Mind, body and soul.
Those are the three elements of younger children that older kids like Dakota Ahlstrom and Tracer Hickman hope to enhance with some handy tools and techniques they’ve learned in recent weeks.
Ahlstrom and Hickman attended the 2013 Triple Play Leadership Summit at Colorado Springs’ Olympic Training Center in September. The two 16-year-olds represented the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, along with supervisor Kari Neuman, the club’s program director.
The summit included dozens of Boys & Girls Clubs of America personnel from all over the country. Neuman said her two staff members were chosen to go because of their prominent skills working with children.
“They absorb a lot, they’re very quick learners, and the kids always go to them when they need something,” she said. “They just stand out as leaders.”
Triple Play included several days of workshops and tours within the Olympic Training Center, where Olympic athletes in lacrosse, badminton, table tennis and field hockey gave participants a crash course in the best ways to teach their sports, fostering leadership for the young staff who will, in turn, help educate younger children.
“You get to train with Olympians,” Hickman said. “I mean, how great is that? Everyone who was there, the Olympians respected them as much as we respected them.”
Paralympics competitors also introduced those in attendance to the sport of goalball, a game designed for blind athletes to use their senses of touch and hearing to get a ball from one end of the gym to the other.
“You’re blindfolded and you have to listen for the ball and stop it before it goes past you,” Ahlstrom said. “That was so much fun.”
A part of the conference Hickman appreciated was a discussion on addressing the nationwide issue of childhood obesity within individual communities.
“You need to inspire them to get active and get outside or play in the gym for an hour a day at least,” he said.
Since returning, the two teens have worked with the children who frequent the local Boys & Girls Club by getting them to increase their amount of physical activity, whether through football, basketball, hula-hooping or dancing.
“You can always move around without playing traditional sports,” Neuman said. “One of the mindsets of the summit was finding your personal best and increasing your own skill level so you can be successful in the gym or in the clubhouse.”
Ahlstrom said she has liked introducing her charges to new pursuits.
“One of the biggest things I learned was having confidence in what you do, so even if soccer isn’t your favorite sport, you should get out and try it, so I like to encourage kids to try everything and try and learn something new,” she said.
Ahlstrom has been on the staff of Boys & Girls Club for about six months.
“I came here when I was little, and I always thought it was an interesting job,” she said. “I’ve always been good with kids, and I definitely plan to keep working here for a while.”
Getting kids at the club to lessen their time spent with more sedentary activities isn’t always easy, Hickman said. Even so, pushing them to stay healthy strengthens the bond he already shares with them, having been a staff member since 2011.
“You get connected to them because they’re there daily,” he said. “You get to talk to them, mentor them and by the end, those kids are your best friends.”
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.