Steve Savage: A Passion for Fitness

in Winter 2019 by

Now in his nineteenth year as a beloved Physical Education instructor, coach, and advisor at Park, Steve Savage continues to inspire students with an innovative PE curriculum and his own personal passion for fitness.

Steve Savage
Steve demonstrates core strength.

Steve is both a teacher and a lifelong student of strength and conditioning. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health, Steve has done graduate work in anatomy and physiology. He continues to regularly attend workshops, seminars, and continuing education courses. Over the years, he’s racked up an impressive list of credentials and certifications including becoming a certified personal trainer, a licensed muscular therapist, and a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) specialist. 

So much of Steve’s (and his colleagues’) professional development and personal experiences have shaped Park’s PE curriculum. In 2010, after Steve received his certification, Park incorporated the FMS into the Upper Division PE curriculum, and it has been an absolute game changer for Park students. “Before, the fitness industry was focused on quantitative elements like number of pull-ups and measuring flexibility with a measuring tape. Now, cutting edge strength and conditioning programs focus on quality of movement, which means good mobility, stability, and strength,” says Steve.

Steve spotting students on the climbing wall in the West Gym.

The FMS involves seven exercises that measure movement patterns in mobility, stability, and strength on a scale of 1-3. The goal of the screen is to identify areas of improvement for each student. If students are lower in one muscle group, they get corrective exercises to help them improve in that area. “What’s great about this program is that it can be individualized for all students; if a student doesn’t have the strength for body weight squats, they can do lead-up exercises,” says Steve, “And if they can’t touch their toes, then they can’t do deadlifts.” A highlight of the curriculum is when eighth graders get to train in the weight room. By the time they make it into the weight room in the winter of Grade 8, they have the requisite training plus the mobility, stability, and strength to train safely and effectively, especially if they plan to do high school and college sports. In addition to the FMS curriculum in the Upper Division, fitness is incorporated across all the grades at Park and each class includes a carefully selected group of warm-up exercises and activities.

Another highly significant and innovative yet simple component of the PE curriculum is the use of foam rollers, originally purchased when Steve applied for a grant from the Parents’ Association. Students learn how to use the foam rollers before and after exercise, which offers benefits such as increased blood supply and recovery time, increased range of motion, and reduced risk of injury. Students stretch and foam roll at the beginning and end of each PE class, beginning in fifth grade.  

A long-range goal of the program is to equip Park students with the knowledge, confidence, and desire to participate in secondary school sports and fitness programs. Steve especially enjoys staying in touch with former students and often hears from graduates how what they learned at Park made them well prepared to excel in sports and become leaders in their school’s weight room.

When asked about Steve, his colleagues in the PE Department emphasize how Steve brings out the best in his students. PE teacher Paul Toussaint says, “He’s always looking out for the best health and fitness of our students.” Director of Athletics and PE Teacher Bob Little notes that Steve is serious about both fitness and fun. “He’s an outdoors-first guy, a kids-first guy, and a no-nonsense guy…except that he loves nonsense!” Bob describes how Steve frequently gives students silly, nonsensical nicknames. “The kids all understand that their nicknames are given with love and respect and a wink of the eye and they love them!,” says Bob, adding, “There’s no better teacher, no better dude than Mr. Savage.” PE Department Head and PE Teacher Michelle Young, says, “He brings passion and purpose everyday to our students, empowering them to be the best they can be, all while striving to do the same for himself.” Michelle sums up her thoughts with a phrase she uses all the time, “Why be average when you could be Savage?”

Steve and his daughter at the 14,500-foot summit of Mt. Rainier!

Steve’s passion for fitness extends beyond his work with students — his own athletic accomplishments are truly extraordinary. Steve was an avid runner for over 30 years and completed 20 marathons (qualifying for Boston several times), countless 10k’s, and several triathlons. In 2014, Steve was a Horizon Grant recipient, and went to Fiji where he was in a five-week marine conservation program. There, he scuba dived on pristine reefs and surveyed others seriously damaged or destroyed by warming ocean temperatures linked to climate change. He also had the opportunity to teach some PE classes in a few of the local schools. These days, you can find him on a 20-50 mile bike ride (often with fellow PE teacher, Tim O’Brien), windsurfing, mountaineering, and even ice climbing. Two years ago, Steve reached the 14,500 foot summit of Mount Rainier with his daughter and last summer they completed a three-day traverse of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. His current goal is to climb all of the 4,000 foot peaks in the White Mountains. He exercises five to seven days a week and his regular routine includes cardio, weight lifting, and functional training. At 67 years old, Steve shows no signs of slowing down.

Coach Savage inspiring his track team!

Steve’s impact on Park and its students may be harder to quantify than the miles he’s run, biked, hiked, surfed, and swum. But without doubt his impact is huge, and can be measured in lessons taught, skills developed, confidence gained, fun had, passion ignited, meets won and lost, relationships fostered, and memories made.