Future OlympiansMost children take running and jumping and playing for granted. But for some, it’s not so easy.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Most children take running and jumping and playing for granted. But for some, it’s not so easy.
Alexandria is now home to a pilot program designed to help children develop these basic skills.
The Young Athletes Program (YAP) is an innovative sports play program for children ages 2 to 7. It is designed to introduce them to the world of sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility at age 8.
YAP started in Alexandria in September, with one other program in Minnesota recently under way in White Bear Lake.
“It emphasizes basic and fundamental skills to get them prepared for Special Olympics,” explained Jan Bymers, coach of the Alexandria YAP and mother of a 5-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome. “We do a lot of basic movement things.”
Last March, Jan and her husband, Brian, were contacted by Gail Kulp of the Windmill Project, inquiring about activities available for children with disabilities before age 8. The Bymers then began a dialogue with Special Olympics Minnesota and by September, YAP was up and running.
And so are the nine children who attend. Throughout the eight-week session, the children are introduced to how to run, throw, catch and kick properly, how to jump with both feet and land in the right position to avoid injury, and basic flexibility and tumbling movements.
Activities include an obstacle course, “balance beam,” beanbag toss, hula hoops, soccer goal and others. Each week a new activity is added that helps the children learn a new skill.
The Bymers are assisted by three high school volunteers – Mickayla Stegman, Molly Minnerath and Kinsey Gruber. The teens attended an orientation session to learn the proper way to teach the basic skills.
“They are such neat young ladies,” Bymers stressed. “They show up every week. They are just amazing.”
YAP classes are held Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lakes Area Recreation gymnastics gym. Another eight-week session is slated to begin in January.
All children ages 2 to 7 are invited to attend YAP, regardless of ability level, including “typical” children, as another goal of the program is to incorporate peer interaction.
“We just want to teach them basic skills that we take for granted that children do on their own,” Bymers concluded. “We are helping them develop fundamental skills and are teaching them healthy and safe ways to move and to play.”
For information about the Young Athletes Program, contact Jan Bymers at (320) 808-0506 or e-mail email@example.com. Information about Special Olympics can be found at the website www.somn.org.