Former Montreal Impact star to offer free Zoom workouts for EMSB students

Montreal - Tuesday, November 24, 2020

It may have been nine years since Rocco Placentino last suited up for a professional soccer game. However many of the memories are still fresh in his mind, as if they happened just yesterday.

Mr. Placentino still thinks back fondly on his six years spent playing for Italian soccer clubs and his experience representing Canada at the Under-20, Under-23 and Senior levels. There were also, of course, his two separate stints playing for his hometown Montreal Impact, winning a USL First Division league championship in 2009, and playing a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match against Mexican club Santos Laguna in front of over 55,000 people at the Olympic Stadium on Placentino’s 27th birthday, among other highlights.

Mr. Placentino attributes much of that success to his time spent at the English Montreal School Board’s Gerald McShane Elementary School and, later, Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North.

“A lot of my professional soccer career was thanks to these schools,” said Mr. Placentino. “When I had to leave to go to the national team for a month’s time or when I was injured, they were very supportive. My success is tied to a lot of the teachers and principals that led me to what I did in my life.”

As a way of giving back to the school board, Mr. Placentino is offering free live Zoom sessions with EMSB students, with the goal of promoting physical literacy and keeping them active, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students that were previously enrolled in sports are now no longer practicing their sport,” said Mr. Placentino. “They are doing gym at school and then they are going home to spend time on their iPads. That’s the reality of every home right now. It should be a part of your daily routine, to make sure your child is staying active.”

The weekly 15 to 20-minute sessions will take place during students’ class time, with Placentino appearing virtually on all SMART Boards throughout the school. The 38-year-old will lead the students in a “simple” workout designed for students of all fitness levels. No outside materials are required, so that the session can easily be replicated at students’ homes.

“It’s really just about getting their heart rate going and getting the message across that it is important to stay active,” said Mr. Placentino. “If I get even one child doing my activity, it’s a starting point. Even 15 minutes a day can greatly impact their health.”

Mr. Placentino is no stranger to leading youngsters in online workouts. He has served as Technical Director for Club de Soccer (CS) Saint-Laurent since 2012. With the club teams forced to cancel in-person training sessions in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Placentino began recording Home Training video workouts for his 2,200 members. The videos were so well-received that Mr. Placentino also recently added live workouts over YouTube on both Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The goal is to transfer these workouts to Zoom so that coaches can interact with players and teammates can reconnect after much time apart.

“Nothing can stop anybody, not even a pandemic,” said Mr. Placentino. “If Zoom is the answer, then that’s what it will be. You have to be creative and stay positive.”

The in-class workouts are being offered as a pilot project at Gardenview Elementary in Saint-Laurent, with the ultimate goal of expanding the program to other EMSB classrooms. He will be at the school (700 Brunet) on Thursday, December 3 (9:10 am) to do his first live workout with a physical education classe and streamed throughout the school. “Then we will go live on Zoom every Thursday at the same time,” said Interim Principal Gaetano Sifoni. “He will do those ones from home and stream into all the classrooms.”

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