High school athletes jump start mentorship program at Steamboat Pilates, Yoga and Fitness
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Living in an elite sports town like Steamboat Springs has its advantages but also its social pressures.
“It’s a real sports town,” Steamboat Pilates, Yoga and Fitness owner Wendy Puckett said. “If you have some kids that feel like they’re not quite finding their fit in the organized sports community — lacrosse, baseball, winter sports — there’s not a lot when they’re off that grid. There’s a tremendous outdoors available to them, and we noticed they’re kind of sliding in motivation, especially at that 10-year-old age.”
Puckett’s son, Cole, noticed it when he started working out with his 12-year-old cousin, Connor Stevenson, last year.
“I just did basic exercises with him, and he really started to enjoy himself,” Cole said. “He really started to change his habits, act differently, and he ended up saving money and buying a mountain bike from the end of the summer. I thought that was really cool because I could’ve been a part of inspiring life change. If we can do that for any kid whose parents sent them my way, it’s priceless.”
Wendy wanted programs that catered towards two types of athletes: the ones that did not know yet they could be athletes and the ones who knew what teams they wanted to make but couldn’t quite get there without extra training.
She started Project Inspiration, a free program for kids to learn basic fitness exercises with a fun twist from teenage mentors.
Project Inspiration began last summer. Athletes like Steamboat Springs High School seniors Cole, Lucy Wilson and Delaney Moon started training kids in groups before being assigned individuals to take on throughout the year. There were a total of 10 mentors, but the three carried on the program through their school year, adjusting their volunteer hours to their rigorous athletic schedules once or twice a week.
“I never realized how much that I could learn from working with younger kids,” Wilson said. “I’ve worked with one boy in particular for eight or nine months now, and it’s like showing up and working with a friend.”
Wilson, a varsity soccer player, had a plethora of mentors growing up while playing youth sports, but never knew what it would be like to not have that experience.
As someone with a clear-cut idea of what sports she loved, she had to think of ways to relate to someone who was trying to find his way or maybe wasn’t willing.
“He doesn’t believe he’s much of an athlete, but he really is,” Wilson said. “I clearly identify as an athlete and love athletics, and I bring that out of him, and showing him he is an athlete is really cool to do.”
The mentorship program allows kids to think of goals and write them on the walls to hold themselves accountable. After their hour in the gym, the hope is that each week they gain more interest in outdoor activities or athletics and the confidence to try them.
For teenagers, it’s a way to spread the values and life lessons they’ve learned from playing sports. There’s a sense of gratification that comes with seeing the product of giving back.
“When it was my first day with my cousin, I told him to jump onto a box about knee-height, and I didn’t expect anything to go wrong,” Cole said. “I expected him to get up and, at first, he couldn’t do it. We did a couple tries every day for a few weeks. After a couple weeks, when I wasn’t looking, he just jumped up on it. He had it in him all along.”
Cole said he trained kids who preferred to read, even taking their books with them to the treadmill. As a competitive Alpine skier, Cole sees exercise as pertinent to his lifestyle, and teaching kids the value of basic fitness was a learning curve.
“Some kids really don’t have interest in sports, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and they’re there because their parents thought it would be good for them,” Cole said. “I thought it was cool to watch people change their mindsets.”
As summer approaches, Wendy hopes to grow and define the mentorship programs at Steamboat Pilates, Yoga and Fitness by expanding its community. Aspiring teenage mentors or parents of young athletes can learn how to get involved by calling Steamboat Pilates, Yoga and Fitness at 970-879-6788.
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