Getting students, especially younger ones, to enjoy activities that are fun and develop athletic skills is always a task for the elementary physical education instructor. A former city coach has teamed up with his brother-in-law to offer a group of activities that, according to the book’s back cover, “turn your gymnasium or playground into a magical space.”
Jim Eagan a retired teacher and successful coach in the West Haven system, former city resident, and current mentor for Physical Education majors at Southern Connecticut State University, has co-authored a book with Tom Caione, a well-known athletic administrator in the Empire State to aid teacher make PE fun.
Entitled, “GAMES,” the book takes 60 activities Eagan developed or adapted during a 40-year career in teaching and coaching and offers them to a new generation of instructors.
Now living in Branford, Eagan was the longtime coach of the West Haven High School girls’ basketball team, and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Eagan said the idea for the book had been a longtime in the making and was prompted by many discussions with Caione during family get-togethers.
“I was encouraged by my co-author and brother-in-law Tom Caione, who was an athletic and Physical Education Director for several years in New York, to put together some of the activities that I had modified throughout the years. Tom and I would see each other on holidays, and we would always talk shop,” Eagan said. “He was very impressed with many of my ideas and often brought them back to share with his colleagues in New York.”
It’s had other applications as well, ones he wasn’t expecting.
“In addition, as a student teacher supervisor for SCSU I could see that young teachers coming out of undergraduate programs could greatly benefit from a publication that was comprehensive, effective, and tested. I wish I had a book like this when I graduated,” he said. “In my student teacher observations, several of their activities required that students wait on-line far too long before the got a turn. Most of the games in our book have been modified to give each student more repetitions per class period.”
Eagan said the book is geared mostly toward those teaching early grades, but they are very adaptable to older students.
“Most of the games are appropriate for grades K-6, but I have found through my experiences with older students that they still love to play many of the games,” he said. “When I was the varsity girls’ basketball coach at WHHS, I would use several of these activities to help my players bond with each other. This was a great team building activity.”
The book was in its creative stages before the COVID pandemic hit, but the time offered some opportunities, according to Eagan.
“The book was written prior to the pandemic. However, the lockdown caused by the pandemic did give us more time to edit, make changes, and get the book ready for publication. I think the pandemic has made all of us more aware of our health fragilities, and the value of exercise,” he said.
Peer review is always the acid test of any publication, and Eagan said the reactions, thus far, have been positive.
“Everyone who has had a chance to review our book, has been very impressed. Recently I conducted a workshop for the Physical Education teachers in the Cheshire School District utilizing many of the games in our book. Below are some of the actual written comments received from the participants,” he said.
Eagan said the book offers activities applicable for many levels, and fills a gap that some instructors believe needed to be filled.
“The book contains over 60 games, modifications, skill components, and equipment requirements. It covers Movement Games, Catching and Throwing, Ball Evasion, Kicking and Basketball Activities. All of the skill components of each of the activity groups is broken down so the instructor can better measure a student’s ability,” he said.
The new book has given the former coach a way to connect with a new generation of teacher, and offer something that is useful to them.
“I have really enjoyed the workshops and hope to expand these utilizing the book as their centerpiece. I have even expressed an interest in teaching a college course to PE majors. It’s all very exciting,” he said.
Published by Outskirts Press, the book may be found at outskirspress.com.