Youth fitness programs instill life-long healthy habits for your club’s youngest members.
Elite Sports Clubs in Milwaukee, Wis. has had an invested interest in youth fitness programs since its inception in 1986. “We’ve always been family friendly,” said Kay Yuspeh, Elite Sports Clubs’ owner. In fact, many of the children that have participated in youth fitness programs at Elite over a decade ago, are now adult members of Yuspeh’s clubs. “We just feel that family fits us very well,” she continued.
Youth fitness fits Elite Sports Clubs so well in fact that its clubs offer almost a dozen youth fitness programs for children ranging between the ages of 6 and 18. Kids in the 6- to 12-year range can visit the “E-Zone,” an interactive space that’s included with a family membership, where kids can play games on PS2s or Wiis. Kids ages 10 through 16 can participate in junior hours, where they can use the fitness center and multi-sports courts to their discretion. Or, kids of a wide range of ages can participate in personal and sports-specific training, summer camps, tennis, karate and much more.
The invested interest in youth fitness has paid off. According to Yuspeh, as a result of its investment, Elite Sports Clubs is looked at as a valued member of the community where members turn if they want their children involved in health and fitness.
According to Kelly Meyer, the marketing director for Town & Country Sports and Health Club in Wilder, Ky., getting kids involved in health and fitness at a young age is vital to their future. “When healthy habits are established at a young age, children are more likely to continue to stay fit,” said Meyer. “The more kids move, the better they will feel and the healthier they will be.”
Similarly to Elite Sports Clubs, Town & Country has plenty of opportunities for kids ages 3 and up to “move,” including the largest youth soccer and volleyball programs in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. In addition, the sports complex boasts basketball, softball, baseball and swimming programs.
“The youth fitness programs at Town & Country are extremely important,” said Meyer. “As a family-friendly health club, we pride ourselves on providing fitness activities for the entire family. There is no doubt that members join Town & Country because of the variety of youth activities that we offer.”
According to Meyer, Town & Country’s most unique youth fitness offering is its Kidz Fit program, a free offering that allows kids between the ages of 6 and 13 to work with personal trainers in a group setting. Under a personal trainer’s supervision, kids exercise on fitness equipment and play in the kid’s gym or adventure area, in addition to a myriad of other activities.
“Children ages 6 through 13 are usually very inexperienced with using fitness equipment, but are eager to get up and get their bodies moving,” said Meyer. “This program is unique in that it caters to those needs and does not involve your typical organized sports such as soccer, basketball or baseball. It is our hope and goal that we can provide a strong and proper fitness and healthy lifestyle foundation for the children. By providing this Kidz Fit program we are truly able to engage the entire family, which means they are more likely to stay members for a long time.”
Years ago, the general public might have scoffed at personal training for kids. Now, it’s a valued program for many clubs, including Town & Country and Lakeshore Sport & Fitness (LSF) in Chicago.
“I have had many families tell me they are leaving their current gym to come to LSF, for the family environment and specifically for our youth or teen personal training program,” said Carey Schueler, the director of youth and teen training at LSF. “It absolutely attracts new members to health and fitness, and those who are currently at a gym that are looking for something different.”
Unlike Town & Country, where kids work with a personal trainer in a group setting, personal training at LSF is offered one-on-one for kids ages 8 and up.
“I truly enjoy working with teens and youth, talking to them about school, life, their team sports — encouraging them while pushing them beyond what they thought they could do,” said Schueler. “The self confidence that is gained by many of them is huge. That I have the ability to reach someone at such a young age and teach them proper mechanics, along with the idea that exercise can be fun, that is such a gift.”
In addition to personal training, Lakeshore Sport & Fitness offers seven different summer camps, peewee activities, kids tennis, swim teams and more. One of its most exciting offerings, the Bulls/Sox Academy, came about as the result of a partnership with the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox teams, to host youth camps for basketball and baseball. “Two years ago I worked with Mike Huff (the vice president of the Bulls/Sox Academy) and brought them to LSF,” explained Schueler. “Both years they have sold out, and will again this year.”
A common theme for clubs that offer youth fitness is orientation programs that educate kids on the proper use of equipment and safety. This not only protects the kids themselves, but the club from liability as well. The orientation program at LSF is called the Youth Certification Program, which Schueler implemented two and a half years ago.
“The class teaches children ages 10 through 14 the use of cardio and strength training equipment,” explained Schueler. “In addition, children will learn basic information about nutrition, cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance training. During the course, the child learns to use the appropriate equipment and have a customized workout program suggested. Since the program started, we have had over 300 [participants] get certified, and over 150 youth and teens have done personal training.”
In terms of youth fitness programs, ingenuity is typically appreciated. That’s why Yuspeh is always on the lookout for additional youth fitness programs she can offer at Elite Sports Clubs, and ways to improve existing ones. In fact, recently she paid a visit to eight clubs in the greater Boston area, to garner inspiration. “We are expanding in the arts with music and dance-themed birthday parties and looked at what they did in their footprint,” said Yuspeh.
Another common thread of successful youth fitness programs lies with who’s at the helm. “The type of person that is suited to be in charge of kids programming is a knowledgeable, friendly and energetic person,” said Meyer. “The best type of instructor is someone that has a passion for the program and gets involved in the activity.”
And of course, the programs should be a particular, three-letter word: fun. “The simplest tip to get kids excited about fitness is to make it fun,” said Meyer. “Kids love to have fun, so it just makes sense to gear your fitness activities in such a way.”
By Rachel Zabonick