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Submitted photo

Former Marshall University and current Indiana University coach Shonda Stanton, in red jacket, poses with some neighborhood children she has led in a physical education class in front of her home while school has been closed because of COVID-19.

HUNTINGTON — Shonda Stanton shouts encouragement as young people work through drills, trying to improve their physical condition and athleticism.

The former Marshall University and current Indiana University softball coach isn’t working out her players. Instead, she’s leading a bunch of neighborhood kids in physical education classes in front of her house in Bloomington, Indiana.

With schools closed because of COVID-19, learning from home has become essential That’s fine for history and math, but gym class via computer is more of a stretch. Stanton took it upon herself to fix that.

“These kids are committed, I tell you,” Stanton said. “It gets the coaching juices in me flowing.”

About one dozen kids from six different families participate in the drills each day. Rope ladders used to quicken feet; orange, red, yellow and white cones to improve agility, towels and mats on which to perform push-ups and sit-ups and other equipment are scattered on the grass and in the street in front of Stanton’s home. Nearby are bikes and scooters some of the kids used to get there.

The physical conditioning events came about as a result of a conversation Stanton had with neighbor Coleman Kavigan. The discussed how their kids were adapting to virtual learning. Stanton told Kavigan that she was leading daughters Hayla, 16, Gianna, 13, and son Josiah, 9, in P.E. classes each school day. Kavigan’s two daughters, Grace 11, and Vera, 10, joined in. From there, word spread to other neighbors and Stanton had a crowd.

The winning est softball coach in Marshall history said she and the kids observes social distancing guidelines, but have fun during the workouts, which aren’t easy. Personable and loved by many, Stanton still is a coach.

She said the kids performed a series of calisthenics and some were huffing and puffing. Stanton told them it was a “nice warmup,” surprising some of the youngsters who thought the exercises were the main part of the class.

Oh, no. P.E. was just beginning. Jumping drills, rope climbing and jogging followed, leaving the kids tired, but smiling. Basketball handling, sprints and some less-strenuous games such as Simon Says also were part of the routine. If the youngsters didn’t like it, they didn’t show it, as they returned the next day ready to go again.

“People bonded,” Stanton said, adding that the sessions permitted student interaction and gave them a way to learn outside of the Zoom app. “It gave the kids a break from online work. They stopped being Zoombies.”

Stanton, a devout Christian, said she is thankful for the families who participate and that she is glad to help where she can.

“We’re all on this Earth running this race of life and living during this time,” Stanton said. “There’s a lot of people that this is a really traumatic time for them. What can we do to get out from behind our laptop? Maybe it’s just picking up the phone and calling someone and asking someone how they’re doing.”

At the end of each session, each student shared something for which he or she is thankful.

For the last day of school, Stanton gave out t-shirts and certificates to those who participated. Just because school is done, doesn’t mean the camaraderie ends. Neighbors have organized Wiffle Ball and kickball games and such.

Stanton said she loves Indiana and her neighborhood, but misses Huntington and Marshall, where she went 560-430-2 in 18 seasons. Her overall record with the Thundering Herd, Indiana and Indian-Purdue-Indianapolis is 661-515-2.

“I love the Herd family,” Stanton said.

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