Sports-based youth fitness provider Amazing Athletes hopes to counter that trend by getting kids off the couch and into an active classroom with year-round programs designed to get children moving through instructional sports activities. The program focuses on preschool-age students as young as 2 years old to help lay a strong foundation of healthy habits from an early age.
“A lot of other programs don’t focus on kids this young, and we’re really starting to get a high obesity rate in kids [aged] two to four,” said Sonja Brummer, owner of four Amazing Athletes franchises in San Diego. “We really want to focus on getting them active and show them that it can be fun to be active.”
Through what she calls “positive play,” Brummer explained the program is neither a classroom environment nor free-play recess. It utilizes the best of both — combining a fun outlet for energy release with educational development and discipline.
“We talk about eating healthy, getting your sleep and eating your fruits and vegetables,” she said. “We incorporate a lot of things from the classroom, too — letters, numbers, colors, animals, some math, sometimes Spanish — so it’s more than just a sports program.”
At Little Steps Christian Preschool on Mt. Soledead, preschoolers take weekly Amazing Athletes classes to develop mental, physical and cognitive skills like hand-eye coordination, following directions, and speed and agility. Throughout the curriculum, students learn the basics of nine sports, which are rotated each week throughout the year.
“At this age, we’re not so much teaching them the rules of the game. We’re teaching them how to kick, how to throw,” said Brummer. “Especially for the 2-year-olds, it’s more of an exploratory class.”
As kids get older, the classes become more structured, she said.
“We’ll have some of these kids from 2 to 6 or 7 years old, so we don’t want them to get bored,” she said. “As they go up in age, we also progress their skill level.”
And thanks to small class sizes, the program’s coaches are able to work with each child according to his or her ability.
“Any kid can do this. We’ve had kids with disabilities, like cerebral palsy, and the doctors recommend it,” she said. “We had one girl in particular who, when she first started, couldn’t even hold up the baseball bat. Within a year or two, she was swinging the bat like it was nothing.”
In addition to brain and motor-skill development, the program helps children build self-confidence when it comes to social and physical activity in grade school.
“By the time they get to elementary school, they probably have a wider knowledge of sports than other kids. We try to get them ahead of the game,” she said.
The wide range of sports the students are exposed to helps to keep them from getting “frustrated when they’re in elementary school in PE or in team sports,” Brummer said.
“I always get extra sad when it comes time for them to leave the schools, especially when we’ve had them for so many years,” she said. “At the same time, it’s so great to see them develop a love for sports and activities and to see them progress from when they could barely walk to running, jumping and kicking.”
Amazing Athletes offers year-round program registration, birthday parties and camps for children of all ages. Franchise opportunities are also available. Visit www.amazingathletes.com or call (888) 228-3942 for more information.