At the end of the day, when I come home from work dragging and tired, my boys are still active on the play trail. I decided to put them in a track and field program, figuring it allows them in a challenging way to learn their bodies’ limits and abilities. I tried a program offered at a local facility in Lakeland, Fla., and both boys were thrilled with the results.
My children are very different--one enjoys long distance running, and the other enjoys more dynamic movements, like jumping and hurdling. This program offered a variety of activities, including flexibility, which made it fun for both boys. Although this particular program required the use of several staff members to monitor each part of the track and field program, a modified version can be used.
Children had the opportunity to try different “stations” during the program, which kept them moving the entire time. For running, children were placed in age groups to allow for the most sensible competition. My younger one gets discouraged by older children; however, my older son enjoys running and can opt to move up an age group if he chooses, which keeps it interesting for him. Each week, the children ran against their previous time rather than each other. Children who wanted to run a race at the end of the day could do so. Note that if there is a large group for this program, one staff member can monitor the running while another has a different group at the long jump. If the group is small, the entire group can go from one section to another.
At the long jump station, my younger son enjoyed himself thoroughly as he attempted to beat his previous record with each pass. Watching the children concentrate and really push themselves to get better was refreshing.
After warming up with the long jump, they moved on to the flexibility station. This particular long jump was created with a measuring tape and spray paint, an easy way to create a long jump if resources are limited. It can also serve as a practice area during the week. I also suggest sending home a practice sheet listing goals and tips to help children who are interested in improving. This is not meant to push the children, but to offer additional help for parents or children who show interest.
The next station was the pull-up bar for either pull-ups or arm hangs, depending on the children’s age and capability. Again, the intent was for the children to beat their previous record, but certainly encouraged competition among the children with comments like “What did you get?” and “How long did you stay up there?” The kids and staff members also cheered each other on to motivate them to do their best. This was a phenomenal tool that will likely find a purpose in their future lives.
The final exercise was the dash station. This was fun for all ages and a particular favorite for my younger son who does not like long runs, but does enjoy running short distances. This was a flexible station which can be customized for your facility, depending on the space available. If you are inside, for example, using a basketball court might be the best bet. Have participants run from one corner to the next and back. The next “heat” could be two corners, then three and finally all the way around. Depending on the age range, kids can simply do one or two corners (like my 5 year old) or three to four (like my 7 year old).
A track and field program is the perfect way for children to get started on the right path to toward individual goals. This modified program allows kids to choose how far they want to push themselves and shows them the benefits of practice and personal growth. These are tools which will help them become good teammates, classmates, and for some, even leaders of their peers.
Kati Trammel is an advertising and public relations specialist in Lakeland, Fla.. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.