchell, the Programs Administrator in Canyons District’s Early Childhood Department.

“Playtime is amazingly important. It’s one of the best tools that young children have to grow and develop,” Mitchell told ABC4 anchor Emily Clark on “Good Morning Utah.”  

In fact, Mitchell said, research shows strong links between creative and imaginative play and language, physical, cognitive and social development. “In preschool, they are learning foundational skills. They will learn patterning, and the quantity of numbers,” Mitchell said. “They also have the opportunity to learn socially.  It may be the first time that they are away from mom and dad and grandma and grandpa.”
What a year!  In the past 365 days, Canyons District, which was founded on July 1, 2009, continued its drive to provide a world-class education to the children who attend public school in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta. The 2017-2018 school year — CSD’s ninth academic year — was marked by sky-high achievements, including state-title victories by all five of CSD’s five traditional high schools, the passage of a $283 million bond to build and improve schools, the naming of National Merit Scholars and Sterling Scholars, and an estimated $32 million in scholarship offers for the 2,830 graduates in the Class of 2018.  But that’s just a small-piece-of-cake taste of all that was achieved by CSD students, faculty, staff and supporters. Here’s a look at some of the major achievements of CSD since its last founding-day anniversary: 
  • Nearly 59 percent of voters give approval to CSD is issue up to $283 million in general-obligation bonds to build and improve schools.
  • The newly rebuilt Alta View Elementary welcomed students for first time.
  • Crews near completion of renovation of Indian Hills Middle, the 13th and final project promised to voters at passage of the 2010 $250 million bond.   
  • CSD maintained  a AAA bond rating, resulting in savings to taxpayers
  • Seventy-eight percent of CSD elementary and middle schools received school-grade scores of an A or B, an increase of five percentage points over 2016. The number of elementary and middle schools to earn Cs and Ds fell by six percentage points. 
  • Eighty-three percent of CSD elementary schools and 75 percent of middle schools in CSD were above state average, according to PACE.  Sixty-six percent of elementary schools and 63 percent of middle schools showed higher growth than schools averaged statewide. 
  • Four CSD high schools were recognized for the number of students who take Advanced Placement courses. Brighton High ranked No. 8 out of all Utah high schools for the number of students who take and pass the tests. On the list of the Utah high schools with the highest AP participation rates, Corner Canyon ranked No. 5, Hillcrest No. 8 and Alta No. 10.
  • For the eighth year, CSD received the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association for School Business Officials International and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. 
  • The Canyons Education Foundation delivered some $104,000 to 16 teachers to fund innovative classroom projects.
  • Edgemont and Midvalley elementary schools celebrated 60th anniversaries.
  • Albion Middle’s Sandy LeCheminant is named Utah Assistant Principal of the Year.
  • Alta High's Rique Ochoa named Utah History Teacher of the Year.
  • Alta and Hillcrest musicans perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 
  • Canyons Education Foundation awards $11,000 in student scholarships at annual Spring Gala.
  • Three CSD students won categories at 56th annual Sterling Scholar competition. 
  • Two Hillcrest students and one Corner Canyon high school student earn National Merit Scholar status. Fourteen students from all five of CSD’s traditional high schools were named semifinalists.
  • CSD student athletes individual and team state championships in cross country, girls tennis, boys tennis, wrestling, girls track and field, swimming, boys soccer, baseball, theater and girls golf. 
  • Hillcrest’s production of “Les Miserables” wins Best Musical at the Utah High School Musical Theater Competition.
  • Groundbreaking events were held to mark start of work on rebuild of Hillcrest High and major renovation at Alta High. Work on a new Brighton High also has started.   
The bright lights of Broadway beckoned to Bennett Chew. The Hillcrest High graduate last week traveled to the Great White Way to learn from the singing and dancing superstars of the stage. 

Chew earned the right to attend the National High School Musical Theater Awards — and to be considered for a Jimmy Award, the student equivalent of a Tony Award — by winning the Best Actor category at the 8th annual Utah High School Musical Theater Awards in May at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake. 

The University of Utah-bound student, who starred as Jean Valjean in Hillcrest’s “Les Miserables,” which also won the state’s award for Best Musical and Best Scenic Design, spent nine days being coached by industry professionals. Jimmy winners were then picked by a panel of judges.    

Although Chew didn’t walk away with a Jimmy, his final year as a Husky theater kid was full of honors. Not only did Hillcrest earn the top honor at the state musical-theater contest, the Hillcrest drama students won first place at the Utah High School Activities Association’s 6A drama competition and the sweepstakes award at the Utah High School Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. 

Winning all three honors in one year — the "triple crown" of Utah prep theater — has been done once before. Led by teacher Josh Long, Hillcrest captured all three awards in 2011-2012, when the school’s production of “Aida” earned the Best Musical honor and a national award for its star, Malia Morley. 

“Our students work really, really hard,” says Long, who has directed 50 shows since starting at Hillcrest in 2009. “And they very passionate about what they do. It is great to see them be rewarded for that.” 

Gloria Swenson, who served as president of the school’s theater group, says being in leadership for her senior year, especially in a time full of buzz, applause and recognition, has been “one of the coolest things I have ever got to do … I feel very honored.” 

Swenson recalls with a smile the final performance of “Les Miserables,” which sold out every night of the show’s Nov. 16-20 run. Folks wanted to see the show so badly they were willing to pay for entrance without guarantee of a seat. “I remember the last night,” she said, “and seeing people standing in the back.” 

Three years ago, Gabriel Aina thought his high school goals would be met on the soccer field. Instead, he found his voice on the stage. Without hesitation, Aina, whose favorite production at Hillcrest was “Hamlet,” attributes the school’s success in theater to Long’s teaching style. 

“He isn’t willing to let us drop the ball,” he says. “He teaches us that we can do hard things in life.” One of those hard things, Aina said, was learning to sing in front of a crowd, which he says he “rather dislikes” doing, even though his role as Marius in “Les Miserable” was vocally demanding.

Sterling Larsen lives in the boundaries of another high school but decided to enroll at Hillcrest to be involved in the theater program. Larsen, who was accepted to Brigham Young University, has been in nearly a dozen shows while studying at the Midvale school.  “If I had not done theater,” he says, “I would be a completely different person today.”
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