By Jenn Casey, Youth Program Director
This week, our spotlight is on our Junior Varsity level classes, which are for kids ages about 7 through about 12. Our JV classes are so fun, motivating, engaging, and sometimes silly!
In our JV Youth Program, kids are exposed to all types of fundamental movements in fun ways, with positive affirming staff whose primary goal is to help foster a love of movement.
Some kids want to be STRONG. Others want to be FAST. Some are in it for the games; others are more interested in seeing what they can do. Whatever their goals and motivations, most kids likely don’t know how much they are learning about how to use their bodies well, solidifying a good mind-body connection, and creating a lifelong love of movement.
What kinds of movements do the JV kids do in class?
All humans need to squat, push, pull, hinge at the hips, lunge, and use our core while doing all of those other movements. These six areas of “primal movements” as identified by The Brand X Method, form the foundation of how and what we teach in the JV Youth Program.
We break down these movements into pieces that the kids can copy, reinforce good movements, and build on more complexity from there.
Using the lunge as an example, we will teach foot/knee placement, ensure the upper body is in an upright position, and that the kid is using the right sequence of muscles to stand up from that position. Once the lunge is looking good, we might add a high knee hop for a “rocket” movement, or start developing box step ups, or do lunges in different directions (forward, reverse, stationary, side to side).
Practicing movements isn’t merely dull repetition; it’s enjoyable! One of our favorite games is Correct the Coach. Coach will demonstrate a movement in a way that highlights a common problem. The kids really love to shout out what the coach is doing incorrectly, and then the coach invites each kid to show how THEY know to do it well.
When we are focused on a particular movement, we keep repetitions low so they don’t get mentally and physically fatigued to the point where they aren’t maintaining excellent form. And we offer encouraging reminders of how to engage their bodies, such as: “Tree Trunk Bodies!” and “Stand Tall.”
Our focus on foundational movements helps them develop movement patterns that will be helpful in life generally, as well as sports or other activities. Those excellent movement patterns reinforced before adolescence will also help them as their bodies start to change in puberty.
How do we get them to do the movements?
We teach the WHOLE child, in every class. (WHY? Whole Healthy Youth!) Kids don’t just bring their bodies to class; they bring their minds, emotional status, stresses, and maybe some long stories about their new puppy or another kid at school.
So this means we check in with each kid at the beginning of class or during our warm up, and see how they are feeling today, ask how classes were today, are they having a low-medium-high energy day.
If a kid is having an off day, we empathize, and congratulate her for choosing to come to class, reminding her that moving her body might help her feel better, and we know that what we need to reinforce today is maybe effort and attitude rather than something more movement-specific.
If he is having a high-energy-on-fire day, we know we probably need to keep that kid moving and offer opportunities for him to demonstrate movements for the others, assist with setting up for the workout or game.
A Win in Every Class!
Every kid will have at least one success in every class. Maybe that success is showing up and trying hard even on a bad day. Maybe that success is conquering that jump rope and getting three in a row finally. Sometimes success looks like leadership within the class, and sometimes success looks like being a good listener. We identify and name out loud as many successes as we can in each class.
When kids know that they are succeeding, they are more motivated to keep coming to class and keep taking on new challenges.
Who is the JV Youth Program for?
Our JV program is for kids ages about 7 to about 12, or about elementary through early middle school ages. I use “about” because not all kids mature according to a timeline. Some 6 years olds might be ready for our JV program. Some 13 or 14 year olds might enjoy the JV program and not be ready to move into the Varsity program.
Each class lasts 45 minutes, and generally is split up this way:
- Warm Up: 10 minutes
- Skills Practice: 10 minutes
- Workout (including setting up equipment): 10-15 minutes
- Game: 10-15 minutes
Currently, we offer homeschool classes and evening classes, Mondays and Wednesdays. The homeschool classes are at 1:30pm and the evening classes are at 7:30pm. We’re putting together other offerings for the summer, too!