The RunDown

The RunDown

Freshmen Get Pumped in Mr. Iafrate’s Gym Class

Mr. Iafrate teaches his students about quick feet during one of his classes.

Kids line up in groups. A whistle sounds as their feet go in and out, and their faces get beet red. The whistle blows again, and they stop. A new whistle sounds, but this time, they jump up and down, until the sound of the next whistle.

These activities are taught by Mr. Steven Iafrate, who has been teaching freshman Physical Education at River Dell since 2019. He began as a teacher at Demarest in 2016. He has been teaching his students about the importance of lifting and conditioning for around ten years, and since he came to River Dell in 2019, he began teaching the activity again, once the school returned from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“During the pandemic, all we did was a lot of videos just on yoga and activities meant to get kids minds off being stuck in the house. Once we got back to normal, with no masks, I started to get more into it, and it’s just getting more in depth. This year, we are doing a lot more of knowing terminology, equipment, how to set things up, and teaching others how to spot,” explained Iafrate.

Iafrate is no stranger when it comes to strength and conditioning. As a student at Northern Valley Demarest, he played football and threw for the track and field teams. At Rowan University, he would throw the javelin for four years, winning multiple events and placing in many more. After, Mr. Iafrate began teaching at Northern Valley Demarest and Old Tappan. There, he would begin teaching lifting to their students.

“My last year at Demarest, I took over the strength program. We had an app, with that app I would set up the whole training session and how much weight I wanted each kid to do, and I would look at it and if a kid wasn’t doing as much as I thought they could, I would increase the reps.” Mr. Iafrate also stated that he does use that app a little bit here, but he makes the workouts on his own, without use of the app.

Mr. Iafrate came to River Dell in 2019 as a Physical Education teacher, a Football coach, and a Track and Field coach. This year, he’s splitting the lifting into different body parts per day. “One day we will do lower body and squats and deadlifts, and the next we will do upper body including bench press.”

Mr. Iafrate also believes that freshmen year, when kids are 14 – 15 years old, is the perfect time to start lifting. “I think freshmen is the perfect age to begin, they are starting their athletic careers. I tell them all the time, if they are playing a sport and go into the weight room, they are going to be further ahead and why and how they are doing it, so then they can maybe do stuff on their own. They will have the knowledge of what to do.”

Mr. Flanagan, one of the assistant principals at the high school and supervisor of the Physical Education department, is also a supporter of lifting with the students. As to how the idea came to the school, he said, “There’s certain standards that the state has for every class. There are certain things that we want students to have options on. We want them to branch out a little bit than the usual gym subjects like basketball and pillow polo. It also is important for lifelong health, so understanding how to do it and what benefits it has for you. It’s very good for you.”

Mr. Flanagan also noted the importance of the impact this can have on athletes. Mr. Flanagan hopes that this activity can stay in the curriculum for years to come, and believes that Mr. Iafrate has done a great job.

“That would be something I would love to see. I’m very happy that Mr. Iafrate has taken this opportunity and the wherewithal to start this program. So, I think it’s a great idea and I do hope so [to continue the program],” said Flanagan.

Students of his current and prior classes have also felt benefits by participating in his class. Henry Wacks, a freshman that has Mr. Iafrate’s period one Gym class, stated, “I think it’s great. A great experience for kids who are new to lifting to see if they want to do it in the future. I think Iafrate is a great teacher for this as well.”

Edy Dumitru, a sophomore that had Mr. Iafrate during his freshman year, also stated, “As someone that was new to lifting, I felt that Iafrate explained everything clearly, and provided great explanations throughout the process that helped me adapt. I liked doing his exercises and they made me stronger. He gave me an interest in resuming lifting later on in my life.”

Mr. Iafrate has a passion and is executing it in the classroom. He hopes that his class will inspire his students for the rest of their lives, and so they can continue to be in great shape and great health.

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