According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6 to 19) has obesity.”
This is alarming, especially when you consider the negative immediate and long-term impacts on physical, social and emotional health that being obese has on children. The CDC explains kids struggling with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, are bullied and teased more, and are more likely to be associated with obesity as adults.
With this in mind, we highlighted three clubs that offer youth programs, and why each program is successful in engaging youth in fitness and health.
California Family Fitness
For California Family Fitness (CFF), being able to offer a transition point for its mini members leaving the company’s Kidz Klubs was important. So, they launched the First Step program, which takes youth through three 1-hour sessions with a certified personal trainer, whose goal is to not only teach the fundamentals of fitness, but also personally inspire youth.
“The program is centered around calisthenics, balance, flexibility and cardio training, but most of all fun,” explained Joshua Taylor, the director of fitness for CFF. “This program is extremely important to ensure that our youngest members are working out safely, while learning to make fitness a part of their everyday life. Once children have graduated from the First Step program they may choose to continue training with a certified personal trainer one-on-one, become a part of our Body Fit Kidz Team Training for 9 to 14-year-olds, or begin working out with mom and dad.”
For the trainers who lead the First Step program, Taylor said those who can relate to the kids they work with are those who will be the most successful. “When working with youth you need to find people who enjoy working with kids,” said Taylor. “We are looking for people who can get down to a child’s level and connect with them, be engaging and most of all, inspire them to be the best they can be.”
Just like with adults, Taylor stressed that building a personal connection with someone is key to a trainer’s success, even when working with those below the age of 18. “We look for people who can look at fitness through the eyes of a child and find ways to get the kids engaged, willing to participate and enjoy it,” he continued. “All of our certified personal trainers have current NCCA accredited certifications. We expect nothing but the best for all of our members, regardless of age.”
For clubs looking to offer their own youth programs, Taylor again stressed the importance of fun. “Not all kids are athletes, and that’s OK, but we want to show that everyone can enjoy fitness and this is their own journey,” he said. “We create fun, inspiring, motivating experiences where children of all ages can feel a part of the team. The goal is to get the kids engaged in fitness in such a way that they feel connected to their own fitness journey and will take this positive experience with them throughout their life.”
Gold’s Gym Carlisle
For high school athletes, having the appropriate equipment for strength and agility training is vital to their success on the court or field.
Therefore, when Gold’s Gym in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, discovered that the local high school was missing pieces of equipment that the Gold’s Gym had, they brokered a partnership. “Students get a discounted membership to our gym so they can use the facilities and our equipment,” said Chris Hartman, the assistant training director at Gold’s Gym Carlisle.
In addition to access to the gym, Gold’s Gym Carlisle also offers an Elite Youth Training Program. Through one-on-one training, the program is designed to help young athletes gain a competitive edge by increasing mobility and speed and developing core strength.
But like all kids — and even some adults — youth athletes can be easily distracted by their phones and social media when working out. That is why Hartman stressed the importance of keeping youth engaged during training. “They’re more bought-into technology and can be a bit distracted,” he explained. “They also tend to want to do things quicker, faster and want things more instantly. You have to keep things moving so they’re not bored or distracted and can stay consumed with the training.”
In addition, Hartman advised when working with youth, it’s important to stay flexible. “Be willing to make some changes and accommodate the students and parents’ needs,” he said. “If one kid wants to do speed and agility and the other wants to get stronger and bigger for football season, being able to accommodate both of them is essential to the program’s success.”
Finally, Hartman said being able to relate to youth is a must. “Know the challenges kids are facing now so you’re able to connect,” he said. “Listening to them is helpful.”
RallySport in Boulder, Colorado, offers a number of youth programs to the community, including Youth Athletic Training. According to Dillon Johnson, a Level 2 Titleist Performance Institute Juniors Specialist and trainer at RallySport, the program’s vision is to create a young athlete — before asking the children to specialize their skills.
“Our three levels/ages of the program are based on the ‘windows of opportunity’ in a child’s athletic development,” explained Johnson. “These are time periods in their development when they are primed to learn specific athletic skills. We take advantage of these windows so they have athletic skills that will stick with them for a lifetime.”
At RallySport, youth programming has a purpose from an athletic standpoint, but to the kids, the gym’s hope is exercise is viewed as a game. “Youth programming needs to be all about fun,” explained Johnson. “The moment the kids stop having fun, is the moment you see your programming numbers drop. You want the kids so excited about what they did during their workout they talk to their parents about it the entire drive home.”
Key to a youth program’s success is the trainers involved. Johnson explained trainers working with youth must shift their mindset away from what they’d normally do when working with adults.
“A common mistake by a new trainer in the juniors program is training and correcting them like an adult,” explained Johnson. “As soon as the trainer grasps the idea of letting the kids discover their movement and their bodies’ abilities through play, they are on their way to being a wonderful youth training coach.”